Werewolf - Shapeshifter

Werewolf comes from Old English wer meaning man and wolf - half man, half wolf

In the Dark ages, a time of superstition, ignorance and religious fanaticism the majority of Europe's population lived in the fear of werewolves. A werewolf being a human that has the ability to transform itself into a half man half wolf being who roams the countryside killing and eating it's victims (usually human) during a full moon.

In most legends the human became a shapeshifter by either being born under a curse (usually a family curse) or being infected from the bite of another werewolf, but there are rituals that can be performed to turn oneself into a werewolf.

The werewolf is said to crave human blood and has increased self healing powers along with a longer life span. If the werewolf is injured the wound will carry over to the human form and reveal the identity of the werewolf.

Other legends of the werewolf claim the person deliberately transforms himself into a werewolf. A sorcerer will do this to do evil to or kill his enemy.

During medieval times European and Baltic countries had strong werewolf beliefs. Later in the 15th and 16th Centuries werewolves, like witches, were thought to be servants of the Devil. They were thought to of made pacts with the Devil and have sold their souls to him for his help.

There are many reported cases of werewolves throughout history:

Peter Stubbs

One case was of Peter Stubb near Cologne in 1573.

His confession was given after he had been tortured on the rack. He confessed that he had been a werewolf since the age of 12. He claimed the Devil had given him a magic belt that enabled him to change into a robust wolf. He terrorized the countryside feeding on livestock, 13 children and two pregnant women whom which he tore the fetuses from their wombs and ate. His escapades went on for 25 years until hunters tracked him down as a wolf, and he was recognized after slipping off the belt. His daughter and one mistress were judged as accessories to his horrible killings and were clubbed, beheaded and burnt to death.

The Execution of Peter Stubbs

Gilles Garnier

A recluse by the name of Gilles Garnier freely confessed to killing two of the numerous children's corpses that were found in the area of Dôle in the summer of 1573.

The partially devoured corpses of children started appearing around that area and a number of local peasants claimed to have spotted a strange wolf-like beast with Garnier's face. In November of that year a public proclamation was read in the town square. It was giving permission for the people of the town to track down and kill the werewolf. A group of villagers, following the sound of a young girl's terrified screams and hearing the howl of a wolf, discovered her in the forest, still alive but badly wounded, in the clutches of a huge wolf fitting this description. Although the wolf escaped, Garnier and his wife were arrested a few days later when a ten year old boy disappeared in the vicinity of Garnier's home.

Garnier, at the trial, confessed to some of the murders, and to being a werewolf. He even pointed out the fact that he had taken home a portion from the body of one of his victims and he and his wife had eaten it. They were both later burned at the stake in January 1574.

Jean Grenier

Jean Grenier was a mentally retarded teenage shepherd from Bordeaux region. Children were disappearing without a trace in the area, infants were even taken out of their cribs. Soon the rumors started of a terrifying creature with reddish fur. It was soon decided that the beast must be a werewolf. Grenier was heard bragging about being in the guise of a wolf, killing and devouring more than 50 children.

Jeanne Gaboriaut, who had worked with Jean, testified that he had told her that with the aid of a magic pelt and salve he was able to turn into a wolf.

Jean was soon arrested and convicted of being a werewolf in 1604. He was then given into the care of a local Franciscan monastery where he lived until the age of 20 when he died.

The Beast of Gevaudan

Werewolf Between June 1764 and June 1767, in the district of Lozère, in south-eastern France, horrific murders were taking place, mostly of women and children in a place called Gévaudan. Those that spotted the killer reported sometimes of a huge wolf-like beast or a creature with short red hair and a pig like snout. The murderer had the gruesome habit of tearing out the throat of it's victims before eating the bodies or simply ripping them apart.

The public were panicking and King Louis XV sent a famous hunter called Denneval, accompanied by six highly trained bloodhounds to kill the beast (sounds a bit like a Disney film doesn't it?). Denneval failed to capture and kill the murdering beast.

The bloody reign of terror seemed to have come to an end when the King's personal gun carrier, Antoine de Beauterne, tracked down the supposed beast to a nearby quarry at the bottom of the Bèal Ravine located near the village of Pommier. The great beast which was actually a large black wolf was shot dead and it's huge body, more than 1.5 meters (5 feet) long and weighing 65kg (143 lbs) was taken back and presented to the King. Just when they thought they had success the killings began again.

In June 1767 a man by the name of John Castel found another huge wolf. He was in the possession of silver bullets which he used to shoot the great beast twice. The wolf was then dragged back into town for display and buried there. John's gun is apparently still on display in a small local church . Many people still believe, however, that there was more to the story of the Gèvaudan Beast than a huge rabid wolf. It has been suggested that many of the killings may in fact have been the work of one or more human serial killers, using the reports of huge beasts and wolves to conceal themselves.

And of course the one theory that rings true for everyone is that the Beast of Gèvaudan was really a werewolf.

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