On the 1st of June, 1764 a woman living in Langogne, France – was working outside when she saw a large, lupine like creature emerge from the woods and storm right at her. She managed to escape as the creature was distracted and then driven away by some of the farm bulls.
This was to be the first sighting of the Beast of Gevaudan but, most certainly not the last. On the 30th of June 1764, Jeanne Boulet – a fourteen year old girl – was killed near the villages of Les Hubacs – not far from Langone. She had been tending sheep on her family’s farm when the creature attacked her – ignoring all the livestock present. She survived the attack, long enough to recount her tale but unfortunately succumbed to her injuries.
The next notable attack happened on the 12th of January, 1765 when a group of young people were attacked by a ‘beast’. They managed to drive it off and this time, their account caught the attention of King Louis XV who send a troupe of trained wolf hunters to try and catch the beast. At first, these men focused their attention on exterminating the local wolf population but – the attacks continued until 22nd of June when King Louis send in Francis Antoine. He managed to kill one of the largest wolves recorded in history and declared happily that – not only did he slay the beast, but that they had found human remains in his stomach. The wolf was stuffed and sent to the king where as Antoine received a large sum of money for his services rendered.
The best struck again on the 2nd of December 1765. Numerous deaths and attacks followed until a hunter named Jean Chatel killed a ‘beast’ on the 19th of June, 1767 – more than two years after the first sighting. The ‘wolf like creature’ had human remains in it’s stomach and was reportedly (once again) larger than any wolf every recorded in that time. It also had wolf like features, but didn’t look like an average Canis Lupis.
This is one of the most favored werewolf tales told in history. According to Scholastic’s Encycopedia, movie goers have seen over 220 different versions of the tale, all centered around the story of a creature running amuck in France. Now, I have never been one to cry wolf and in history (and fairy tales) I’ve always sided with wolves. I think that they are among history’s most persecuted creatures where our primal fear of them have caused humans to hunt them almost to the brink of extinction.
So, needless to say – I don’t believe the wolves did it. But, I think that there was something very wrong in Gevaudan.
I’ve read accounts where people claimed the creature that Jean Chatel shot was one of his own making, that he had trained a beast to kill for the soul purpose of him killing it and earning fame. There are some that speculate that the various murders weren’t all done by the same creature and that it might well have been a madman. According to the author De Beaufort there were over 210 attacks. 98 of the victims were partially eaten, 25 of those attacked were women, 68 children and 6 men.
That is a lot of people.
Of course, the mystery part intrigues me. This story has not been dismissed as a wolf attack and it’s one of the favorite topics of cryptozoologists when they debate the existence of real werewolves. I like to think that the wolves are innocent, that there was a man out there doing these atrocities. A man, with the likeness of a wolf but the hate of our kind which drove him to kill these people.