Tag Archives: Chartres

The Beast of Orléans and his grandson

This blog post will introduce you to yet another killer monster (or monsters) in the long, long series of killer monsters which have ravaged different areas of France from around 1550 until the present day. I started this long list by telling you about the Beast of Gévaudan. Then it was the Beast of Benais, the Beast of Auxerre and Trucy, the Beast of Cévennes and Gard and Vivarais and then the Beast of Sarlat. This illustration has been used to represent more or less all of them by the uninhibited copyright thieves who wrote sensationalist pamphlets in the Eighteenth Century:

Bete_de_Cinglais_1632 xxxxxx

This time I will be looking at the area near Orléans, where a number of “incidents” have taken place over the years:orleans map

Many people at the time thought that the culprits were just ordinary wolves, but, as we will see, there are more than enough anomalies to cause the odd doubt here and there. Once again, I will be looking at a number of websites written in French, offering you my translations and you can then make your own mind up between them.

The first website actually begins with a man who was writing about wolves in the region around Orléans. Here is the coat of arms of that beautiful city:

600px-Blason_Orléans_svg.png zzzzzzz

This was in 1911, and the writer in question was an historian called Charles de Beaucorps. He wrote:

“In 1691, the wolves’ misdeeds caused many justified complaints and the Royal Commissioner duly informed the national authorities. Learning that the incidents caused by these predators were increasing every day, he asked the King to allow the inhabitants of ten or twelve parishes to have firearms in their homes.  Normally they did not dare do so for fear of prosecution by the officers of the Royal Hunt. The Royal Commissioner also told them to carry out hunts and asked Monsieur Béchameil, an officer of the crown, to direct them. Nothing was done to stop this scourge: it grew to such an extent that every day people were being killed or injured by wolves. On September 12th, within musket range of the Chêne Brûlé, a parish in Cercottes, a sixty year old woman was devoured. The King’s Prosecutor in the Neuville Guard, who was keeping a register of children killed or injured by wolves using the death certificates written by parish priests, had listed more than 60 young victims in the space of fifteen months. “

Interestingly enough, this was not, apparently, completely outrageous by the usual standards of behaviour of French wolves, animals which had grown accustomed to feeding on human corpses in open charnel pits until as recently as 1820:

wolf bounding

Charles de Beaucorps, however, was nothing if not a very thorough investigator:

“Despite the hunts and more than two hundred wolves killed, the attacks continued for years, right up until 1702 (a total of eleven years). The first teams of hunters obtained hardly any results. It needed the militia and the Duke of Vendôme, supported by thirty musketeers, to stop this scourge.

In 1700, an “Enormous Beast” was killed in the forest and brought back for the Royal Commissioner, leading to the payment of a reward of thirteen pounds.”

werewolf attack

And nobody, of course, managed to write a precise scientific description of exactly what this “Bête énorme” was. Presumably, though, for it to be considered a “Bête énorme” in the middle of more than two hundred dead wolves, all of which must have looked pretty much the same as all the others, it cannot have been an ordinary wolf.

Around the same time, there were equally strange events in Fontainebleau:

“In 1679, woodcutters were killed and eaten in the Forest of Fontainebleau. The parish registers of Bois-le-Roi mentioned several cases of attacks.”

It might have been wolves, but I am surprised that, if it were, they did not say so. As the map shows, these gory killings took place not a million miles from Orléans:

fontaineb

Shortly after this, came the animal which was to become really famous. It was given the name of “The Beast of Orléans”. According to a website we have already visited:

“There were actually two distinct episodes which took place almost a century apart. The first, the Beast of Orléans, happened in 1709, as attested by a letter from Monsieur Polluche Lumina, who lived in the Rue des Hennequins, dated June 17th 1765. It says this:

“I am taking the liberty to write to you about the ferocious Beast of Gévaudan. The more I reflect on all the stories which appeared in the newspapers the more I find a resemblance with what has happened here and what I myself saw in part after the Great Winter of 1709. There appeared an animal which people called “The Beast” which only attacked women and children. There were the same ways of moving around, the same
sharpness and even timidity as the Beast of Gévaudan:

second-beast

The devastation was so serious that in six months there were more than 100 people killed and as many wounded. This provoked the king to send his royal wolf catchers. The officer who commanded them did not bother to follow the trail of destruction which this animal produced and which was normally around the perimeter of the forest.

He decided instead, every morning, to have several hunts in the woods with bloodhounds, after which his men went on a reconnaissance.  Then, without making any noise whatsoever, they positioned marksmen all around the area. The dogs were then released into the forest.

If the Beast was not found, they would go and carry out the same tactics in another area to pursue the Beast. There was hardly any hunt where the men did not kill one, two or three wolves, because the Beast was nothing different from them. Could they not employ the same tactics to destroy the so-called Beast of Gévaudan? I presume that the situation there is just like it was here. Just wolves and nothing more. I forgot to say that they killed a good hundred wolves in this area. In the stomach of several they found hair and other things which proved that they had eaten human flesh. They managed to destroy the species, the wolf, to such a point that there was no longer any question of there being a so-called “Beast” to which fear had given names and features each one more frightening than the last.”

Clearly, Monsieur Polluche Lumina thought that the Beast of Orleans was merely a wolf or wolves, seen under conditions of extreme stress and fear. Such terror supposedly exaggerated the witnesses’ testimony to such an extent that the idea of a monster was born. Not everybody, though, went for this rather simplistic explanation.

A short pamphlet about the Beast was printed at Chartres by Garnier-Allabre, the well-known local manufacturer of wallpaper and pictures. He may well have interviewed the witnesses about what they had seen. Garnier-Allabre produced this illustration which, to me, looks nothing like any wolf I have ever seen, even a stylised one. It has scales! It is armoured! It is as much like an anklylosaurus as a wolf!:

beast 1709

The leaflet also contained the following text:

“This cruel beast tears and devours everything it encounters in its path and causes desolation among whole families in the areas that it moves through. Last December 25th, near the entrance to a village near Beaugency, it found an unfortunate woodcutter and his wife and his eldest son. The ferocious beast first attacked the unfortunate woman. The poor woodcutter and then his son tried to defend her and a terrific battle ensued. Despite their efforts and those of several other people who rushed to the rescue, the unfortunate woman was killed and several others were wounded.
It is impossible to calculate the number of unfortunate people who were victims of the rapacity of this wild beast; it is covered with scales, and no weapon has any effect on it. Let us pray to God, my dear friends, to deliver us from this monster, and pray, too, for the speedy recovery of those injured by this animal. “

The local historian Monsieur Lottin also makes mention of the Beast and links the Beast of Orléans to the Beast of Gévaudan:

“A cruel beast, believed to be a hyena and which ravaged Gévaudan, Auvergne, Nivernais , Bourbonnais and the areas around Orléans and against which regular frontline troops had operated , was killed at that time , by the Sieur Antoine, a skilful hunter. This ferocious animal had caused the greatest devastation and had inspired universal terror. Coloured pictures, produced by Monsieur Letourny, a paper merchant in the Place du Martroi , who had gained a reputation for this kind of engraving, were sold by the thousand.”

Alas, none seem to have survived.

Extremely close to Orléans is the tiny town of Chaingy. It is represented by the red square:

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Even nowadays Chaingy has only 3,669 inhabitants. It was here that an unbelievably aggressive creature struck more than a century after “The Beast of Orléans”. The same website continues:

“In 1814, the Beast of Chaingy also gave rise to an abundance of images. There has been much confusion between the two creatures, at least on the level of how the illustrations would represent “The Beast”. This is not surprising: the printers did not trouble themselves over exact details and were more than willing to copy each other’s efforts:

Bete_de_Chaingy_ws1028371882

 

The case of the Beast of Chaingy took place in 1814. It is possible that it reflected other cases of “Beasts” from a long time before, such as the one described by Monsieur Polluche Lumina which took place a long time before (1709). The Beast of Chaingy is a creature which has been a little better documented :

“On December 6th, 1814 , several women and children who were collecting dead wood in the forest were attacked by a she-wolf . The animal killed two and injured eight more. The Baron de Talleyrand, whose magnificent full name was Alexandre Daniel de Talleyrand-Périgord was Prefect of this area. He ordered a hunt and the beast was slain near Cercottes.”

This is as maybe, but, for me, if this creature was just an ordinary canis lupus, then its behaviour was absolutely extraordinary. Nobody nowadays would expect a group of people to be attacked, or even challenged, in a wood by a lone she-wolf. To then have two individuals killed and eight more wounded is quite astonishing. All I can suggest is that this animal was, as has been said so many times both about the Beast of Gévaudan and about many others:

“C’était comme un loup mais ce n’était pas un loup.”
“It was like a wolf but it was not a wolf.”

In 1868, the last real wolf in the region was killed by a poacher in Chaingy, a man called Blaise Basset. The body of the animal is now on display at the Museum of Natural Sciences in Orléans.
And here it is:

real bete

Hardly the type of creature to kill two people and wound a further eight. I’m more scared of those polyester slacks if truth be told.
And finally. Let’s hope that this is merely an imaginative drawing of the Beast of Chaingy. If it’s from a trailcam, we could all be in trouble:

imaginative chaingyu

 

 

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If you go down to the woods today, you’d better not go alone…

One more monster to terrorise the local peasantry of bygone France was the so called “Bête de Cinglais” which was also called the “Bête d’Evreux”. Its bloodstained career lasted from 1632–1633, as it terrorised the province of Normandy, bringing violent death to one of the most beautiful areas of a beautiful country. Indeed, there is a sharp contrast here with the wild mountains frequented by so many other of the monsters we have read about. Here is a map of northern France:

basse norm map national

And here is a bit more of a close-up. The green UFO marks the precise location:

basse norm map

As always, the best approach is to take an average of the various French websites. The “Virtual Institute of Cryptozoology”, the “Institut Virtuel de Cryptozoologie”, states that:

“In 1632, about fifteen kilometres to the south of Caen, in the Forest of Cinglais, an animal carried out a reign of terror. Those who survived its attacks described it as a kind of huge mastiff of extraordinary agility and speed. Two historical documents mention the mysterious beast: the “Gazette de France” of March 19th 1632 and the edition of June 17th 1633. The edition of 1632 announces that the predator has already devoured around fifteen people in a month.

Forest rangers have shot at it with their muskets but are unable to cause any injury. The priests are trying to mobilize the inhabitants of the neighbouring parishes but the population is so traumatised that very few volunteers dare to take part in the hunts. The hunters themselves do not want to venture into the woods unless they are in a large group. The 1633 edition of the newspaper announces the killing of an animal at the end of a massive hunt lasting three days, organised by the Count de la Suze, with the participation of between 5,000-6,000 hunters and beaters. The Beast of Cinglais looks like a kind of wolf, but is longer, and more red in colour with a more pointed tail and a wider rump than an ordinary wolf. At least thirty people have now been killed.”

This, conceivably, may be a depiction of the creature:

perhaps cinglais

Interestingly enough, there was a further series of attacks only some fifteen years later in the Forest of Fontainebleau. This is a very similar area to the Forest of Cinglais and is not particularly far away at all:

sous-bois-dans-la-foret-de-fontainebleau

The Fontainebleau story is carried by the same website:

“In 1679, woodcutters were killed and eaten in the Forest of Fontainebleau. Records in the parish of Bois-le-Roi mention several cases of attacks.”

A website which specialises in the ghostly aspects of the beautiful Forest of Fontainebleau also carries a few tales of ancient beasts thought to live there:

“There used to exist around the beginning of the sixteenth century a fabulous animal that spread terror in the Forest of Fontainebleau and its surroundings. All indications are that it was a wolf, but some cried “Werewolf”, or tried to blame a magician who was said to be an expert in the art of shape shifting.”

“And then, around 1660, long before the famous Beast of Gévaudan, there was already talk around this area of the Bête du Gâtinais, the  Beast of Gâtinais, a frightful creature which looked like a monstrous wolf. His greatly exaggerated exploits, murdering children and young girls, used to feed people’s fears. Such stories caused many sleepless nights. It was even said that the Beast used to cross the River Seine to come and steal little children and animals on the far side.”

Even in fairly modern times:

“Towards the end of the nineteenth century, an old woman recounted the story of a great evil beast which lived in the forest and which came out from time to time to attack farm labourers, shepherds and flocks of sheep. The monster had to its credit a whole multitude of atrocities, dead sheep, dogs killed and children who just disappeared. The little girl who set off to gather hazelnuts in the woods, and was never seen again. The young nine year old boy devoured near the village of Nanteuil les Meaux”

The website’s author states that:

“It is quite possible that these three stories all refer to the same species of animal, described at different times in history….With evidence of this type, spread over long periods of time….it is not easy to make sense of things, to separate the mythical and imaginary monster from a mere animal.”

That “mere animal”, of course, is the wolf, considered in the France of bygone years to be guilty of far more serious attacks on humans than, say, the wolves of present day North America or Europe. This is the location of Fontainebleau. Compare this map with the maps for the Beast of Caen/Evreaux/Cinglais”:forest of fontaineblasu

As far as Fontainebleau during the first half of the sixteenth century is concerned, there were certainly many people who thought that nobody should ever go down to the woods. If they did, they would certainly be sure of a really big surprise, one with lots of a fangs and an aggressive attitude that needed quite a lot of adjustment. And yes, there were lots of marvellous things to eat, (in a way) but it was better not to go alone. It’s really lovely down in the woods, but perhaps it is safer to stay at home:

The same fascinating website continues:

“In the reign of King François the First, during the first half of the sixteenth century, a certain Sebastian Rabutin was to rid the country of a terrible lynx which was just as murderous as any of our previous beasts. It too was devastating the same region, devouring in turn both young girls and children. This monster, which appears in a fresco in the ballroom of the Château de Fontainebleau where it is depicted as some kind of hybrid between a wolf and a feline, was so formidable that no one dared confront it . For the record, the “loup-cervier”, in Latin “lupus cervarius”, which means deer wolf, is the common name of the Lynx, a big cat which hunts hares or rabbits, but never deer or men.”

I have not been able to trace the fresco in the ballroom of the château, but there is quite a lot to go at:

salle_bal_00

There is absolutely no way though that any of these French monsters was a lynx, as I have already discussed in a previous blogpost about the Beast of Benais.

Fairly close to both Caen and  Fontainebleau is the beautiful cathedral city of Chartres:

chartres_cathedralxxxxxxxxx

The “Institut Virtuel de Cryptozoologie” reports how:

“At Chartres, in 1581, a young boy was buried at Ver-les-Chartres, killed by a “wild beast”, “une beste sauvage” whose identity we are not at all sure of.”

If this were not a wolf, and a wolf would surely have been recognised, then it may well have been one of the mysterious beasts we have been examining.

But let’s just forget this supporting cast for the moment. Let’s return to “La Bête de Cinglais”. Another interesting blogpost about this fearsome creature comes from Evelyne Achon:

“The Forest of Cinglais is about 15 kilometres to the south of Caen. The “Beast of Cinglais” is also called “The Beast of Evreux” or “The Beast of Caen”. It refers to a man eating animal behind a series of attacks on humans.

The first attack was mentioned in 1632. These attacks are known through articles in contemporary newspaper. The Gazette de France therefore reported on March 19, 1632:

“News from Caen in Normandy. The 10th of March in the year 1632. Since last month in the forest of Cinglais, and then between there and Falaise, people have seen a wild beast that has already devoured fifteen people. Those who have avoided his fangs report that this savage beast is similar to a large mastiff of such a speed that it would be impossible to run and catch him on foot. He is of such extraordinary agility that people have seen him jump right over the river in certain places. Some people call him Thérende. Local residents and forest gamekeepers have shot at him from range with their arquebuses on several occasions, but without wounding him. They do not dare approach him, or even to reveal themselves, until they are organised in a large group, exactly as they will be today when they hear the sound of the alarm bell, to which all the parishioners from all the parishes around have been invited by their village priests, as three thousand people are assembled to carry out the hunt. “

A gigantic beat was organized in June 1633, with the participation of between 5,000 and 6,000 men. An animal was killed, and the attacks ceased.

Here is an old engraving of the Beast. Spaghetti for lunch:

Bete_de_Cinglais_1632

The Gazette de France reported on June 17th the death of the creature as follows:

“This raging mad beast which I wrote about last year as having eaten in two months more than thirty people in this forest was believed by everybody to be a creature of magical properties. But the Count de la Suze, having assembled by the order of our Lieutenant General on the 21st of this month between 5000 to 6000 people, has pursued the creature so keenly that after three days it was killed by a shot from a flintlock musket. It turned out to be some kind of wolf but longer, redder in colour with a pointed tail and a rump wider than normal. “

Here is the Forest of Cinglais:

Foret-cinglais1xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Wikipedia supplies a little information, but seems, perhaps, rather coy:

“This beast was identified as a wolf, but a mystery still remains. It was described as a kind of red wolf with an elongated body and a more pointed tail than a common wolf. It seemed very quick and agile.”

Another old friend, Vampiredarknews knows the details equally well:

“In 1632, this Beast killed fifteen victims in only one month. It struck in Normandy, where those who escaped described it as a great extremely fast and agile mastiff. It then settled in the Forest of Cinglais, about fifteen kilometres south of Caen. It then killed a dozen or so victims before they organized a hunt that lasted three days and brought together more than 5000 people. It was killed on June 23, 1633 by the Count de la Suze.”

One final website makes a very good point:

“It will eventually be described as a wolf, but a great mystery still hangs around this story ; the behaviour and the agility of the creature are in no way anything like that of a wolf.”

In the fullness of time, I will finish this almost interminable list of “Monsters of France” and draw them all together as the same unknown species. This particular creature is a good example. The Forest of Cinglais, the Forest of Fontainebleau and the charming countryside around Orléans are all pretty much the same kind of environment. The looks and behaviour of these beasts are not unique. Other localities have had strange reddish animals, animals with noticeable tails, animals with extreme agility or with great speed or an ability to leap long distances. There must be a link between them all.

I am very struck by the words of Abbé Pierre Pourcher about the Beast of Gévaudan:

“Everybody who saw it said it was not a wolf. Everybody who did not see it said it was.”

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