The Strange Truth Behind Werewolves and the Horrific Murders They Commit
Werewolves are real
Werewolves have been a creature of legend for hundreds of years. However, few know that werewolves were considered real creatures roaming the countryside in ancient times. Many murders in ancient Europe contributed to this mythical beast. A man who can turn himself into a wolf on command. Few accounts include the full moon as a trigger for this behaviour; most reports state that a pact with the devil resulted in the transformation.
These five stories are crimes listed in the archives—real murders with victims and perpetrators who were investigated and prosecuted. These five werewolves would be classified as serial killers in today's society. Before this, a name needed to be assigned to the killing. Searches and prosecution of werewolves were as vicious as those of witches; unfortunately, fewer cases and details remain in the archives.
Pierre Bourgot and Michel Verdung - The Werewolves of Poligny
In 1521, France found itself in the grip of a werewolf pair. The pair primarily murdered children; however, they started their murder spree with that of a woman who was killed whilst picking peas in her garden. The pair then moved on to a four-year-old girl, who they ate. Their next victim was another girl who they tore at her neck and drank her blood, a crime at the time more associated with vampires. The last victim was an eight-year-old who they savaged and broke her neck.
When captured, they informed authorities that they had made a pact with the devil and could transform at will into a werewolf to kill. At the time, any mention of the devil meant a guilty charge was soon to follow. The pair were executed in 1521.
Garnier was responsible for multiple murders across France in 1574. He abducted a ten-year-old near the woods where he lived. He killed and butchered her with his bare hands, moving on to another boy he allegedly ate. Details of his crimes are limited. However, he was arrested and burned alive as a penalty for his crime. Many commented that the method of murder was similar to that of a savage dog, meaning he joined the list of werewolves that killed.
Peter Stubbe - The Werewolf of Bedbury, Germany
In 1589, eighteen bodies were found. They had all been raped, mutilated, killed and cannibalised. These victims were all from a small area near where Stubbe lived. Stubbe was responsible for killing thirteen children and two pregnant women during his two years of terror. Stubbe was considered a prominent, respected community member and would walk around receiving nods and kind words from his neighbours. That was until they found out his true nature.
The locals hunted the perpetrator of these crimes. Finally, Stubbe was charged on 18th October 1589 and condemned to the most violent death, having his body ripped apart. He stated on arrest that he had made a pact with the devil to acquire the powers of a werewolf. In 1590, the case became known worldwide due to a crime pamphlet distributed around Europe. This leaflet is the first known example of a crime document.
The Werewolf or Demon Tailor of Chalon
In 1598 the legend started of an urban werewolf. This killer was a tailor who lured children to his shop. Once there, he raped and slit their throats. He would then dress their corpses and eat them. A barrel containing various body parts was found when authorities raided the shop. This was the first killer to use an acid bath to remove the evidence, but it would not be the last. However, it is unclear whether he claimed to be a werewolf; he, however, was labelled one. Many of the criminal records were destroyed as the facts were too horrific, but what does exist is frightening enough.
The case which is best known is that of Grenier in 1603. Grenier was a thirteen-year-old boy accused of serial killing and being a werewolf.
At an early age, he was turned out of his family home. It is unclear whether he ran away initially or whether his father turned him out when he became nocturnal—either way, the young Grenier found himself alone, homeless and begging on the streets of France.
His first reported crime came when he approached a young girl in a field. The girl managed to fight the young man off and reported the incident to her father, who informed the authorities. The officials became instantly interested in the case as they had found other bodies. Once they started investigating, other young girls would come forward and report similar interactions with a small scruffy boy who looked like a wolf. Finally, one girl provided a detailed description of how the perpetrator physically turned into a werewolf in front of her.
The homeless boy was soon identified and brought in for questioning. He admitted to the girl's account of him transforming; he identified himself as a werewolf. He also admitted killing an infant he stole out of a crib in a house. These claims were meticulously investigated, and they were found to be true. Accordingly, the young Grenier was charged.
During the trial, the issue of Grenier's sanity was explored fully. Although a definition of insanity had been established through the McNaughten rule, France was under Roman law. This stated that to prove someone insane, physicians would need to be called as key witnesses after examining the defendant.
The boy claimed that he had met the ‘Master of the Forest’ whilst homeless; he had given him a wolf skin and an ointment so he could transform at will. Once again, this was seen as an admission of a pact with the devil. He was found guilty and sentenced to be hung in the town square.
The decision was appealed; physicians argued that men who changed into werewolves retained their human traits and were guilty of their crimes. The sentence was commuted on 16th September 1603 to life in prison. At the time, this was life at a monastery. It was believed that the court mainly made this decision because of his mental state and youth.
When a journalist visited him some years later, he stated that he still thought of killing. He was also described as having long white fangs and thick black nails on both his hands and feet, giving him the appearance associated with werewolves.
Werewolf or Killer
I do not say these cases support the existence of werewolves; instead, they show that society at the time was unable to see that humans could be responsible for these cases. Instead, they would state that the person was possessed by the devil or supernatural beast rather than admit humans when committing the crimes.
These cases would have been classified as vicious, sadistic serial killers in today's society. Nevertheless, the legend of werewolves lives on in many popular books and television series. In some cases, they have been cast in the role of hero, yet the first known identification of a werewolf was that of a serial killer preying on innocent children.