Human Animals Part 7

"Gilles Garnier, lycophile, as I may call him, lived the life of a hermit, but has since taken a wife, and having no means of support for his family fell into the way, as is natural to defiant and desperate people of rude habits, of wandering into the woods and wild places. In this state he was met by a phantom in the shape of a man, who told him that he could perform miracles, among other things declaring that he would teach him how to change at will into a wolf, lion, or leopard, and because the wolf is more familiar in this country than the other kinds of wild beasts he chose to disguise himself in that shape, which he did, using a salve with which he rubbed himself for this purpose, as he has since confessed before dying, after recognising the evil of his ways."[36]

The affair made such a stir in the neighbourhood, and the dread of wer-wolves had risen to such a pitch, that it was found necessary to ask the help of the populace in suppressing the nuisance. A legal decree was issued which empowered the people at Dole to "assemble with javelins, pikes, arquebuses, and clubs to hunt and pursue the wer-wolf, and to take, bind, and kill it without incurring the usual fine or penalty for indulging in the chase without permission."

Boguet is the authority who cites the following cases of lycanthropy:[37]

A boy called Benedict, aged about fifteen, one day climbed a tree to gather some fruit, when he saw a wolf attacking his little sister, who was playing at the foot of the tree.

The boy climbed down quickly, and the animal, which was tailless, let go of the little girl and turned upon her brother, who defended himself with a knife. According to the boy's account, the wolf tore the knife out of his hand and struck at his throat. A neighbour ran to the rescue and carried the boy home, where he died a few days after from the wound. Whilst he lay dying he declared that the wolf which had injured him had fore-paws shaped like human hands, but that its hind feet were covered with fur.

After inquiry it was proved that a young and demented girl called Perrenette Gandillon believed herself to be a wolf and had done this horrible deed. She was caught by the populace and torn limb from limb.

This case occurred in the Jura mountains in 1598.

Soon afterwards Perrenette's brother Pierre was accused of being a wer-wolf, and confessed that he had been to the witches' Sabbath in this form. His son George had also been anointed with salve and had killed goats whilst he was in animal shape. Antoinette, his sister, was accused of sorcery and of intercourse with the devil, who appeared to her in the form of a black goat. Several members of the Gandillon family were arrested, and in prison Pierre and George conducted themselves as though they were possessed, walking on all fours and howling like wild beasts.

Not long after the Gandillon family had been disposed of, one Jeanne Perrin gave evidence that she was walking near a wood with her friend Clauda Gaillard, who disappeared suddenly behind a bush, and that the next moment there came forth a tailless wolf which frightened her so much that she made the sign of the cross and ran away. She was sure that the hind legs of the wolf were like human limbs. When Clauda saw her again she assured Jeanne that the wolf had not meant to do her harm, and from this it was thought that Clauda had taken the shape of the wolf.

One of the best known of the wer-wolf trials concerns Jacques Rollet, the man-wolf of Caude, who was accused of having devoured a little boy.

He was tried and condemned in Angers in 1598. Rollet came from the parish of Maumusson, near to Nantes, and he carried on his practices in a desolate spot near Caude, where some villagers one day found the corpse of a boy of about fifteen, mangled and blood-bespattered. As they approached the body three wolves bounded into the forest and were lost to sight, but the men gave chase, and following in the animals'

tracks, came suddenly upon a half-naked human being, with long hair and beard, his hands covered with blood and his teeth chattering with fear. On his claw-like nails they found shreds of human flesh.

This miserable specimen of man-animal was hauled up before the judge, and under examination he inquired of one of the witnesses whether he remembered shooting at three wolves. The witness said he remembered the incident perfectly. Rollet confessed that he was one of the wolves and that he was able to transform himself by means of a salve. The other wolves were his companions, Jean and Julian, who knew the same means of acquiring animal shape. All the particulars he gave as to the murder were accurate, and he confessed to having killed and eaten women, lawyers, attorneys, and bailiffs, though the last-named he found tough and tasteless. In other respects his evidence was confused, and he was judged to be of weak intellect, and though condemned to death was sent finally to a madhouse, where he was sentenced to two years' detention.

There was an epidemic of lycanthropy throughout this year, and on the 4th of December a tailor of Chalons was burnt in Paris for having decoyed children into his shop, a cask full of human bones being discovered in the cellar. For the space of a few years no notorious wer-wolf trials appear to have taken place, but the year 1603 was almost as prolific in this respect as 1598.

Information came before the criminal court at Roche Chalais that a wild beast was ravaging the district, that it appeared to be a wolf, and that it had attacked a young girl called Margaret Poiret in full daylight.[38]

A youth of thirteen or fourteen in the service of Peter Combaut deposed to the fact that he had thrown himself upon the said Margaret, whilst transformed into a wolf, and that he would have devoured her had she not defended herself stoutly with a stick. He also confessed to having eaten two or three little girls.

Evidence was given on May 29th, 1603, by three witnesses, one of whom was Margaret herself. She said she had been accustomed to mind cattle in the company of the boy, Jean Grenier, and that he had often frightened her by telling her horrible tales about being able to change into a wolf whenever he wished, and that he had killed many dogs and sucked their blood, but that he preferred to devour young children. He said he had recently killed a child, and after eating part of her flesh had thrown the rest to a companion wolf.

Margaret described the beast which had attacked her as stouter and shorter than a real wolf, with a smaller head, a short tail, and reddish hide. After she struck at it, the animal drew back and sat down on its haunches like a dog, at a distance of about twelve paces.

Its look was so ferocious that she ran away at once.

The third witness was Jeanne Gaboriaut, who was eighteen years old.

She gave evidence that one day, when she was tending cattle in company with other girls, Jean Grenier came up and asked which was the most beautiful shepherdess amongst them. Jeanne asked him why he wanted to know. He said because he wished to marry the prettiest, and if it was Jeanne he would choose her.

Jeanne said, "Who is your father?" and he told her that he was the son of a priest.

Then she replied that he was too dark in appearance for her taste, and when he answered he had been like that for a long time, she asked him whether he had turned black from cold or whether he had been burnt black.

He said the cause was a wolf's skin he was wearing, which had been given to him by one Pierre Labourant, and when he wore it he could turn into a wolf at will or any other animal he preferred, and he went on with details similar to those he had disclosed to Margaret Poiret.

It was proved, however, that Grenier was not the son of a priest, but of a labourer, Pierre Grenier, and that he lived in the parish of St.

Antoine de Pizan.

When questioned as to his crimes, he confessed to the assault upon Margaret Poiret as described by her, and also that he had entered a house in the guise of a wolf, and finding no one there but a babe in its cradle he seized it by the throat and carried it behind a hedge in the garden, where he ate as much of the body as he could and threw the remainder to another wolf.

At St. Antoine de Pizan he attacked a girl in a black dress who was tending sheep, and he killed and devoured her, a strange point being that her dress was not torn, as happens in the case when real wolves make the assault.

When questioned as to how he managed to turn into a wolf, he said that a neighbour, called Pierre la Tilhaire, had introduced him in the forest to the Lord thereof, who had given wolf-skins to both, as well as a salve for anointing themselves. When asked where he kept the skins and the pot of ointment he replied that they were in the hands of the Lord of the Forest, from whom he could obtain them whenever he wished.

He declared that he had changed into a wolf and gone coursing four times with his companion Pierre la Tilhaire, but they had killed no one. The best time for the hunt was an hour or two a day when the moon was on the wane, but he also went out at night on some occasions.

When asked whether his father knew of these proceedings, he replied in the affirmative, and declared that his father had rubbed him three times with the ointment and helped him into the wolf's skin.

The inquiry into Jean Grenier's case was a very lengthy one and was adjourned several times, but eventually he was sentenced to imprisonment for life at Bordeaux on September 6th, 1603, his youth and want of mental development being pleaded in extenuation of the crimes of infanticide he had undoubtedly committed. The president of the Court declared that lycanthropy was a form of hallucination and was not in itself a punishable crime. Jean's father was acquitted of complicity, and allowed to leave the court without a stain on his character, and Jean was sent to a monastery.

In 1610, after Jean had been at the Monastery of the Cordeliers in Bordeaux for seven years, De Lancre, who relates his story, went to see him. He was then about twenty years of age and of diminutive stature.

His black eyes were haggard and deep-set, and he refused to look anyone straight in the face. His teeth were long, sharp, and protruding, his nails were also long and black, and his mind was a mere blank.

He told De Lancre, not without pride, that he had been a wer-wolf, but that he had given up the practice. When he first arrived at the monastery he had preferred to go on all fours, eating such food as he found on the ground. He confessed that he still craved for raw human flesh, especially the flesh of little girls, and he hoped it would not be long before he had another opportunity of tasting it. He had been visited twice during his confinement by the Lord of the Forest, as he called the mysterious person who had given him the wolf-skin, but that both times he had made the sign of the cross and his visitor had departed in haste.

In other respects his tale was identical with the experiences he had related before the court.

De Lancre thought that the name Grenier or Garnier was a fatal name in connection with wer-wolves.

Evidence was given as to the times, places, and number of murders, and many of the facts were proved incontestably.

Jean's evidence as to the part his father had played in his misdeeds was hazy. He said that on one occasion his father had accompanied him, also wearing a wolf-skin, and that together they had killed a young girl dressed in white, and that they had devoured her flesh, the month being May of 1601.

He also added curious details regarding the Lord of the Forest, who had forbidden him to bite the thumbnail of his left hand, which was thicker and longer than the others, and that if he lost sight of it while in the form of a wolf he would quickly recover his human shape.

When confronted with his father Jean altered some of the details of his story, and it was agreed that long imprisonment and extended cross-examination had worn out his already feeble intellect.

It is worth pointing out that in the cases of Rollet, the tailor of Chalons, and the Gandillon family, the prisoners were accused of murder and cannibalism, but not of association with wolves, and that in the trial of Garnier evidence was given as to the depredations of the wolf rather than of the accused. There was doubtless a difficulty in proving the identity of the perpetrator of the murders.

A new era in these trials begins with that of Jean Grenier, for from that time onward medical men became more enlightened, and the belief spread that lycanthropy was a mental malady, with cannibalistic tendencies which had developed under diseased conditions.

In his "Daemonologie," 1597, a reply to Reginald Scott's "Discovery of Witchcraft," James I of England declared that wer-wolves were victims of a delusion induced by a state of melancholia, and about the same period wolves became practically extinct in England, and only harmless creatures such as the cat, hare, and weasel were left for the sorcerer to change into with any possibility of a safe and natural disguise.

For many years afterwards the confessions of witches, who were executed for their crimes, bore striking resemblance to those made by wer-wolves, and many strange facts which were published at these trials have never been, and may never be, satisfactorily explained on a purely materialistic basis.


[34] "Histoires, Disputes et Discours des Illusions et Impostures des Diables, etc.," 1579, p. 654.

[35] "Histoire de la Magie en France," 1818, pp. 129-31.

[36] Cimber, "Archives Curieuses de Histoire de France," 1836, Series I, Vol. VIII, pp. 9-11.

[37] "Discours des Sorciers," 1610, pp. 361-2.

[38] _See_ De Lancre, Pierre, "Tableau de L'Inconstance des Mauvais Anges et Demons," Paris, 1613, p. 255 _et seq._


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