Skeptophilia (skep-to-fil-i-a) (n.) - the love of logical thought, skepticism, and thinking critically. Being an exploration of the applications of skeptical thinking to the world at large, with periodic excursions into linguistics, music, politics, cryptozoology, and why people keep seeing the face of Jesus on grilled cheese sandwiches.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Brazilian werewolf alert

Every once in a while, I'll run into a story that just gives me the shudders, despite my generally rationalistic approach.  All this does, of course, is to highlight a truism about the human condition; when it comes to a fight between logic and emotion, emotion usually wins.  We like to flatter ourselves, and think that our highly-developed prefrontal cortices make us smarter than our non-human cousins, but when it comes to a real throw-down match between the parts of the brain, I'm putting my money on the limbic system every time -- the part of the brain that, along with the hypothalamus, governs the "four F's" of behavior: feeding, fighting, flight, and... mating.

A story this week out of Brazil highlights the third "F" -- which stands for the flight response.  It could also stand for "fear," because that's what usually motivates an animal running away.  The story, which comes out of the town of São Gonçalo de Campos, near Feira de Santana, in the state of Bahia, is about a rather terrifying cryptid that has been sighted more than once in local neighborhoods.

Even the government officials are taking it seriously.  Apparently, for the last two weeks there's been a curfew in the town; no one is to be outside after 9 PM.  It started when a man identified only as "Pingo" described seeing a five-foot-tall black monster, which ran at him; Pingo turned and fled, escaping (he said) only by the narrowest of margins.  At first, the other villagers made fun of him -- until others had similar encounters.  Locals are calling it a "werewolf."

All of this would have been nothing more than another tale of "I saw something real, really I did" if it hadn't been for the footage captured on a home security camera.  Watch it for yourself:

Here's a still:

Okay, yes, I know.  There are no such things as werewolves.  There's no reason why this couldn't have been faked.  It probably is a guy in dark clothes jumping around in front of the homeowner's security camera, in order to keep the whole scare going.  Who knows?  Maybe it's even "Pingo," who dreamed the story up to have his fifteen minutes (or in this case, more like two weeks) of fame.

But I have to admit that watching this video gave me some very irrational shudders right up the spine.  There's something about the way the creature moved that just doesn't look... human.  I'm probably being suggestible, I realize that; our fight-or-flight responses have been programmed through millions of years of evolution to shriek at us, whenever we see a shadowy shape in the dark, "DEAR GOD IT'S A PREDATOR RUN FOR YOUR LIFE OR YOU WILL BE MESSILY DEVOURED."  The chances of it being anything other than a hoaxing human are very small.

Even so, if I lived in São Gonçalo de Campos, I would definitely abide by the curfew.  I probably would also deadbolt my doors shut at night.  Maybe it is only Pingo playing a prank; that's what my prefrontal cortex is telling me.  But if I lived anywhere near where this thing had been seen, my limbic system would outshout my prefrontal cortex without even breaking a sweat.


  1. He would have gotten away with it, too, if it hadn't been for those meddling kids!

  2. As sceptical as I am in general about blurred, short footage in poor lighting of one of the very human-shaped cryptids, it's still good in the name of variety to see the old werewolf myth get a showing.
    I don't know how much stock I would put in my ability to sense the difference between a human-shaped cryptid movement and a human pretending to be a human-shaped cryptid movement.
    If only 5 feet tall it may not seem that threatening but the werewolf's reputed ability to kill, or maybe injure without killing, turning the victim into another werewolf may be more concerning.
    Or am I mixing up the supposed powers of different man-shaped cryptids?
    I've enjoyed your blog for years Gordon and on a whim I decided to comment. Keep up the good work.

  3. Looks like a knicker sniffer in a mask looking for undies on a washing line .

  4. Any circuses lost a chimp lately?

  5. the camera work says its a guy with a camera, angles, zooms ect......but its a good attempt.

  6. Even if that isn't a werewolf, which most likely isn't, whoever told you that a schizophrenic human isn't just as dangerous? If I'm not mistaken the person was frothing at the mouth, that usually is some indication of either substance use or of some of the worse mental illnesses. Homo sapiens isn't any less dangerous under the "proper" circumstances. I hope they find him before something nasty happens.

  7. If you look very close the " monster " does not put off a shadow like everything else does. This is so fake.