Mystery Monday: The Beast of Gevaudan

The Story

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.

But.

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.

The Mystery

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.

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Mystery Monday: A Personal Experience.

One of the reasons I like mysteries is because on the odd occasion, I have also come across something that I cannot explain. These experiences range from strange occurrences, odd coincidences and occasionally supernatural touches. Now, before you cry ghost or loony, let me explain something. I am not the kind of person who cries ‘ALIEN!’ at the sight of bright lights in the sky. I am a scientist by heart, I like facts, I like all avenues of explanation to be explored. And, I like evidence.
Objective evidence.
It’s therefore that I recount a past experience to you with all the facts as they presented themselves to me and I’ll leave you to decide for yourself what it was that I experienced.
In August 2008 I traveled to Lancaster in Lancashire, England for a job interview. Because I had not been in the north a lot, I decided to make a day trip of it and traveled in early to the town to do some tourist like sight seeing. My first stop was Lancaster Castle and – if this sounds familiar, I should point out that I blogged about it in one of Aheila’s Drabble Days.
After some friendly “My grandfather shot at your grandfather during the Anglo Boer war” banter with the local tour guide, I managed to sweet talk my way into doing a tour of the dungeon for free (I was pretty broke at that stage and bartered for everything.) It was still in the UK’s tourist season so there were quite a lot of other foreigners on the tour. My karmic curse for not paying was that I ended up with the tour with the most uneducated children that I had encountered in a long time. They disrupted everything and irritated me to a point where I wanted to lock them up in the dungeon well and forget about them.
But, then I’m a fairly impatient person when it comes to other people’s genetics.
We traveled through the dungeon to three specific holding cells where they used to keep convicts who were particularly troublesome (like those children for instance). The cells were dark and damp and had been sealed up for quite a number of years until the 1970’s when they were rediscovered. Our guide was quite dry and bored about the concept of loosing three dungeons and blankly asked us if any would like to volunteer to step inside.
I was the first to say yes, seeing the dark deep dungeon as a welcome escape from the irritating children. Smiling at all the men whom had not shown my enthusiasm at going into the cell, I walked in and put myself in the darkest corner that I could find. Immediately, I felt a young child grab my pants, just by my knee, and jerk hard. Unable to believe that the tourist kids had followed me in, I turned to glare at the parents, only to find that all their kids were still outside the cell, quiet suddenly at the idea of being locked up in the dark. There was no way that they could’ve come in with me and run out without either me seeing them or them making a ruckus.
I was still alone in the cell, with my skin tingling where the hand had grabbed my pants.
I decided to say nothing, because I’m not the kind of person to cry wolf. I was still convinced that the kids had somehow managed to do this and resolved to find some way of getting even with them. (Like throwing them in said well…) One or two more volunteers joined me in the cell and the tour guide locked us up for a good three minutes. I kept expecting the kid to grab me again but nothing else happened and we were let out again, the dim light of the corridors strangely bright after the darkness of the holding cell.
We were about to walk away when the tour guide turned to us and said in his dry, droll tone:
“I should tell you something else about these cells…”
In a strange way, I knew what he was going to say immediately.
“I’m not a believer,” the tour guide had continued. “Which is why I always tell this after we’ve been here as I hate to put ideas into people’s minds. But, it has been reported that sometimes some people either sense the presence of a young boy here. One guide, who does not work here anymore, even once reported seeing him sitting in the cell when she opened it for her tour…”
I didn’t hear the rest, the sensation on my leg suddenly burning. I had felt, vividly, that a child had grabbed my leg. I had not been told of the child before hand, so my imagination could not make up wild stories based on suggestion.
The feeling had been real enough and my mind’s perception had classified it. A child had grabbed my leg, one I did not see – but one I had felt with me.
I am still not willing to cry ghost, but I know what I felt that day. Was I tired from traveling? Yes. Was my imagination in overdrive? Of course, it always is.
Did I know that people had seen the ghost of a child there before?
No.
So, I ask you – what was it that I had felt there? What do you think?

Mystery Monday: A Case of Spontaneous Human Combustion

The Story

On the morning of July 2nd, 1951 Ms. Pansy Carpenter arrived at the door of her 67 year old tenant, Mary Reeser, with a telegraph. She had knocked on the door several times and, when there was no answer, tried the door. The door knob was uncomfortably hot to touch, so Ms. Carpenter – fearing a fire, rushed out to get some help. She got two men who had been working nearby to help her force the door open. When they managed to get inside the apartment, they were met by a blast of heat, the smell of smoke and the clear evidence of a fire…
Only, the only thing in the room that was burned was the wicker chair in which Ms. Carpenter had seen Mary Reeser in the night before when she came to say good night.
And, Mary Reeser.
The 170 pound woman had been reduced to nothing more than ten pounds of ash and only her one leg remained unburned. Nothing else in the room was burned though it did show signs of extreme heat. Candles were burned and electrical wires were melted. A mirror was cracked and the walls were covered by greasy soot. Her clock had stopped at 4:20am when the heat from the fire melted the plastic wall socket.

The Facts

Police and the FBI were baffled by the strange occurrence of Mary Reeser’s death. There was no evidence of foul play, no indication of an accelerant used. Most of the electrical equipment only melted after the fire started and there had been no lightening that evening. For the body to be burned to such and extent meant that the temperature of the fire must’ve reached at least 2500 degrees F. From lack of a better explanation, they finally accredited her death to a ‘cigarette’ fire, saying that she must’ve fallen asleep with a cigarette in hand which later must’ve fallen onto her clothes and caused them to ignite…

My Opinion

To date, this seems to be the best documented case of spontaneous human combustion. Although the police closed the case, the investigators kept saying that very few of the facts made sense.
There are very little facts to explain this phenomenon and others of its kind, even though spontaneous human combustion has been documented as early as the 1400s. Personally, I cannot even begin to think of a reason why this should happen – but, I still find the cases fascinating.
Sad in some cases.
But fascinating.