Exclusive Interview with Brad Steiger of The Werewolf Book!
I don’t even need to introduce this author since I can guarantee virtually all of us own a copy of The Werewolf Book: The Encyclopedia of Shape-Shifting Beings. The second edition of this incredibly popular book is hitting bookstores September 1 and I was lucky enough to chat with Brad Steiger himself on what we can expect to find in the new version. We discussed issues fans had with his first edition, what has been removed and what has been added in the new one and much more. Check it out and let me know what you think, personally, after reading his answers I can’t wait for the second edition!
For those new to The Werewolf Book, can you tell them what it is?
The Werewolf Book: The Encyclopedia of Shape-Shifting Beings is an A-Z reference book that covers 140,000 years of mythology, tradition, and frightening encounters with shape-shifters, epitomized in the legend of the werewolf. Since humankind’s earliest inklings of religious impulses, shamans and priest have recounted a host of shape-shifting entities, both benevolent and malevolent. All of the surviving major religions maintain a belief in the duality of shape-shifters in the accounts of angels and demons. Because of the evolutionary bond between humans and wolves, the werewolf established a powerful position in the collective unconscious that it has not yielded. The Werewolf Book is a 380-page reverential reference book covering all things lycanthropic from earliest folklore and tradition to the most recent depictions of the creature in motion pictures, books, television series, computer games. The book has proven to be a marvelous resource for serious students and researchers of comparative culture and mythology and for anyone interested in all things werewolf.
The second edition of The Werewolf Book is coming out soon, what are the big differences between this one and the first edition?
Some readers failed to catch the full meaning of the subtitle: The Encyclopedia of Shape-Shifting Beings and felt that the book was strictly about werewolves. While the early reviews of the book said nice things such as “a labor of deep scholarship elegantly written” or “a reference masterpiece, overflowing with fascinating information,” a number of readers complained that there were too many entries dealing with shape-shifters other than werewolves. For the Second Edition, the publisher and I charged the editor, who happens to be a werewolf enthusiast, to go through the text with a fine-fanged comb and winnow down the entries that strayed the farthest from the kind of account that the fan base for this book wanted to read. After a great deal of casting out and recasting, I am confident that the most passionate werewolf buff will be satisfied. In addition, we have added outstanding entries contributed by UK and European experts on werewolf traditions, previously unpublished material by U.S. folklorists, screenwriters, movie directors, an Emmy-award-winning documentary producer, a graphic novelist, and many others. A major bonus in addition to all new movie and television stills is the awesomely scary lycan drawings by the remarkable artist, Ricardo Pustanio.
Many were disappointed that the first edition contained more info on serial killers than on werewolf folktales and legends – is there more folklore and history in the new edition?
As I have stated, yes, much, much more folklore, chilling historical and contemporary encounters, and excellent contributions from folklorists.
I first discovered Dr. Robert Eisler’s Man into Wolf: An Anthropological Interpretation of Sadism, Masochism, and Lycanthropy in 1958, and I was very much impressed with his thesis that many contemporary serial killers were a particular breed of psychologically warped individuals who believed that they were werewolves. Later, in 1963, psychologist Dr. Robert E.L. Masters and Eduard Lea published their Perverse Crimes in History, which contained the provocative chapter “The Sex Criminal as Werewolf.” Since the publisher of the First Edition of The Werewolf Book wanted me to explore the farthest reaches of lycanthropy, I felt that sketches of a number of contemporary serial killers would be appropriate, and I applied the theories of Eisler and Masters and Lea to the perpetrators of gruesome mass murders. Once again, the early reviews of The Werewolf Book applauded the scholarship such entries exhibited, but, as the book gained a wider circulation, some readers complained that there were far too many serial killers among the entries. And, once again, we have listened to the readers. The publisher and I were reluctant to cull all the serial killers, because, as the publisher pointed out, many reviewers, as well as readers, thought the inclusion of such individuals greatly broadened the scope and the appeal of the work. However, we gave the editor our approval to apply a similar sharp-fanged comb and to eliminate all but the mass murderers who slashed and cannibalized their victims and those who felt that they were personifications of werewolves.
What inspired you to create The Werewolf Book?
That inspiration goes back to when I was twelve years old and my grandfather took me to see a double-feature: House of Frankenstein and Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man. That Halloween, with permission, I painted murals of the Wolf Man, the Frankenstein Monster, Dracula and assorted vampires and werewolves on the front-of-the-store display windows of the largest grocery store in town. The other monsters had their charm, but my heart belonged to the Wolf Man. I began reading and collecting everything that I could on werewolves and the paranormal.
What is your research process like? The book contains mass amounts of info, it must have taken ages to complete it.
Thanks for appreciating the research process. The Werewolf Book didn’t take ages, but it did take decades. I began writing for national magazines in 1956 when I was a 20-year-old college senior. When I was teaching high school and college, I published articles on the paranormal, the strange, and unknown for a wide variety of mystery and men’s magazines. Monsters were reborn and became popular again in the early 1960s with the excellent Hammer films in England and AIP in the U.S. Remember, Michael Landon was our first “teenage werewolf.” I was ready for the popular return of werewolves, vampires, mummies, and other creatures from the darkside.
In 1963, I wrote a weekly column, A Walk on the Weirdside and did reviews of horror films for a national weekly supermarket tabloid. This led to a syndicated column The Strange World of Brad Steiger that appeared throughout the U.S and Canada, as well as Bombay, India, and Toyko, Japan. In 1965, my first book was published–Monsters, Maidens and Mayhew: A Pictorial History of Hollywood Film Monsters. In the same year, the sequel Master Movie Monsters appeared, followed by a collection of my published articles, Ghosts, Ghouls, and Other Peculiar People. Each of these books contained numerous references to werewolves. By the time that I wrote the First Edition of The Werewolf Book (1999), I had authored or co-authored 145 books–at least 30 of them containing chapters on werewolves, skinwalkers, and shapeshifting beings, including a novel about the ultimate Native American shapeshifting evil spirit, The Chindi.
Who is your favorite fictitious werewolf?
I like “David” (David Naughton) in American Werewolf in London, because, thanks to Rick Baker, the makeup and special effects wizard, we finally get to see the complete transformation of man into wolf. I suppose, though, in spite of the stop-action application of makeup, my very favorite will always be the tortured Lawrence Talbot, Lon Chaney, Jr., in the original The Wolf Man.
What is your favorite werewolf book, movie, and/or show?
Again, An American Werewolf in London, The Wolf Man, Blood and Chocolate. I must add that I have been favorably impressed with MTV’s Teen Wolf. The casting is excellent, as are the production values and script. Sherry, my wife, is not a werewolf person, but she has watched every episode with me. I hope they can maintain the high standards they have established in their second season.
Tell our readers why they should check out the new edition of The Werewolf Book – in 3 words: (bwahaha)
All Things Lycanthropic
And finally, what other projects are you currently working on? Any goodies we should watch out for?
Visible Ink Press is about to launch an ebook series that will feature fan favorites from my books Real Vampires, Real Zombies, Real Monsters, Real Ghosts, The Werewolf Book, and Real Aliens and Conspiracies and Secret Societies (the latter two co-authored with Sherry). I am also working on the Second Edition of Real Ghosts, Restless Spirits, and Haunted Places, and Sherry and I are in the process of writing the Second Edition of Conspiracies and Secret Societies: The Complete Dossier.
Thank you for the opportunity of allowing me to share these thoughts with your readers.