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You’re listening to The Storage Papers. Episode 10, Original Beast:
Today’s statement comes in the form of a Psychiatrist’s notes from several sessions with one of his patients. The notes speak for themselves, so let’s not delay in getting right to it.
Summary of clinical notes of Dr. William Talbert regarding Maxwell Stannard, Thursday, October 16, 1986:
Mr. Stannard informed me that today’s session, his 5th with me, would be his last. It is apparent that he possesses an overwhelming guilt which serves motivate his actions. I am of the opinion after these sessions that he truly believes what he is saying, and am inclined to diagnose him as delusional, but more specifically, with Clinical Lycanthrope. He… believes he is a werewolf, and has maintained this claim since his first session.
Five sessions is not nearly enough time to thoroughly evaluate the origins of his delusion, and treatment never really began. I would recommend further assessment to rule out schizophrenia. I simply listened, and passively took what he said as hypothetical in order to encourage the discussion to continue, and so that I might find out more about when or how this delusion started. Still, his knowledge of some historical events is remarkable, and his conviction to his story was extremely convincing. If I wasn’t bound to a confidentiality agreement, I would say his story would make for a very interesting book of fiction.
I first met with Mr. Stannard five weeks ago on Friday, September 12. He had concerns that he was about to harm someone the following week during the full moon. He presented a fairly classic werewolf story at first, but as he laid out more detail about his past, there were some unique aspects of lore that I was previously unfamiliar with. Of course, I simply recommended he seclude himself during the full moon. He claimed his parents were deceased, and he had no family or friends, so I had no justification to report this to the authorities because he stated he could refrain from leaving his home.
I was pleased to see him the following Friday, the day after the full moon. He appeared a bit disheveled, but content to report that he managed to avoid hurting anyone. That’s the day we began to really dive into his previous experiences. I asked how he believed he became a werewolf, or if he was born that way. He said his biological body assumed the form just two years ago, but when he was changed, his manifestation also included a sort of merging of the souls with another individual. With his transformation, he inherited someone’s memories. He said he (referring to his inherited memories) had been originally turned in the year 1228.
I asked him to walk me through some of these memories he inherited, and he did so convincingly. I didn’t detect any hesitation, and throughout the weeks I have interacted with him, I’ve requested clarifying statements and have asked for additional details, intentionally looking for inconsistencies. I’m reluctant to admit I have not yet found any.
I decided to focus on his most recent transformation from two years ago. He wouldn’t provide an exact date for his most recent “turn” because he claimed he wasn’t sure about the day, but said he’d been employed by the United States government to spy on Russia to relay information relating to cold war intelligence. He was tasked to report information on weapons technology, locations of strategic missile silos, and to identify and report on any perceived threats against the United States. He said he was caught planting a recording device in a military outpost, and was detained.
They interrogated him for weeks under drastic conditions where they starved him, stripped him of his clothing, and locked him in a concrete cell with no facilities. After the first two weeks and his refusal to identify himself or provide information, his care was suddenly overseen by a man named Ivanov Vasiliev, who he simply referred to as “Ivan”. No explanation was given to him for the change in personnel, but Ivan didn’t seem like the others, and Stannard suspected he wasn’t even interested in information. He said Ivan was kind to him, and gave him blankets, water, and what food he could spare – mostly bread. Though he only spoke to Ivan later during his imprisonment, Ivan spoke to him often and told him the story of how he came to be a werewolf himself. Mr. Stannard said he just listened for a few weeks before entering any dialogue.
Ivan wasted no time claiming that he was a beast, and not just any beast, but the original werewolf. He claimed to be the first human to be burdened with the curse, and that he was turned in the 12th century during the war between the Mongolian Empire and Russia. He said he, too, had been captured, and beaten badly. His tormentor, whose name he would not speak, held him for 2 years. He would be beaten and allowed to heal, then he would be beaten again. This torture was endured the entire time he was held, and Ivan developed a deep-seeded hatred for this man, which would later be revealed as his weakness.
Ivan spent time with Mr. Stannard several times a day during his imprisonment, telling him about his past, and the other guards never returned. Stannard never saw other prisoners and Ivan hadn’t asked him any questions at all, but every day, sometimes for periods of hours, Ivan would tell him stories of the past wars and educate him on all things related to werewolves. He felt sorry for Ivan because he seemed lonely, and thought if he could win Ivan’s favor, he might find an opportunity to break free or possibly even convince Ivan to let him go. So he listened and began asking questions.
According to Ivan, there were many werewolves throughout the world, but they were spread out over the continents. They all originated from being bitten by the original beast though. Ivan claimed to have turned over 300 people personally, which didn’t seem like a large number given that he claimed to have been a werewolf for several hundred years. He said he felt guilty every time he did it because he knew they wouldn’t have control over their actions, but would have to witness acts of pure evil. He evidently had trouble controlling the beast when it appeared, though he did have conscious thoughts, almost as if he were witnessing someone else’s actions as he murdered innocent people.
Apparently, as Ivan explained, there were stark differences between the animal that Ivan was and those he turned. For example, the ones he turned lived up to traditional lore in that they could be killed only by being beheaded or with silver to the heart, which could be a sword, a knife, or a bullet. The others could also be hurt by iron, which could weaken them, but not necessarily kill them. Physical injuries sustained would otherwise heal quickly, or heal completely in conjunction with a change back into human form, rendering them undetectable. Those he turned aged as a normal human would as well.
Ivan claimed none of these things applied to him. He said he knew because he tried them all in multiple attempts to end his own life. His hatred grew for the animal he had become, killing unarmed men, women and children mercilessly. Different methods were tested to kill some he had turned, which he documented in a diary. When he would learn of a new method to kill one, he would then try the method on himself. Ivan became despondent as he spoke of these attempts. He admitted that his only goal for turning anyone was to learn of a way that he may exit the world himself. He didn’t want to go on living anymore. His life had become his hell.
Mr. Stannard’s first time speaking with Ivan since his capture was when he asked how he became the werewolf. He said Ivan lit up with an enthusiasm he hadn’t witnessed yet, unsure if it was because he was simply speaking with him, or if it was because his story was being perceived as true. Either way, Stannard didn’t have anything else to do, and so far, Ivan had been kind compared to his previous captors.
Ivan explained that he was defending Russia during the Ottoman invasion in the 13th century, and his company had been overrun, so he retreated into a mine. He wasn’t aware of it at the time, but he had been followed, and they soon captured him and took him into their custody. He had already spoken of the treatment he received there, but explained that it was why he decided to show kindness to Mr. Stannard. He didn’t believe it was humane to treat anyone like that, regardless of whether or not it was during war time.
Ivan stated that after two years of torture and beatings, he had gone through various stages of begging to be freed, attempting to negotiate, and even tried fighting back a few times in which case the beatings would be worse. They broke his jaw after he bit the hand of the man who primarily carried out his punishments. By the end of the two years, he was a broken man. He stopped speaking, became emotionless, and actually cooperated when it was time for his abuse in hopes it would reduce the severity of his punishment.
At some point, he began talking to himself when he was alone, and that’s when he heard the voice. Ivan had been repeating things to himself, and he had moved onto saying “I’d give anything to be free. I’d give anything to be free” when he heard someone speak back to him in Russian dialect from the dark. The voice whispered to him “chto-nibut?” which meant “anything?” Ivan tried to listen closely to see if he could hear someone else there, considering he may have imagined it. After some time passed, Ivan said “Yes, anything. How can I break free from this place?” The whispering voice in the dark replied “you must simply kill your captor.”
Ivan hated this man so much that he quickly agreed, and asked how he could possibly accomplish this with failed attempts in the past. The voice simply said, “when the moon is full, you will be granted the strength.” Ivan asked what that meant, but there was no answer. He made multiple attempts to gain some clarity or to get any sort of additional response, but voice never spoke to him again.
Ivan hadn’t seen the sky at all in the last two years, and didn’t know when the next full moon would be, but two days later, it was time for another beating. His captor unlocked the doorway to his cell and Ivan rose to his feet, smiling, sensing a change in himself. This obviously bothered his captor, and Ivan took a blunt punch to his face, knocking him down. He was drug by his ankle to the adjacent room where his hands would be tied with rope above his head, and he would begin enduring punches to his ribs and kidneys. Ivan began wondering if the voice he heard was somehow a manifestation of his own mind, a sign that he was losing his sanity. He found that occupying his mind with various thoughts dulled his pain during these sessions.
He endured his blows for about 10 minutes, when he was nearly unconscious and in terrible pain. His captor untied his wrists and he plopped down on the concrete, smacking his head. And as he was being dragged back to his cell, Ivan’s hatred toward the man swelled beyond previous boundaries. That’s when an incredible surge of adrenaline overwhelmed him. His muscles tensed up and began cramping all over his body. He screamed in agony as his captor left him on the floor and backed away. Ivan felt like he was going to explode. He looked at his hands and arms, which were growing in size and length until he watched his skin split open. He could actually feel hair sprouting through his skin all over his body as he stretched both arms out to his sides, looking up at the stone ceiling. He felt his neck and back pop multiple times over, as his arms and legs felt like they were breaking to form new joints. The pain didn’t suppress him. It only enraged him.
He remembered feeling pure strength in that moment after feeling so weak for so long. The man who had imprisoned him cowered in fear in the corner of the room as Ivan’s upper lip twitched, revealing four-inch fangs that snapped at the air. He growled and salivated at the thought of tasting the man’s flesh. He lunged toward the man, swiping at his captor’s abdomen with his left hand causing his intestines spill on the floor while he watched. Then he swiped at his neck with his right hand, causing his head to fly across the room like a toy, bouncing against the wall, then rolling across the floor.
Mr. Stannard admitted he felt remorse for Ivan at this point. As Ivan told this story, he appeared solemn and regretful. Then Stannard did something he would later regret. He offered words of encouragement to Ivan, saying “I would do the same thing given the opportunity”. It was at this point, Ivan’s physical appearance began to change. He glared at Mr. Stannard, his eyes now glowing yellow and voice deeper, and said “Would you… do anything?” Stannard was quick to clarify, “if he had treated me like that, of course.” At that point, Ivan asked a simple question in the form of a whisper. He said “What would you give to be free of this place right now?” Stannard knew the answer, and began weeping as he replied, “anything”.
Ivan began staggering back and forth outside Stannard’s cell, appearing dizzy before falling on his knees next to Mr. Stannard’s cell. He shared a grateful smile, and with tears streaming down his face, he said “thank you.” Then he fell over as Stannard watched his body whither into a mound of ash-like soot within a matter of seconds, leaving nothing but a small, hand-written diary amongst the dust.
Mr. Stannard was able to reach the diary through the bars. He sat in his cell unsure what to think of the events that had just unfolded. He quickly realized it had been a full moon that night, and he also underwent the transformation, which allowed him to free himself from his cell. It wasn’t until he eventually returned to the United States that he understood he’d been in captivity for nearly 6 months.
He said he learned something the night of the transformation. With his change also came every memory of Ivan’s over the past several hundred years. It was how he knew that Ivan had planned to deceitfully coerce him into accepting the curse which would free him. This was confirmed with an entry of Ivan’s on the last page of the diary that contained writing. It said, “I suspect since I cannot be killed, the unholy inhabitant of my body may be passed onto another. Because I willfully accepted this curse, I will attempt this method on the American.”
Ivan simply didn’t know how to die, and subsequently, Mr. Stannard did not know how to either. He learned from the diary that he would not age, unlike anyone he turned by the bite, and Stannard, too admitted he attempted to kill himself multiple times to get rid of the curse in the beginning. But now that he also knew it was possible to pass this curse onto someone else, he was left with the ethical quandary of whether or not he should.
Stannard said something that stuck with me. He found himself constantly wavering between righteous refusal to burden anyone else with the curse and allowing the creature to live on to murder and maim, and frequently, but selfishly, wishing he could just be rid of it at any cost. He believed it to be simply a matter of time before his anguish overcame his sense of morality.
Stannard also learned through the diary that Ivan believed the curse was manifested from the devil himself out of extreme hatred for his captor. In addition, that hatred, when the form of the wolf was assumed, would exponentially increase the beast’s appetite for flesh. Simply having the knowledge of possessing an uncontrollable evil that you could not stop only fueled his hatred.
In Stannard’s last counseling session, he believed the best course would be complete isolation from other living people. He believed the curse of the werewolf, of the original beast, could only be passed onto someone else who requested it. He only hoped his sense of morality could continue to conquer his growing hatred, and he worried about how long he could hold out.
As an additional note, during the last session with Mr. Stannard, after he informed me that he was not going to be attending any additional sessions. I encouraged him toward one of two actions. Either commit himself to a psychiatric hospital I referred him to voluntarily or continue his sessions. At my suggestions, he was outraged at the implication that I did not truly believe what he was saying. I saw in him a rage that I hadn’t witnessed previously.
He took great effort to calm himself and said tomorrow there would be a full lunar eclipse. He didn’t seem certain that he may have either heightened or weakened abilities during an eclipse. Ivan’s diary hadn’t mentioned it, but to be cautious, he said he was going to go far away from the city and doubted he would return.
Follow-up note inserted by Dr. Talbert, Wednesday, November 19, 1986: I received a postcard today from Catalina Island off the coast of San Diego. It briefly said “Mr. Stannard sends his regards. I may be in need of your services very soon.” It’s signed with three names. Ivanov, Maxwell, and there’s a third name I haven’t run across before, Lucas Stone.
Next week’s episode will conclude Season 1 of The Storage Papers. I would love to hear your thoughts on the cases I’ve brought forward so far. You can always reach me by social media or email. I’m on Twitter and Instagram @StoragePapers. Or you can leave me a voice message at anchor.fm/thestoragepapers. Make sure to reference episode 10, Original Beast. And if you do reach out, please let me know if I have your permission to share what you’ve said.
Thank you for listening to The Storage Papers. I’ll be back in two weeks with the Season 1 finale. Stay safe, and be mindful of the moon.