While ghouls, zombies, and vampires are among the greatest of Halloween’s monsters, werewolves will always hold a special place in my heart. Something about their fangs and love of the moon has caused me to wish and hope to one day become one of them. My love for these vicious creatures, however, has recently dwindled into a sense of pity and fear, because I have learned of hypertrichosis, a disease that causes an individual look strikingly similar to a werewolf.
To put it simply, hypertrichosis, known informally as the werewolf syndrome, is an abnormal amount of hair growth on the body. Some individuals experience localized hypertrichosis, meaning that only parts of their body experience this intense growth of hair. Others experience generalized hypertrichosis, where their whole body is covered in a thick, bushy amount of hair.
The only real sign or symptom of hypertrichosis is excessive hair growth. It often starts at the birth, but some cases have been known to pop up later in an individual’s life. Since this is the only negative effect, hair removal remains one of the top treatments. There is no cure for hypertrichosis.
Historically, individuals with hypertrichosis often received work as circus performers. Fedor Jeftichew was known as “Jo-Jo the Dog-Faced Man.” Stephan Bibrowski was “Lionel the Lion-Faced Man.” Jesus “Chuy” Aceves received work as the “Wolfman.” Annie Jones worked as “the bearded woman,” and the list goes on and on.
In 2011, Supatra Sasuphan, an 11-year-old girl from Thailand, was named the world’s hairiest girl by the Guinness Book of World Records. Hypertrichosis has been with her since birth, and not even our werewolf masks can recreate this kind of intense hair growth.