Make mention of the word “shapeshifter” and, in all likelihood, it will bring to mind the image of the world’s most well-known shapeshifter of all time: the werewolf. It’s a beast that is famous in history, folklore, mythology, and popular culture. Centuries ago, werewolves were talked about, in hushed tones, around campfires in the woods. Today, they entertain us on the big-screen: Underworld, Dog Soldiers, and An American Werewolf in London are just a few of the hit-movies of the wolfman-type variety. There are, however, far more shapeshifters than just werewolves.
Centuries before the strange creatures that lurk in the depths of Loch Ness, Scotland became known as the Nessies, they were termed Kelpies. They were violent monsters that would lurk near the shores of the massive body of water in the form of a gorgeous maiden, or of a large black horse. The disguised monsters would drag their victims into the dark depths, stealing their souls as they did so.
In the United States, there is the much-feared Skinwalker, a supernatural entity in Native American lore that is both dangerous and deadly. It, too, is said to have the paranormal ability to take on countless forms, including that of a huge wolf. The US is also home to the Kushtaka, roughly equivalent to “Land Otter Man,” which is highly appropriate, taking into consideration that this is precisely how the Kushtaka is described. It is important, however, to note that the creature is not, literally, half-human and half-otter. Rather, it can take on both forms and lurks in the forests of Alaska. But things don’t end there: the Kushtaka can also manifest in the shapes of giant wolves (very often bipedal, upright wolves) and also large, hairy humanoids not at all unlike Bigfoot.
Fairies, goblins, and pixies all have one thing in common: the ability to entrance people by changing into multiple forms. In one case from 19th century England, a fairy was said to have taken on the form of a hedgehog. In 18th century Ireland, one of the “little people” appeared before a shocked eyewitness in the woods, only to turn itself into a toad and leap into a nearby stream.
UFO witnesses claim to have encountered human-looking aliens that had the ability to turn themselves into ethereal balls of light. The early-1950s encounters of a man named Orfeo Angeluicci, who claimed several such experiences in Los Angeles, California, is a perfect example.
Shapeshifters are not the things of mythology. The startling fact is that they are all too real.
Our thanks to Nick for his guest post! For more from Nick Redfern, read his article, “Shapeshifters: Werewolves, Tricksters, Monsters, and More.”