12 'Real' Werewolf Cases Throughout History
12 ‘Real’ Werewolf Cases Throughout History

12 ‘Real’ Werewolf Cases Throughout History

Tim Flight - May 14, 2018

Werewolves are present in legends around the world. They were men with the ability (or compulsion) to turn into wolves, either through being bitten by a (were)wolf or through a satanic pact. The term ‘werewolf’ comes from the Old English werwulf, a compound noun of wer (‘man’) and wulf (‘wolf’), but the other term, lycanthropy, is much older. ‘Lycanthropy’ (Ancient Greek lykos (‘wolf’) and thropos (‘man’) is a reference to King Lycaon, the earliest recorded Western werewolf who, according to Ovid writing c.8AD, was transformed into a wolf by Zeus after the monarch failed to recognize and worship him.

Werewolves have obvious symbolic overtones. Man and wolf have long been enemies, and culture has typically seen the two as opposites: the essentially good and rational man, and the inherently evil and irrational wolf. To call someone a wolf was rarely a compliment (warriors excepted): in Anglo-Saxon law, outlaws were known as wulfheafod (‘wolf head), a reference to an earlier custom of tying a wolf’s head around anyone whose life was forfeit. Beyond allegory, however, history also furnishes us with supposedly genuine tales of werewolves who were discovered, tried, and usually executed. Read on for 12 bone-chilling instances of ‘real’ werewolves.

12 ‘Real’ Werewolf Cases Throughout History
Maurice Sand, ‘Les Lupins’, Paris 1858. Wikimedia Commons

The Gandillon Werewolves

The Gandillon Werewolves were a family who, in the late 16th century, were accused and executed for being werewolves. In 1598, a young girl and her brother were attacked by a wolf. Benoist Bidel, aged about 15, had climbed a tree to pluck some fruit and, whilst aloft, saw a wolf dart from some bushes and seize his sister. Leaping down to protect her, Benoist drew his knife. The wolf rushed at him and drove the knife into his neck with a savage blow of the paw. Fortunately, a crowd had heard the commotion, and chased the wolf away.

The girl died at the scene, and Benoist was taken back to his father’s cabin, where he died of his injuries a few days later. Before he died Benoist claimed that the wolf that attacked him had hands, like a man, covered with hair. The wolf had been maimed by the crowd, and so suspicion fell upon one Perrenette Gandillon, who exhibited a wound in precisely the same place as the wolf had been injured. Unfortunately for her, one of the crowd that injured the wolf was none other than Henri Boguet (1550-1619), a notoriously merciless witch hunter.

Boguet arranged a mob, and executed Perrenette shortly thereafter. However, as he later revealed in his Discours des Sorciers (1602), there were rumors that the whole family practiced black magic, and so Boguet had them all arrested. Perrenette’s daughter, Antoinette, swiftly confessed to witchcraft, but her brother, Pierre, and his son, George, were not so forthcoming. Placed under observation, Boguet recounts how he saw them walk around on all fours, barking, and howling, and covered in mysterious scratches. Boguet questioned them whilst they were behaving like this, and they confessed to witchcraft. The Perrenette family were burned at the stake.

Boguet boasted of having tried and executed 600 werewolves in his career (according to Voltaire), and his writings are full of lycanthropic examples. Another notable case was that of Claudia Gaillard, later dubbed ‘the Werewolf of Burgundy’. Claudia was walking through the woods with Jeanne Perrin, grumbling about receiving so few alms, when she darted into the bushes, and a wolf emerged. Jeanne dropped her alms, crossed herself, and fled the scene, later revealing that the wolf had toes like a human. When Claudia advised Jeanne that the wolf would not have harmed her, she was tried and executed.

12 ‘Real’ Werewolf Cases Throughout History
The life of Peter Stubbe, woodcut by Lukas Mayer, Hinrichtung, 1589. Wikimedia Commons

Peter Stubbe

Peter Stubbe, executed at Bedburg in 1590, is perhaps history’s most notorious werewolf. Unusually, his tale is told in a contemporary pamphlet which was translated from Dutch into English in the year of his execution. According to the pamphlet, Stubbe ‘from his youth was greatly inclined to euill’. He made a pact with the devil, but had no interest in worldly prosperity or power, but ‘only requested that at his pleasure he might woork his malice on men, women, and children, in the shape of some beast’. Satan gave him a girdle which transformed him into a wolf whenever desired.

Stubbe immediately got to work. Anyone who insulted or displeased him could be sure of their death at the jaws of a ravening wolf, for he would ‘neuer rest till he had plucked out their throates and teare their ioyntes a sunder’. Stubbe acquired a taste for blood, and progressed onto indiscriminate murder. Cruelly, he would walk the streets of Bedburg courteously saluting the parents and relatives of his victims. He would also identify victims in this way: he would await anyone who caught his eye in the fields and woods that surrounded Bedburg, and attack them in his wolf shape.

Stubbe’s case is also notable in that his criminal lycanthropy included not only murder but rape. He would sometimes keep his human form, rape young women, and then turn himself into a wolf to kill and partially devour them. He boasted that he could outrun any greyhound when in the shape of a wolf, so even the district’s swiftest athletes were at risk from him. Within a few years, Stubbe had killed 13 children and 2 pregnant women, ‘tearing the Children out of their wombs… and after eating their hearts panting hotte and rawe, which he accounted dainty morsells’.

As well as slaughtering and eating livestock – a sure sign that he had become more beast than man – Stubbe was also guilty of incest with both his sister and his daughter (to whom the pamphlet is sympathetic), producing a grandchild/ child by the latter. Stubbe even killed his own (non-incestuous) son, luring him to the fields and assuming wolf-form before eating the brains from his skull: ‘the most monstrous act that euer man heard off, for neuer was knowen a wretch from nature so far degenerate’. Despite many attempts to catch him, Stubbe’s werewolf career lasted 25 years.

Finally, and only because God desired it according to the pamphlet, Stubbe was caught in his wolf form and surrounded by men who unleashed their dogs upon him. Realizing he could not escape, Stubbe resumed his human form, but was witnessed transforming by the awestruck huntsmen who recognized the polite man about town they all knew. Stubbe was put on the torture rack in Bedburg and confessed to the above before being torture. Red-hot pincers tore off 10 pieces of Stubbe’s flesh on the wheel and his limbs were broken before he was beheaded and his remains burned to ashes.

12 ‘Real’ Werewolf Cases Throughout History
A werewolf devouring a woman, France, 19th-century. Wikimedia Commons

Jacques Roulet

Jacques Roulet was convicted of lycanthropy in Angers, Western France, in 1598. One day, an archer of the Provost’s company and some peasants happened upon the nude and hideously mutilated body of a 15-year-old boy. The blood-soaked limbs were seen still to be palpitating, and so it was deduced that this was a fresh kill. As the men approached further, two wolves were startled and seen to bound away into nearby bushes. Since they were armed and numerous, the group decided to give chase through the thick undergrowth. Nevertheless, they were not prepared for what happened next.

A tall and gaunt figure of a man, with long, straggly hair and a great beard, half-dressed in torn rags, strode forth to meet them. His hands were bloody, and beneath his fingernails were lumps of human gore. So revolting a sight was the man that the group could scarcely muster the courage to seize and bind him, but they eventually succeeded in dragging him to the local town, where he was presented before the magistrate. It transpired that the man was Jacques Roulet, a vagabond who traveled begging from town to town with his brother, Jean, and cousin, Julien.

Jacques confessed to Maître Pierre Hérrault, examining him, that he was devoted to the devil at a young age by his parents. They had given him a special unguent that allowed him to transform into a wolf with a prodigious appetite for human flesh. Of the incident recounted above, Jacques revealed that the two wolves seen feeding on the carcass were his relatives, Jean and Julien. He confessed to having killed and devoured children, in the company of his brother and cousin, across the areas in which he was accustomed to travel. He also confessed to attending witch’s sabbats.

Jacques gave precise dates and times for his crimes, which were found to tally exactly with records of missing children and those supposed to have been killed by actual wolves. Unsurprisingly, Jacques received the death penalty for werewolfism, cannibalism, and murder, though his accused parents were found to be of good character and released. However, this tale then took an unexpected turn: Jacques appealed against his conviction to the Parliament of Paris. Protesting that his confession had been given under duress, the Parliament decided that he was insane, and instead sentenced him to 2 years in a mental institution.

Perhaps Jacques was just in the wrong place at the wrong time and, doubtless, as in nigh-on, all werewolf and witchcraft cases were tortured to extract his confession. The inquisitors could simply refer to records of deaths in the area, and force him to admit to the crimes. It is noteworthy, though, that the Parliament decided that he was mad rather than blaming his confession on the terrible torture he suffered, which is typical of attitudes towards torture in 16th-century Europe. It has even been speculated that the mysterious unguent was a hallucinogen, leading to a series of wild delusions.

12 ‘Real’ Werewolf Cases Throughout History
Woodcut of a werewolf by Lucas Cranach the Elder, Germany c.1512. Wikimedia Commons

Gilles Garnier

Gilles Garnier, ‘the Hermit of Dole’, was convicted of lycanthropy and executed at Dole, Eastern France, in 1573. Our source for his life and crimes is another contemporary pamphlet, printed at Sens in 1574. Taking the form of a wolf, in 1572 Garnier first attacked a 10-year-old girl in a vineyard near Dole, and dragged her into the adjoining Bois de la Serre. There he stripped her naked and ate the flesh from her thighs and arms. He then removed some more of her flesh and carried it to his wife, Apolline, to eat at their shared hermitage.

Soon after, he attacked another young girl in more or less the same place. This time he killed her and wounded her in 5 places, but was chased off by three men before he could start his meal. A week later, he again attacked this time a boy in another vineyard, whom he partially consumed before tearing off a leg for later. His next crime proved his eventual undoing: having killed another young boy and dragged him to the woods, Garnier was surprised at his intended meal, and after retreating a distance resumed his human form, leading to his identification.

Disgusted by the remains of half-eaten children in the district, the Parliament of Franche-Comté issued a decree in 1573 which demanded that werewolves be hunted down by locals and brought to trial. However, it was not these huntsmen who caught Garnier but a group of workers who incidentally came across the hermit crouched over a dead child one night after returning from work. They initially thought the figure in the shadows was a werewolf, but as the light from their torches illuminated it, they identified Garnier. Acting quickly, the men caught Garnier and took him to the magistrates at Dole.

Garnier was, of course, tortured to extract a confession. He explained that he had spent much of his life as a hermit in the St Bonnot woods. He married in 1572, and fathered children, but struggled with the new task of feeding more than one mouth. Desperately foraging one night in the woods, a specter appeared to him and offered him an unguent that could turn him into a wolf, allowing him to hunt more effectively. He confessed to murdering 4 children, supported by the testimony of over 50 witnesses, and was burned alive at the stake.

12 ‘Real’ Werewolf Cases Throughout History
Dog-headed men, detail from Livre des merveilles du monde, Paris, 13th century. Wikimedia Commons

The Werewolves of Poligny

This is another case from Franche-Comté, a real hub of werewolf activity in the 16th century. The Werewolves of Poligny were Michel Verdun and Pierre Burgot, alias ‘Gros [fat] Pierre’, two men executed for lycanthropy in 1521. Their trial by the Inquisition drew throngs of people and we have, as ever, a full and lurid confession of their crimes. Burgot said that one night in 1502 he was struggling to herd his flock of sheep during a thunderstorm when three riders dressed in black approached. Burgot told them that he was fearful that his sheep would be taken by predators.

One of the riders said that if Burgot would acknowledge him as his lord and master, none of the sheep would be lost. This he did, renouncing God and kissing the rider’s corpse-cold hand. Years later, he was weary of his pact, but was summoned to a sabbat in the woods by Michel Verdun, who bade Burgot strip naked and be anointed with an unguent that turned him into a lightning-fast wolf. Verdun had the same ability to shape-shift, and the two werewolves together waged a campaign of bloody violence against unwary travelers and children in the district.

Between them, they first seized a boy of 7, tearing him to pieces before the alarm was raised. They also ate a little girl whole, save only an arm, and killed agricultural workers indiscriminately. Burgot also confessed to tearing out a 9-year-old boy’s throat with his teeth. Their chief motivation in procuring only free-range meat was the taste of warm blood, which they would lap up like a kitten with a saucer of milk. Shockingly, they also confessed to bestiality: Burgot and Verdun would seek out she-wolves and stated that they preferred fornicating with the beasts than human women.

They were finally apprehended when Verdun was caught in the act of being a werewolf. A traveler passing through Poligny was attacked by a wolf, which retreated to a thicket after he bravely fought off. The traveler followed the blood trail, hoping to prevent the angry wolf surprising him again further along his route. Instead of a wolf, the man found Verdun, whose wife was bathing a wound in precisely the same place as the wolf had been injured. Verdun instantly implicated Burgot when questioned, and also named Philibert Montot (who never confessed to lycanthropy). All three were burned.

12 ‘Real’ Werewolf Cases Throughout History
The story of the Wolf of Ansbach, Germany, 1685. Wikimedia Commons

The Wolf of Ansbach

From tales of men who claimed to be able to turn into wolves, we come to what seems, with hindsight, to have been a real wolf. The Wolf of Ansbach operated in the area around the modern Bavarian city of the same name in 1685, before being executed in a manner befitting a convicted human criminal. Operating alone (which is very rare for a wolf), this lupine menace began by taking an unusual amount of the livestock being grazed in the countryside. Soon it began to turn its attention to those tending the animals, mostly women and children in Ansbach.

The number of peasants the wolf killed is unknown, but its depredations were such that, during a period when people lived cheek-by-jowl with wolves and occasionally lost their lives to the creatures, fear spread through the region. Just recently, the cruel and merciless Bürgermeister (chief magistrate) of Ansbach had died, and his death was unlamented. It was soon rumored that the evil magistrate had returned from the grave as a werewolf, and was seeking revenge on those who cared so little for his death. Soon there was a concerted effort to slay the creature and banish the late, lycanthropic Bürgermeister.

The great mob found the troublesome (were)wolf, and tirelessly pursued it with hounds across the country. Wolves have impressive stamina, but eventually, the Wolf of Ansbach needed a rest, and so it leaped down a nearby well. The dogs stood baying above the well, leading their masters to the trapped beast, which of course had no means of escaping. It was slain with a variety of weapons, including cudgels and pitchforks (every angry peasant mob needs the latter). Surprisingly, though, the wolf did not resume its human form upon being beaten, which ran contrary to accepted werewolf-lore, and remained lupine.

Either from embarrassment or unwavering faith in the true nature of the animal, the wolf was then treated as if it were human. Triumphantly parading the corpse through Ansbach, the mob first cut off the beast’s muzzle, and dressed it in human clothing. A wig was placed on its head, and a beard upon its chin, and so it came to resemble the deceased Bürgermeister. Finally, the (fortunately dead) wolf was hung from a gibbet for all to see, a common practice for human criminals whose bodies served as a warning to would-be wrongdoers (or werewolves in this case).

12 ‘Real’ Werewolf Cases Throughout History
King Lycaon, engraved by Hendrik Goltzius, Netherlands, 1589. Wikimedia Commons

Hans the Werewolf

Hans the Werewolf was active in Estonia until his execution in 1651. He has the unhappy distinction of being the youngest person executed for lycanthropy on this list, being only 18 at the time. Estonia and much of the Baltic were especially rich hunting grounds for witchfinders, as the peasantry were still practicing paganism (and associated folk-magic) into the Early Modern period, and thus often accused one another of casting spells. The God-fearing authorities interpreted such acts and accusations as Satanic witchcraft, and many were put to death. The peasantry also believed wholeheartedly in werewolves, to the detriment of many.

Brought before the judges, Hans made his confession without the need for torture. He admitted to having hunted as a werewolf for 2 years but had not taken on the form willingly. Instead, he claimed to have been bitten by a man wearing black garments, whom he later discovered to be a werewolf. The judges took the opportunity to ask so unusually pliable a werewolf for further detail about his condition. Hans explained that when in wolf-form he felt more like a wild beast than a man, and that he believed the transformation to be physical, not just spiritual.

Although there was no evidence of Hans committing any murders, he was still sentenced to death. The detail of the werewolf dressed in black that bit him was taken to be evidence of pact witchcraft – punishable by death – with the mysterious figure being Satan himself. At his trial, Hans showed the court a scar from what appeared to be canine jaws, which he said was given to him by the werewolf. With hindsight, it is easy to see a teenager confessing to anything in order to escape torture, and showing the physical scars from a normal dog bite as proof.

12 ‘Real’ Werewolf Cases Throughout History
Maurice Sand, ‘Le Loup-Garou’,France, 1857. Wikimedia Commons

Jean Grenier

In early spring 1603, the St. Severs district of Gascony, South-West France, was gripped by terror. Little girls and boys had disappeared without a trace from the fields and roads, and on one occasion a baby had been taken silently from its cradle whilst the mother was in another part of her small cottage. The local magistrate began an investigation, and several witnesses came forward. One, a 13-year-old girl, stated that she had been attacked by a savage wolf under a full moon, whilst another had been watching cattle when she was assailed by a gigantic wolf in broad daylight.

Shockingly, a 14-year-old boy, Jean Grenier, had been heard to boast that he was behind the attacks. Tending cattle one day with Jeanne Gaboriaut, his fellow servant, he told the 18-year-old that he would one day marry her. When she remarked how filthy he was, Grenier replied that this was because of the wolf-skin he wore to turn himself into a werewolf. He further elaborated that he was part of a pack of 9 werewolves that hunted 3 times a week in the area. He stated that his favorite prey was young children, owing to the tenderness of their flesh.

Terrified, Gaboriaut immediately informed the local magistrate, who arrested Grenier. The teenager made a full confession without the need for torture. He had run away from an abusive father, and was compelled to make a living by begging and cowherding. Another boy, Pierre de la Tilhaire, had taken him one night to meet ‘The Lord of the Forest’, who gave Grenier an icy kiss and a mark on his thigh. The Lord also gave the boy a wolfskin and unguent, which transformed him into a wolf, and cautioned him never to cut his left thumbnail, which now resembled a claw.

His first murder was of a 3-year-old girl, named Guyonne, whom he ate whole. He confessed to various murders, and in each case was able to give exact details about the time and place at which the victim was taken. He also reported being chased away from a young boy by an elder brother, who came forward to corroborate Grenier’s statement. In spite of all this, the court showed clemency to Grenier on account of his age and poor education, and he was sent to stay with Franciscans at the friary of St Michael the Archangel, Bordeaux, in 1603.

In 1610, one Pierre de Lancre visited him, and later reported what he found. Grenier had fierce, sunken black eyes, long teeth that looked like fangs, and his hands were like talons, with long and crooked nails. He would often rush around on all fours, and seemed better able to move in this way than on two legs. He loved to hear talk of wolves, and the friars reported that in his early days at the friary he would only eat raw meat and offal. Grenier, clearly suffering from a psychological disorder or disease, died shortly afterward in 1611.

12 ‘Real’ Werewolf Cases Throughout History
Charcoal drawing from Manuel Blanco Romasanta’s medical report, Spain, c.1852. Wikimedia Commons

Manuel Blanco Romasanta

So far, we have been examining werewolf cases from the Early Modern period. However, werewolves have been (allegedly) active in more recent times. Manuel Blanco Romasanta (1809-63) is Spain’s first documented serial killer, known as the Werewolf of Allariz, who gave the defense of lycanthropy at his trial. He was originally named Manuela, for it was thought that he was a girl. As an adult, Romasanta worked as a tailor, and is said by some to have been less than 5 feet in height. He married, but his wife died in 1833, and Romasanta became a traveling salesman.

His work took him across Galicia and through Portugal, and often he would drum up trade by acting as a guide for travelers crossing the mountains. His first murder seems to have taken place in 1844 when he killed a constable attempting to collect a debt Romasanta owed to a supplier. He fled and was convicted in absentia and sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment. Romasanta obtained a false passport and lived in a small village in Galicia, where he worked as a cook and weaver, becoming very friendly with the women of the village, and was considered effeminate by local men.

Whilst living in the region, Romasanta continued to act as a guide for those wishing to cross the mountains, and it was at this time that his serial-killing (or lycanthropic) career began. He would kill women and children who hired him deep in the mountains, and forge letters from the victims to their families so that their deaths went unnoticed for as long as possible. Suspicions grew when he began selling the victims’ clothes and soap rumored to be made of human fat. Finally, the suspicions brought a formal allegation in 1852, and Romasanta was arrested in Nombela, Toledo.

At his trial, Romasanta admitted to 13 murders, but gave the defense of lycanthropy. He said that he first turned into a wolf after coming across a pair of the creatures in the mountains. Examined by doctors according to the principles of phrenology (the long-discredited identification of character traits through skull measurements), he was declared a liar. Romasanta was convicted of 9 murders, and sentenced to death, but died in prison, either shot by a guard or succumbing to cancer. It has been theorized that the famine in Galicia at the time rendered him insane through lack of nourishment.

12 ‘Real’ Werewolf Cases Throughout History
Werewolves eating a sheep, from the cover of Wie man die falschen Propheten erkennen, Wittenburg,1809. Google Books

Thiess of Livonia

Thiess of Livonia was an octogenarian man put on trial for heresy in 1692, in Jürgensburg, Swedish Livonia (modern day Latvia). Thiess was originally presented to a court as a potential witness to a church robbery, but he shocked the judges by confessing to being a former werewolf who had retired from the activity 10 years previous to the date. His story is fascinating and unique, for not only is Thiess by far the oldest werewolf on our list, but he also unusually claimed to have been a benevolent werewolf who acted in the best interests of the Christian community.

Thiess explained that he had been turned into a werewolf when, many years before, he was a beggar, and a ‘rascal’ drank him a toast, conferring the power upon him. He could do the same for others by toasting them. He and the other Livonian werewolves underwent transformation on 3 nights a year. They would wander the local farms, killing farm animals and roasting them over an open fire, seasoned with salt. Fortified by the meal, they would next travel ‘across the sea’ to hell, where they would chase the devil and his witches and beat them with iron rods.

During their visit to hell, the werewolves would then take back all the grain and livestock stolen by the witches over the year. If they failed to do so, that year’s harvest would be poor. Werewolves, according to Thiess, were the servants of God, and had an important role to play in His plans for mankind. Unfortunately, Thiess also confessed that he practiced benevolent folk magic and didn’t attend church as he was too old to understand Lutheran doctrine. Not knowing what else to do with him, the judges had Thiess flogged and permanently banished for misleading Christians.

12 ‘Real’ Werewolf Cases Throughout History
‘The Werewolves’, illustration from Sabine Baring-Gould, The Book o _Werewolves, London, 1865. Wikimedia Commons

The Galician Werewolf

Another comparatively modern case, this one dates from 1849, and was discussed at length by the clergyman and antiquarian Sabine Baring-Gould (1834-1924), best-remembered for writing the hymn ‘Onward, Christian Soldiers’. The incident took place in the hamlet of Połomia, modern-day Poland, a settlement romantically surrounded by thick pine forests, where most of its inhabitants worked at the time of the story. The villagers in 1849 were extremely poor, but apparently generous, for a beggar made a living there outside the church for several years. Venerable, and with a long white beard, he could be sure of alms from Połomia’s inhabitants.

The beggar, named Swiatek, was one day being fed by a family in one of the hovels. He seemed fond of a young girl, whom he ascertained was an orphan, and gave her a ring, instructing her to go to a pine in the churchyard and recite an incantation, after which she would find more jewels. She called her siblings to join her on the treasure hunt, but Swiatek told her she must go alone. He departed soon after from his meal, and the orphan girl was never seen again. Soon other children, playing amongst the pines, disappeared too.

The disappearances were blamed on wolves, and the villagers began to kill any they encountered. At the same time, the local innkeeper lost a couple of ducks, and immediately suspected the resident beggar of the theft, for Swiatek maintained a wife and children simply by mendicity. As the innkeeper approached Swiatek’s home, he could smell roasted meat, and his suspicions were confirmed. Entering the hovel, the innkeeper noticed Swiatek conceal something beneath his clothes, and immediately seized him around the throat. However, what fell from Swiatek’s clothes was not a duck, but the head of a 14-year-old girl.

When his home was searched, it was found to contain the skilfully-butchered remains of the girl: her organs had been removed and cleaned, a bowl of fresh blood was under the oven, and her limbs were roasting over a fire. Swiatek confessed to having killed and eaten 6 people, though the number was suspected to be far higher. His taste for human flesh came after a catastrophic fire killed several people at a tavern, and he had partaken of the roasted meat. The locals suspected him of lycanthropy, but Swiatek hung himself in prison before the charge could be brought.

12 ‘Real’ Werewolf Cases Throughout History
Gustave Doré , ‘Red Riding Hood Meets Old Father Wolf’, France, 1864. Wikimedia Commons

The Werewolf of Châlons

To finish, we return to Early Modern France, seemingly the spiritual home of lycanthropy, and the horrific tale of a tailor burnt at the stake in 1598. His name is long-lost, but he is known as the Werewolf of Châlons or the Demon Tailor. Operating from the city of Châlons in the Champagne region, the surviving details of his crimes are truly staggering, and simultaneously break several cultural taboos. Unfortunately, the Parliament of Paris, which tried and convicted him, deemed the court transcripts so unpleasant that they were burned, and so we know of the case only through retellings.

By day, the werewolf ran a tailor’s shop on the outskirts of Châlons. In classic fairy-tale style, the tailor would often hear children playing outside his shop, and proceed to lure them inside with promises of treats or marvelous things. Once inside, the tailor would sexually abuse them, slit their throats, and cut the bodies up with the skill of a butcher. He stored them in the barrels in the shop’s cellar, which no one had reason to enter. In some versions of the story, the tailor would also commit necrophilia before butchering the children’s bodies for consumption.

His crimes did not stop there, for he also roamed the nearby forests, looking for lost travelers. In the forest, he turned himself into a wolf, stalking the unfortunate victims through the thick undergrowth and tearing their throats out. It seems that he would eat them in the forest, rather than risk being seen carrying them back to Châlons. His urban activities seem to have aroused suspicion, for eventually his cellar was searched, and the barrels were found to contain bleached bones and butchered human flesh. It is said that he burned to death blaspheming and unrepentant to his last breath.

 

Where did we find this stuff? Here are our sources:

The Conversation – The Ancient Origins Of Werewolves

Live Science – Werewolves: Lore, Legend & Lycanthropy

Ancient Origins – Germany’s Brutal Werewolf Belt and The Gut-Wrenching Execution of Peter Stumpp

Mental Floss – 8 Historic Accounts of Werewolves

The Richest – 20 Bizarre Tales Of Real-Life Werewolves

All That’s Interesting – The Grisly Werewolf Panic That Swept Europe A Century Before The Salem Witch Trials

History of Yesterday – Before Salem: The Real-Life Werewolf Trials That Plagued European Nations

Vocal Media – The Wolf Trials

Ultimate History Project – Werewolves: Fable Or Affliction?

Listverse – 10 Real Life Werewolves

Retrieverman – The Wolf of Ansbach

Grunge – The Truth Behind Europe’s Brutal Werewolf Trials

Faolad – Hounds of God: The Werewolf Ritual According to Thiess

Baring-Gould, Sabine. The Book of Were-Wolves, Being an Account of a Terrible Superstition. London: Smith, Elder, 1865.

Beresford, Matthew. The White Devil: The Werewolf in European Culture. London: Reaktion, 2013.

Flight, Tim. ‘The Wolf Must Be in the Woods: The Real and Mythical Dangers of the Wilderness’, History Today, June 2017

Otten, Charlotte F., ed. A Lycanthropy Reader: Werewolves in Western Culture. New York: Syracuse University Press, 1986.

Pollard, James. Wolves and Werewolves. London: Robert Hale, 1964.

Summers, Montague. The Werewolf. London: K. Paul, Trench, Trubner, 1933.

Advertisement