Do you yourself believe that werewolves truly exist somewhere in the world?
I definitely believe werewolves exist all over the world! Every culture has a tradition that addresses folk experiences with lycanthropy in one form or another. In Europe, especially in France and Central and Eastern Europe, the werewolf is most traditional in that it is perceived to be a human that actually transforms into a wolf-like creature. This transformation can be affected by certain variables such as lunar cycle, a family history of lycanthropy, and even an individual’s relationship with the Church; in Eastern Europe there are additional catalysts such as cursing or overlooking by the Evil Eye.
Whether or not individuals actually have transformed into animal-like creatures, the tradition of magical shape-shifting probably provides the most valid explanation for werewolf encounters today. Individuals who engage in shape-shifting as a form of ritual magical practice are able to expel their spirit from their body in a manner similar to astral projection. Once loosed, the spirit can take on any shape, with animal forms being the most common. Shape-shifting, in some aboriginal cultures called “skin-walking,” is well known and documented all over the world with incidences of warriors fighting on the battlefield in shape-shifted forms – the Berserkers of the Nordic regions for example – or of shamans travelling great distances and performing wondrous feats of magic in animal form.
Sightings of werewolves and werewolf-like creatures are consistent across the globe and demonstrate the enduring appeal of this monstrous creature in the common psyche of mankind.
On any of your tours, have you ever encountered a pupil that was a complete werewolf fanatic? Please explain.
Not many of the tours in the New Orleans area focus on werewolves specifically; they may mention the Loup Garou, the werewolf of the Louisiana swamps, in passing references, but by and large most tours focus on haunted locations, the voodoo tradition, and the still-thriving vampire culture developed in response to the Anne Rice novels.
There are, however, individuals in the darkside community who celebrate the culture of the lycanthrope. “Lord Chaz” is one of these individuals; he is actually an “out” lycanthrope who claims to be able to transform into the beast at will. If you Google his name and “New Orleans” I’m sure you’ll be able to track him down. He has a MySpace presence, too.
How has your business been affected by the downturn of the economy?
The economic challenges facing the rest of the nation are not unknown to New Orleans, a city that thrives on tourist and convention dollars. However, the effect is cyclical and although business was depressed in the fall of 2009, things are picking-up. Generally speaking, the New Orleans tourist season peaks between September and November, at Mardi Gras, and again in the Spring, from March through May. The oppressive heat and humidity of summer, more than the threat of hurricanes, is a major deterrent to travel here; from June to August, the major tourism is a by-product of convention trade.
The recent surge of interest in ghost-hunting and the paranormal is a constant feeder for the New Orleans guided tours market. Although New Orleans Haunted History Tours remains the top-grossing tour company in the city, in the last 12 to 18 months two other companies – French Quarter Phantom Tours and New Orleans Ghost and Spirit Tours – have established themselves as healthy competition to Haunted History Tours and its corner on the haunted tourism market in New Orleans.
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