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 âOnward, Christian Soldiers’. The incident took place in the hamlet of PoÅomia, 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 PoÅomia’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.