Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Keystone Werewolves

Daniel Kerstetter (1818-1898) was a legendary outdoorsman in the 1800s.  He was born in Pennsylvania in the gorge at Blue Rock and became known as one of the most famous hunters in the Seven Mountains.  Renowned for his ability to track and take down panthers, bears and other wild animals that settlers felt threatened by in the wild days of America.

Some of his exploits were chronicled in the book "Penn's Grandest Cavern," and there's an interesting piece of lore involving shapeshifters that came from the hunter.  Kerstetter told Jacob Pontius that he had been instructed by old people in the region on how to deal with were-creatures that roamed the country:

"If too closely pressed by a garol at night, to draw a schlor (dagger) or the sharp end of a cannepee (sword-cane), and prick the monster, preferably between the eyes, or on the ears or any other place where the blood would come quickly.  It would fade back into human shape; were it in the form of wolf, big dog, bear, or oversized fox, it lost its power to pursue or do harm as soon as blood came.  He had heard of many whose lives were spared by this timely counter-attack."

Early Pennsylvania was full of European immigrants and the Seven Mountains region had many German settlers.  The family name Kerstetter is also German in origin, but of course, native American tribes in the region also had legends and lore that would typically get blended in with imported ideas.

The report is especially interesting since it mentions not only werewolves but other shape shifting creatures as well.  Obviously these early settlers talked about not just werewolves but dogmen like beings as well as potential bear or fox shapeshifters. 

In her book, Hunting the American Werewolf, Linda Godfrey devotes a whole chapter titled, "The Pennsylvania Pack"  to shape shifting creatures in the keystone state.  Has she notes, it would be easy to write an entire book on the topic of such encounters in PA.

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