The “Werewolf” Serial Killer Who Terrorized Spain

The “Werewolf” Serial Killer Who Terrorized Spain

Stephanie Schoppert - September 2, 2017

The life of Manuel Blanco Romasanta was in many ways doomed from the start. He was born on November 8, 1809 and from the moment he emerged from his mother his life was anything but normal. The birth was hard and it took great effort on the part of doctors and Manuel’s mother to have a successful outcome. But the outcome was not nearly as successful as Manuel’s mother and the doctors might have hoped.

Manuel suffered birth defects and by some accounts, it was hard to tell if he was even human. The doctors decided that the “unknown critter” appeared to be female. So Manuel was at first named Manuela. For the first six years of his life, Manuel was dressed and educated in a manner that befitted a young girl. In every aspect of life, Manuela was treated like a little girl. However, at the age of six doctors finally realized that Manuela was really a boy.

Overnight Manuela became Manuel and life changed drastically for the little girl who was now a little boy. His education and treatment changed, his clothes changed and for a young child who was already treated differently for birth defects, this added to an already difficult life. It was never even considered to ask Manuel which he considered himself to be or what exactly led doctors to misunderstand his sex. Though there are some who believe this early confusion contributed to the psychosis that would later afflict Manuel.

Manuel was born into a relatively wealthy and privileged family if one that largely ignored him. He was given a fine education (his education and the attention of his family greatly improved once his gender went from female to male). He was able to read and write at a young age at a time when very few adults were able to do so. His life was far from easy as he was often teased for his appearance and it did not improve in his teens. He was just a few years into his teens when he stopped growing altogether. His height at the time was estimated between 4’6″ and 4’11”.

The “Werewolf” Serial Killer Who Terrorized Spain
Artist drawing of Manuel Romansanto.

As a grown man, Manuel worked as a tailor. However, he was more known for his stature than for his skills as a tailor. He married and tried to live a normal life. This was short-lived as his wife died unexpectedly in 1833. With the death of his wife, Manuel decided to go on the road and pursue a different lifestyle. He became a traveling salesman and went on the road throughout Spain and Portugal. There were also times that he worked as a guide taking people through the mountains of Castile, Asturias, and Cantabria. But this was where Manuel’s attempt of a life of normalcy ended and it took a very strange turn.


The “Werewolf” Serial Killer Who Terrorized Spain
Drawing from Manuel Romasanta’s medical report. Wikimedia

In 1844, things turn a very bad turn for Manuel. He was charged with the murder of Vicente Fernández who was the constable of León. The good constable was just trying to collect a debt of 600 reales from Manuel before he was found dead. Manuel was never arrested because he fled using a fake passport with the name of Antonio Gómez. Even though Manuel was not arrested, the trial was still held and he was found guilty. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison.

Manuel lived for years on the run knowing that a decade in prison awaited him if he was ever captured. He traveled around and even spent some time near his hometown. He made a living by befriending the local women and taking jobs that were not common for men. He made yarn, cleaned, did women’s crafts and cooked, which gave him a reputation with the local men as being very effeminate. He was said to be “too gentle” and was called “Belorukov.” This may have been the reason why he returned to his work at a guide and was hired mainly by women and children.

It was while working as a guide that things once again took a bad turn for Manuel. Those in his charge started dying. There were numerous disappearances of people who lived in the town of Rebordekao, where Manuel had settled and in neighboring villages. For a while, no one noticed because Manuel would write letters home from those he was leading so that their family and friends would not suspect anything. It might have worked for a very long time if Manuel had not been so foolish. He was first linked to the disappearances when he was caught trying to sell the belonging of those who had paid him to be their guide.

The disappearances were realized but there was nothing that definitively linked Manuel to the disappearances. Some bodies were found but they were so mutilated that even close family members failed to be able to identify the bodies. It was over the course of years that people were disappearing and not all of them were immediately tied to Manuel. Suspicions continued to grow and build until one day someone finally stepped forward with an accusation about what Manuel was really doing.

It started as just a rumor that Manuel was killing those he was supposed to be guiding and then selling off their possessions. Then in 1852, a formal accusation came out against Manuel. A complaint in the city of Escalona accused Manuel of using the body fat of his victims in order to make soap which he would then sell to the public. This very gruesome rumor proved to be true. He was arrested in September of 1852 in Nombela and he was later transferred to Allariz. He was put on trial for the murders of 13 people ranging in age from 10 to 47. It was during his trial that things once again took a very strange turn as Manuel offered a defense that shocked everyone.


The “Werewolf” Serial Killer Who Terrorized Spain
Man being put to death by the Garrote.

Manuel Romasanta was put on trial in the middle of one of the worst famines to plague Galicia in the 19th century. There were mass migrations and increases in insanity. It also put Manuel’s trial into center focus when his defense fed into the insanity that was already building. The trial began with an unprecedented admission of guilt. Manuel admitted to committing all 13 murders but said that it was not his fault. He told the court that he had been cursed and had only killed those people after he had turned into a wolf.

He said that the first time he transformed was in the mountains when he was approached by two wolves. He said seconds later he was a wolf and remained as one for several days until he was able to return to his human form. He said the other two wolves who were with him also turned into humans and went by the names of Antonio and Don. He claimed the other men were cursed as well and that when they got hungry they ate people.

Needless to say that the prosecution did not quite believe the story. The prosecutor Lucian Bastida Hernáez asked Manuel to transform in front of the court in order to prove his claim. Manuel said that he could not because the curse only lasted 13 years and that his curse had expired the week prior. Without proof of a transformation, the court did not believe Manuel’s story. But they did acquit him of four of the murders after they were found to be the result of wolf attacks. The remains of the other nine victims did show signs of being butchered by a human hand and therefore Manuel was found guilty of those murders. The trial concluded on April 6, 1853 and Manuel was sentenced to death by the garrote. He was also ordered to pay 1000 Real for each of his victims.

The court case lasted seven months and the transcripts totaled over two thousand pages. These pages were bound into five volumes which are titled “Licantropia.” The sentence was reduced to life imprisonment by the Territorial Court in A Coruna but the prosecution appealed the reduction and in March 1854, Manuel was once again sentenced to death by garrote. But a “Mr. Phillips” stepped in on Manuel’s behalf. He wrote to the Spanish Minister of Justice claiming that Manuel was suffering from a monomania that was known as lycanthropy. Mr. Phillips claimed that he could treat Manuel with hypnosis.

The Spanish Minister wrote to Queen Isabella II and she personally commuted the death sentence in May of 1854. Manuel was then transferred to a prison in Celanova. Manuel only lived a few months in prison and there are conflicting accounts of where and how he died. Some say that he was shot by a guard who wanted to see him transform. Other accounts relate that he died from stomach cancer or some other illness. Today Manuel’s story has been recreated in popular culture with the movies Romasanta and El bosque del lobo.


Sources For Further Reading:

Murderpedia – Manuel BLANCO ROMASANTA

History Collection – 12 ‘Real’ Werewolf Cases Throughout History

Medium – Spain’s First Recorded Serial Killer

The Line Up – Manuel Blanco Romasanta: The Werewolf of Allariz