Historical Werewolves: Jacques Roulet

In European history, documented cases exist of people convicted for committing murders as a werewolf. In their confessions, many described the source to the transformation as a belt, ointment, a potion or some other magical device when applied. Historians believe that such objects maybe have been either part of the delusion experienced in clinical lycanthropy or a hallucinogen altering reality. Even the testimony of witnessed transformations are seen as nothing more than fabrications, coached or hysteria. In the final installment of historical werewolves, we look into the account of Jacques Roulet if such creatures are supernatural or the delusions of the human mind?

In 1598, near Angers, France, two hunters came across the remains of a 15 year old boy that two wolves were feasting upon. When the men approached, the animals quickly retreated into the forest. The hunters gave chase and tracked the wolves through the woods where they stumbled upon a half-naked man shivering uncontrollably while hiding under some thicket. He was covered in blood with small pieces of flesh in hand. Immediately the hunters were suspicious of the man and brought him to the local authorities.

The man was identified to be a local beggar by the name of Jacque Roulet. In the investigation, the flesh in the man’s hand was found to be human and after questioning admitted to killing the 15 year old boy. Jacques was arrested and put on trial where he confessed to being a werewolf. In a statement, years ago his parents gave him a salve to drink bestowing upon him the ability to transform into a wolf.  Jacques claimed his brother and cousin also received this power. He continued that the three of them killed and eaten the bodies like the 15 year boy.

The local authorities investigated the parents found them in good standing along with the brother and cousin. Mr. Roulet was convicted of murder, werewolfism along with cannibalism and sentenced to death. Jacques appealed to the Parliament of Paris and confined to a mental institution for two years after being judged not to be sound of mind.

Jacques Roulet is among the many documented cases where convicted murderers were alleged to be werewolves. There are debates whether these accounts were the result of delusions of the mentally unstable, drug induced hallucinations, or even fabrications forced to confess under torture. Historians and researchers doubt of any supernatural connections into such accounts, yet in this modern era sightings of werewolves continue throughout the globe.
Sources

Brown, Nathan. The Complete Idiot’s Guide Werewolves. USA: Peguin. (2009)

Baring, Sabine. The Book of Werewolves. London: Elder & Co. (1865) p.81

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9 thoughts on “Historical Werewolves: Jacques Roulet

      1. SD Gates

        I think so too – worse than vampires. We had a maid back when I was little girl and she would watch “Creature Feature” – I think that was what it was called. Anyway – she would watch this show when she was dusting the living room. Christmas Eve – they had an episode about a werewolf, and I watched it with her. Scared the snot out of me, I was pretty little. That night I thought for sure Santa was actually going to be a werewolf delivering the presents and I was petrified. I always think of that show when I smell lemon Pledge (kind of a Pavlovian response – I suppose).

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  1. graemedavis

    Baring-Gould tried to write all cases of lycanthropy off to mental illness, just as Montague Summers, in his book “The Werewolf in Lore and Legend” (various editions available), stuck to the official Catholic Church line that werewolves were the products of demonic possession, witchcraft, and illusion.
    I’ve identified five distinct types of werewolf in history and literature: the “classic” werewolf (mostly a product of movies); the shamanic werewolf (shamans possessing wolf bodies – or more rarely, wolves of wolf-spirits possessing humans); the sorcerous werewolf (witches adopting wolf shape); the cursed werewolf (humans cast into wolf form by by offended gods or saints, usually for a fixed number of years); and the obsessive werewolf, which is the name I give to cases of lycanthropic delusion.
    Based on this classifiction, Jacques Roullet would be a sorcerous werewolf, like the majority of those tried in France and Germany at this time. The mention of a salve is a common attribute of sorcerous werewolves, as is a belt or coat of wolf-skin.
    (WARNING: blatant self-promotion) I’ve summarized all five types with case studies in my semi-fictional book “Werewolves: A Hunter’s Guide, published by Osprey (https://ospreypublishing.com/werewolves-a-hunter-s-guide), along with notes on a few other shapeshifters like Japanese hengeyokai and Native American skinwalkers.

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    1. Gatekeeper Post author

      Thanks for the read and info. I know a majority of cases in those werewolves tries where innocent people. The accounts I had studies were those in France between 14th to the 17th century which were involving murders, witnesses involved in identifying the werewolf and other evidence presented. In the researching these cases for any connections to something actually paranormal follows a list of conditions I establish. One such condition is transforming to escape custody. I have yet to find one.

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      1. graemedavis

        I didn’t find any either. Depending on one’s point of view, this absence could indicate that all cases were mundane in nature, or that in at least some cases the authorities were careful to confiscate the salve or skin that was necessary for transformation.

        It’s noticeable that most arrests were made after an attack, where the suspect had returned to human form but exhibited wounds similar to those inflicted on the attacking wolf. The few eyewitness reports of transformations indicate that the process was not instant, so the authorities probably had time to bind the suspect before he (or more rarely, she) could transform and escape.

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      2. Gatekeeper Post author

        I had similar thoughts along with the possibility the third party mentioned within these cases that gave the individual the tool used to transform with had took it back. There are references I found where the wolf’s skin, belt, potion, salve and so on was given by a stranger which could had easily taken it back once the person was caught. In reality to make an argument for a connection of the realms of supernatural the best evidence would be a documented incident where a person in custody transformed and escape.

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    1. Gatekeeper Post author

      Good question Ben. I have not yet come across any historical records which tells what became of Roulet. There are speculations he became a priest, faced mob justice, became a beggar and so on.

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