Gévauden, a former province in France. Between 1764 and 1767, a brutal beast roamed the land. It tore its victims apart with its formidable teeth, whilst other victims were completely devoured. The locals believed it was a huge wolf, possibly a werewolf. During its vicious three year rampage, it had attacked more than 100 people and killed at least 60. There was a killer on the loose. No wonder the King got involved…
In June 1764, a woman looking after a heard of oxen was attacked by a gigantic beast. She was frightened, sure, but nobody really thought anything of it. Perhaps it was just a wolf. But only a few weeks later, a 14-year-old girl was killed. Ripped apart by some unknown vicious beast. Nine more people were killed that year, with dozens more over the following years. All horribly mutilated and unrecognisable.
Fear and panic gripped Gévauden. Many thought there was more than one beast. Newspapers started reporting on a creature the size of a horse spreading terror and mayhem. It had a long, wolf-like snout, and had a powerful tail that it used as a weapon. The streets of Gévauden were deserted and everybody was armed.
The army was called in. Locals in their hundreds, armed with shotguns, scythes, spears and sticks began the hunt. A large wolf was killed, but the killings continued.
King Louis the 15th sent a hunter named Denneval to slay the beast, but he too was not successful. The King was furious. National honour was at stake if even the professionals couldn’t kill the beast. So the King sent his personal gun carrier, François Antoine, and a hunting party to try to kill the beast. They managed to find and shoot a creature in its right eye. It collapsed, but somehow, minutes later, it rose from the ground. As it charged, the group unleashed a volley of bullets that killed the beast. But the locals insisted it wasn’t the beast. Only months later, they were proved correct. The killings started again…
On June 19, 1767, another hunter, Jean Chastel, shot a creature dead. He described it as a ‘large wolf’, and said he killed it with a ‘blessed silver bullet’. The killings stopped. The King wanted to see the beast, but by the time it arrived to him, it was starting to rot. So it was disposed of before it could be examined. This lack of preservation has led to many centuries of endless debate. Just what was it that Chastel killed?
The sightings are so wrapped up in the supernatural and local folklore, that it’s impossible to get an accurate picture of what really happened. The descriptions and events differ wildly from person to person, making it difficult to figure out what people really saw. There’s no denying countless people were killed by something, but by what? Most believe it was a mutant or hybrid creature, probably a wolf. Some think it was an entirely new species. Others think it was a surviving prehistoric animal. And there is one final theory, a curious one at that. Many claim to have seen a man standing with the animal, leading many to speculate that the creature was some kind of hyena trained to kill by a local man. Who was he? What really happened? What was the beast? We’ll likely never know the truth.
So I’ll give this creature a 95 on my patented Cryptid-o-Meter, putting it top of the list of 15, with the de Loys’ Ape still bottom.
The Beast of Gévauden. A fascinating cryptid indeed.
1) An artist’s impression of the havoc the Beast of Gévauden caused (credit: foroamistad.org)
2) A statue erected in Auvers in 1995 created by artist Philippe Kaeppelin, memorialising the courage of shepard Marie-Jeanne Valet, one of the first to be attacked by the creature – she fought it off single-handedly with a homemade spear she was carrying (credit: blog.doodlecat.com)
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