Blurry photos of an unkempt man carrying a “spear” in a German forest have stoked speculation that legends of a “wolf man” stalking the woods of the Harz region are true.
Two photos captured by hikers show a naked and shaggy man sitting on a rock holding a long stick in his left hand and scratching the rock with another instrument in his right hand.
Gina Weiss and her friend Tobi claim to have taken the pictures on their mobile phones while walking beneath a set of sandstone caves in Harz national park on Tuesday.
“We saw the ‘wolf man’ when we reached the sandstone caves,” Ms Weiss told the German tabloid Bild. “He was standing on top of one of the caves, holding a long wooden stick like a spear in his arm.”
“He didn’t take his eyes off us and didn’t say a word,” she recounted, adding that the encounter lasted for nearly 10 minutes.
“He looked dirty and behaved like a stone age man from a history book,” she added.
Mysterious hermit or just ‘a prank’?
According to Bild, there have been intermittent sightings of the man since 2015, with local authorities claiming to have found evidence that someone was starting fires and building rudimentary dwellings in the forest.
However, one volunteer with the local fire service told The Telegraph that they had not noticed anything unusual in the forest, describing the story as “nonsense” and speculating that the photos were “a prank”.
With a third of Germany’s landmass covered by dense forest, stories of hermits living off the land occasionally crop up in the local media.
In 2007 a US citizen was found living in a hut in the depths of the Eifel, a low mountain range in western Germany, where he had cultivated a small marijuana plantation.
Modern legends attached to the woods, which inspired many popular fairy tales by the German Brothers Grimm, loom large in the public imagination.
Reports this summer of a lion prowling the forests outside Berlin gained significant attention for days only for the beast to be revealed as a wild boar.
Authorities in the wealthy suburb of Kleinmachnow told people to stay at home after they claimed to have video evidence that showed the rear end of a lioness.
After helicopters and drones scoured the scene without success, local authorities were forced to concede that this was a case of mistaken identity.