The Defiance Werewolf

Yeah, I know – a werewolf rolling around Defiance, Ohio in the summer of 1972. Good times.

Well, all I know is what I read in the papers, and on Aug. 3, 1972, the same day that Southwyck Mall opened, The Blade’s James Stegall dutifully reported that several people in Defiance, about 55 miles southwest of Toledo along U.S. 24, had seen “a large beast that resembled a werewolf lurking along railroad tracks near downtown Defiance in the last week.”

At first, according to police chief Donald Breckler, they didn’t know what to think when a train crewman, during the “early morning hours,” reported he was struck on the shoulder by someone armed with a 2-by-4. Then another train crewman saw the werewolf around 3 a.m. Another report came from a motorist who said it ran in front of his car about 4 a.m. and then disappeared.

“We didn’t release it to the news media when we got the first report about a week ago. But now we’re taking it seriously. We’re concerned for the safety of our people,” Breckler said.

The chief admitted all the descriptions were vague, but in each case the being was first described as being “very hairy” and anywhere from 7 to 9 feet tall, though Breckler added “that was a little exaggerated.”

In a follow up story the next day, citizens had concluded the werewolf was not an animal but a person, but were puzzled as to the motive. He hadn’t robbed anyone, nor had he approached any women, police said. “Some persons seemed shocked and a few expressed fear,” the Blade reported. “But most persons living in the residential neighborhood along the Norfolk & Western Railway tracks think the ‘thing’ is ‘just some nut running loose.’ ”

Others were more obstinate.

“If I see him (the werewolf) the police are going to find out who he is,” The Blade quoted Rupert Figg as saying. “That’s because they’ll have to take him to the hospital to get the buckshot out.”

Police also didn’t understand why the werewolf was so bold, or why he scared off so easily (one train crewman said he tried to speak to the werewolf but it ran off into the woods). All of his appearances were in a heavily-populated two-block area. The N&W depot was right in the middle of the area and the police station was a few blocks away.

And that is pretty much the story of the Defiance werewolf. The culprit was never found. There are several blog posts scattered around the Internet concerning the Defiance werewolf, and a recent story from WTOL on it, so I was disappointed that I wasn’t the person to uncover this bit of Ohio lore.

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