How Rabies Inspired Folktales of Werewolves and Vampires?

In 1855, the “Brooklyn Daily Eagle” reported the tragedy of a newlywed husband against the bride. The story comes from the French countryside, where the parents of the woman were initially “behaving abnormally, sometimes observed among young people,” preventing the couple from getting engaged, although he “is otherwise the easiest to match.”

The parents finally agreed and the marriage took place. Shortly after the newlyweds withdrew to perfect their bond, “screams of terror” came from their residence. People soon arrived and found “the poor girl … in the pain of death-her arms were torn and torn in one of the most terrible ways, this poor husband was full of madness and blood, It actually swallowed a part. The breasts of the unfortunate girl. ”

The bride died shortly after. Her husband also expired after “the strongest resistance”.

What caused this shocking incident? “Then, in order to answer the doctor’s question, they were collected again,” the groom “was bitten by a strange dog.” The frantic transfer from dog to person seems to be the only possible cause of the serious turn of events.

The Eagle actually described the episode as “a terrifying case of hydrophobic disease” or, in today’s parlance, rabies.

But this narrative reads like a Gothic horror story. In essence, this is a werewolf narrative: A bite from a mad dog caused a terrible pervert, which turned its human victim into an evil monster whose evil sexual impulses led to obscene and nasty violence behavior.

My new book, Crazy Dogs and Other New Yorkers: Rabies, Medicine, and Society in the American Metropolis from 1840 to 1920, explores the hidden meaning behind the way people talk about rabies. Variations of this crazy groom’s story have been told and recounted in English newspapers in North America since at least the early 18th century, and they continued to appear until the 1890s.

In essence, the eagle’s story is a folk tale about crazy dogs and the fine dividing lines between humans and animals. Rabies causes fear because it is a disease that seems to turn people into angry beasts.

Deadly fatal disease
Historian Eugen Weber once observed that 19th-century French farmers feared “being above all wolves, crazy dogs, and fire.” Canine madness-or what we call rabies today-has caused canine horror, and for centuries they have constituted nightmares.

In the 19th and early 20th centuries, other infectious diseases, such as cholera, typhoid and diphtheria, killed more people. The cry of “mad dog”! However, this caused an immediate sense of horror, as a simple dog bite could mean long-term painful symptoms torture and then cause some death.

Modern medicine knows that rabies is caused by a virus. Once in the body, it reaches the brain through the nervous system. There is usually a lag of weeks or months between the first contact and the onset of symptoms, which means that if patients are vaccinated quickly with immune antibodies and vaccines to boost immunity immediately after encountering suspicious animals, rabies is no longer the death penalty. Although few people die of rabies in the United States, the disease still causes millions of deaths worldwide every year.

According to 19th-century data, after an incubation period of 4 to 12 weeks, symptoms may begin with vague agitation or agitation. They then progress to a spastic seizure of rabies, as well as insomnia, excitement, fever, rapid pulse, drooling, and difficulty breathing. Victims also rarely experience hallucinations or other mental disorders.

Efforts to reduce the outbreak of violence with drugs often fail, and doctors can only make backups and witnesses. Final release occurs only after the disease has undergone an unavoidable lethal process, usually lasting two to four days. Even today, once clinical signs appear, rabies remains largely incurable.

Centuries ago, the loss of physical control and rationality caused by rabies appeared to be a basic humanitarian attack on the victims. In a terrible disease spread from animals, there was a piercing spectacle of supernatural forces that transferred the power of malicious animals and turned people into monsters.

Bites that turn people into animals
Nineteenth-century American accounts never directly invoked supernatural phenomena. But the description of the symptoms suggests that there is no word on how the disease can spread the essence of this biting animal to suffering humans.

Newspapers often describe those who are infected with rabies as a result of dog bites snarling and growling like dogs, and those who are bitten by cats are scratched and spit. Hallucinations, breathing spasms, and uncontrolled twitches make a terrifying impression on the evil imprint of this rabies animal.