Psychological Medicine

Research Article

Lycanthropy: alive and well in the twentieth century

Paul E. Kecka1 c1, Harrison G. Popea1, James I. Hudsona1, Susan L. McElroya1 and Aaron R. Kulicka1

a1 From the Epidemiology Laboratory, Laboratories for Psychiatric Research, Mailman Research Center, McLean Hospital, Belmont, MA, and Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA.


Lycanthropy, the belief that one has been transformed into an animal (or behaviour suggestive of such a belief), has been described by physicians and clerics since antiquity, but has received scant attention in the modern literature. Some have even thought the syndrome extinct. However, in a review of patients admitted to our centre since 1974, we identified twelve cases of lycanthropy, ranging in duration from one day to 13 years. The syndrome was generally associated with severe psychosis, but not with any specific psychiatric diagnosis or neurological findings, or with any particular outcome. As a rare but colourful presentation of psychosis, lycanthropy appears to have survived into modern times.


c1 1Address for correspondence: Dr P. E. Keck, McLean Hospital, 115 Mill Street, Belmont, MA 02178, USA.