The werewolf, also called lycanthrope, is a mythical human that possesses the ability to transform into a wolf by either spell, curse or natural ability. Legends of this creature exists in many folklore throughout the world. Do werewolves walk the earth or are merely the creation of nightmares from the human imagination? In Europe, for centuries many lived in fear that the creature was all but too real. There are documented incidents of people attacked by unusually large wolves along with accounts of individuals accuses of being a lycanthrope. Whether they were serial killers, murders, cannibals, or even innocents, hundreds were trailed, tortured and then executed as a werewolf. In a three part series I am posting articles on historical cases involving those believed to have been the shape shifter. We begin with Gilles Garnier
Gilles Garnier was a hermit living near the outskirts of Dole in France. He had married and brought his new bride to live with him out in the woods. Over the years, they had children and Garnier had difficult in providing food for his family. He would soon find a means to ensure there was meat on the table.
In the nearby French village of Dole, sometime in the early 1570s, local children were disappearing or found dead by the villagers. There were reports of a large wolf witnessed to be prowling in the forest near the town. Many believed the creature to be a werewolf as the authorities of Franche-Comté province issued a decree to all people in the region to hunt down and kill the creature. One evening, a group of villagers came across a boy fighting off a monstrous creature. When they came to the child’s aid, the wolf ran off and what some would testified to witnessing the animal transformed into a man they recognized as Gilles Garnier.
Eventually Garneir and his wife were arrested and trailed at Dole. In his confession, Gilles stated while hunting in the forest a specter appeared to him. The entity knew of his troubles in providing food for his family offered an ointment to the man that would turn him into a wolf and hunt animals easier. Gilles took the deal, but instead of deer, rabbits or bird his prey became humans. Garneir admitted to killing four children and detailed how he cannibalized their bodies then bring home pieces of flesh for his family to eat. Gilles Garnier was found guilt and burned at the stake on January 18, 1573 as a werewolf.
There were many innocents falsely accused and executed during this time. This article is to examine those documented cases involving where a number of people were murdered by individuals in history to have been trailed and sentenced as a werewolf. Today one could look at such accounts that these persons were murders, cannibals or not even in the right mind. Some researchers have suggested that those convicted in the past many have been suffering a medical condition known as lycanthropy where the victim sees themselves as a wolf. Despite all theories, no one may truly know to the motives of these men.
Brown, Nathan. The Complete Idiot’s Guide Werewolves. USA: Peguin. (2009)
Gibson, Dirk. Legends, Monsters or Serial Murders. USA: ABC-CLIO. (2012)