Tag Archives: Linda S. Godfrey

Black Shuck on the world stage

As I have said in two previous blogposts, Old Shuck, Black Shuck, or simply Shuck is the name of the huge, phantom black dog which roams, allegedly, the fields and fens of Norfolk and Suffolk. There are, of course, many places other than East Anglia where completely credible reports occur. We have already looked at three in Nottinghamshire, but almost every county in England has its own version of the creature, whether that be the “Bogey Beast” in Lancashire, the Lincolnshire “Hairy Jack”, the “Gallytrot” in Suffolk or the “Bargheust” in Yorkshire and the North.

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They are often associated with electrical storms, such as Black Shuck’s appearance at first Bungay and then Blythburgh in Suffolk. More often, though, they are linked to places rather than meteorological conditions. Churchyards and graveyards at midnight are a favourite, as well as crossroads. Equally, if not more, favoured are dark lanes, ancient pathways and lonely footpaths in the countryside. Occasionally, there is a connection with water, such as a river, a lake or even a beach. Sometimes, such as at Launceston in Cornwall, it may be an ancient tumulus, as is the case with the….

“graves and prehistoric burials whose attendant hounds proliferate densely in Wiltshire and West Somerset on the grounds that they can be seen as passages downwards to the World of the Dead, and so also suicide graves and scenes of execution…”

(Theo Brown: ‘The Black Dog’, in Porter and Russell (ed.) ‘Animals in Folklore’ (1978).”

Likewise, the Black Dog is seen as the “guardian of the threshold, escorting souls into the afterlife”. According to Jennifer Westwood in her book “Albion” (1985) :

“Black Dogs commonly haunt lanes, footpaths, bridges, crossroads and graves – all points of transition, …..held to be weak spots in the fabric dividing the mortal world from the supernatural.”

And :

“If a count be made of the kind of places favoured by these apparitions one thing becomes plain. Quite half the localities are places associated with movement from one locality to another: roads, lanes, footpaths, ancient trackways, bridges, crossroads.”

Let’s now leave Nottinghamshire’s Shuck eating his Pedigree Chum for just a moment, and skip thousands of miles to the north east of the United States. In her most excellent book, “Real Wolfmen True Encounters in Modern America” the author Linda S Godfrey explains her idea that…

“One common factor seems to emerge from every collection of strange creature accounts: there is an unmistakable connection between anomalous beings and certain features of the land. Unexplainable creatures and events tend to occur near freshwater; on hills; at boundary areas such as roads; and on or near burial grounds, and military zones, and all types of sacred areas around the world.
This geographic predictability supports the premise of many contemporary investigators like Rosemary Ellen Guiley, Nick Redfern, and the late John Keel, who suspect that anomalous creatures are not natural animals; they are entities that belong to a completely non-human realm and are attracted to certain energies of the Earth and all living creatures.”

The researchers listed above, and many others, believe that werewolves, Bigfoot, alien big cats, grey aliens, UFOs and sea monsters as well as more traditional entities such as fairies, dragons and ogres are all part of a planet-wide “spirit” population that manifests “in some sort of concert with the human mind, intent on  its own enigmatic purposes.”

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And of course, this theory does go quite a long way to explaining a very large question, namely, “Why do so many apparently reliable witnesses continue to report the same, impossible things?”

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If we just think of Great Britain, how many UFOs, Black Dogs, ghosts and even sea serpents have been reported over the years?

Linda S Godfrey, who specialises in the more exotic of the world’s canids and possible canids writes about the Wolfmen who are regularly seen in her native Wisconsin.

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Wolfmen in form are rather like Bigfoot, except that they have a wolf’s head.  They are thinner than Bigfoot, and consequently, can move very quickly if required. The most famous of the American Wolfmen is the “Beast of Bray Road”.

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Witnesses have sketched what they saw on this most famous of cryptozoological highways…

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Linda S Godfrey first became interested in the Beast when she was a journalist and had the opportunity to speak to one of the first witnesses….
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Fairly frequently, the Wolfman’s favourite food is roadkill. These were originally witness sketches…

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There are at least two photographs…

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One of the very earliest known sightings of a Wolfman occurred not in Bray Road, but at the St Coletta School for Exceptional Children, where Mark Shackelman worked as a security guard. Linda S Godfrey tells the story….

“The nightwatchman’s main duty was to make quiet surveillance of the 174 acre grounds…The land was dotted with ancient Native American burial mounds.
One evening, movement on the mound behind the main building drew the sharp nightwatchman’s attention as he observed what appeared to be a large animal digging furiously atop the raised earth. The creature was roughly man-size, covered in dark fur, and knelt in a way that should have been physically impossible for a four-footed beast And it fled on two feet rather than four as soon as it noticed Shackelman’s presence.
The flummoxed Watchman examined the mound next day and saw that the Earth had been torn by what looked like big claw marks, with raking slashes in sets of three. That night, he made sure to arm himself with a big, club-like flashlight before making his rounds. Sure enough, the creature was there again, digging in the mound near midnight. This time, however, it rose upon its hind legs and faced Shackelman. It stood about six feet tall and reeked of rotten meat.
Shackelman bravely shined his light at the creature so that he could get a good, long look at it. Although it was covered in fur, he could make out powerful arms that ended in hands with thumbs and little fingers that were much smaller than the middle three digits, explaining the triple slashes in the dirt. It had a muscular torso and a canid head with a muzzle and pointed ears. Perhaps most surprisingly of all, the creature made a growling vocalisation that Shackelman later described as a “neo-human voice” and that sounded to him like three syllables, “ga- dar-rah”. The creature continued to make fearless eye contact with Shackelman, who felt he was in imminent and mortal danger.”

If you want to read what happens to Mr. Shackelman, or the Wolfman, then you will have to buy the book! You will not be disappointed! It is a marvellous book which opens a whole world of strangeness that takes a lot to explain away. This report of a wolfman was just the first of the many. According to Linda S Godfrey…

“Was the St Coletta creature just a sign of things to come? The Shackelman sighting was only the first of over one hundred reports nationwide of a human sized canine that could run upright or crouch with a chunk of bloody carrion clutched in its paws. In that incident and most sightings since, the creature is described with a head that appears wolf-like but a body that often – except for its fur, dog shaped limbs, and elongated pause – looks somewhat humanoid because of its powerfully muscular torso and shoulders.”

Here are some more modern colour photos, in some cases taken by trailcams.

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If you look at Youtube, a search for the “Beast of Bray Road” will reveal scores of films of varying quality. This lasts an interesting three minutes…

and this is a more thorough full length programme

If, however, you find yourself being tempted towards the “Gable Film”, please be aware that its maker has already acknowledged, several years ago, that the film is (a very accomplished) fake .

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Hallowe’en Nights (3) Black Shuck in Notts

In my first blog post about the cryptic canid, it becomes perfectly obvious that for hundreds of years Black Shuck has been seen fairly frequently throughout all of East Anglia. Not only that, but he can still be seen there right up to the present day. Well known folklorist Ivan Bunn continues even now to find regular examples of Black Shuck’s appearances in our 21st-century world.

And so too, Black Shuck has been seen throughout the whole of the country. One website details 329 different places in the British Isles where spectral dogs of various size, shape, colour and attitude have cropped up over the centuries.
But has this famous dog ever been seen in our own county of Nottinghamshire? By careful searching on the Internet, I have managed to find just three examples. Read them through very carefully and make sure that you follow all the directions on the maps provided. There will be a test at the end!
The first tale is of a little village which now has the high-speed A631 dual carriageway constructed around it to the south west, allowing the peaceful, quiet community to preserve its rural tranquillity. Centuries ago, though, the main road from Sheffield to Gainsborough went right through the very middle of the village, which, with the frequent passage of mail coaches, it may well have been livelier than it is now….

bigger scale

Perhaps this is why Beckingham’s most famous phantom, a colossal Black Dog, always keeps faithfully to his old tried and trusted route. The animal is reputed to be up to five feet tall and has dull red eyes that burn with an inner fire like the glowing embers on a coal fire
black_shuck_by_mearcu-d3lgpnd ccccccThe Black Dog invariably leaves from the churchyard of Beckingham’s parish church of “All Saints” which dates mostly from the thirteenth century, although the exterior is apparently fifteenth century.

church beck

The Cryptic Canid leaves the little church with its square tower and makes his way, presumably down Walkeringham Road and then Station Street, before finally leaving the village along the Old Trent Road, walking purposefully out towards the marshy water meadows.
This map shows the church with its square tower and the red arrow points to the Old Trent Road.
better backingham
Some of the streets are indicated on this larger scale map. The red arrow points to the church…

at long last

The Black Dog always leaves the Old Trent Road (yellow on the map) near the Old Shipyard and then sets off along the old path to the south, alongside the old River Trent. The red arrow points to the riverside route he invariably uses.

red varrow

Black Shuck though, for it is no less than he, is not a dog to mess with.  Anybody who tries to get in his way or to prevent his progress from church to river does so very much at their own risk. A good many years ago a man from Gainsborough attempted to stop Black Shuck by refusing to stand aside and allegedly asking it what it was doing. The dog looked with great anger at this foolish person, who was later found unconscious in the middle of the road. He was paralysed down one side of his body for the rest of his life and never recovered the feelings in his arm or leg.

A second Black Shuck has occurred not too far from Newark-on-Trent. In the Nottingham County Library there is a manuscript dating back to as recently as 1952 which records the words of a Mrs Smalley, who was then about seventy five years old.
Her grandfather, who was born in 1804 and died in 1888, used to have occasion to drive from Southwell to Bathley, a village near North and South Muskham, in a pony and trap. This involved going along Crow Lane, which leaves South Muskham opposite the school and goes to Bathley. Along that lane he frequently, used to see a large Black Dog trotting alongside his trap.
Here is a map of South Muskham, with all the landmarks in the story visible.

better map soujkth muskbhanmThe red arrow points towards Crow Lane, which goes westward  to Bathley. In the other direction, to the east, it runs, typically, past a church with a square tower.

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St. Wilfrid’s Church in South Muskham is medieval but seems to have taken a long time to construct. The square tower, therefore, has its lowest section of thirteenth century construction, the middle section is fourteenth century and the top is fifteenth century. One of the more interesting features are the carved ends of the wooden benches in the chancel, which include a number of “hideous monsters” and one crab.

“Round about 1915, Mrs Smalley’s son Sidney, used to ride out from Newark on a motorcycle to their home at Bathley. He went into Newark to dances and frequently returned at about 11 o’clock at night. He too often saw a black dog in Crow Lane; he sometimes tried to run over it but was never able to. One night Sidney took his father on the back of the motorcycle especially to see the dog, and both of them saw it.”

Overall, South Muskham is an area with a good deal of water in the landscape.

south musk is wetzzzzz

The third story is considerably more modern. It was 2.14 a.m. on May 11th 1991 and….

“Victoria Rice-Heaps had been visiting her boyfriend in Worksop, and was on her way home when she had her unusual experience. It was a journey she had made “thousands of times”. She wasn’t particularly tired, having slept earlier in the evening. Making her way out along the Blythe Road, she soon left the comforting glow of the streetlights for the dark country roads beyond.
After a mile or so, near to Hodsock Priory, Victoria saw illuminated in the beam of her headlights about 150 yards ahead “two red dots.”

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“I slowed right down to a crawl as I saw a huge black dog. It looks like something from hell! It had very shiny fur and a short coat; the nearest thing I’ve seen to it in size was a Great Dane, but it had a good 18 inches over a dog of that breed. Its ears were erect and it appeared to be dragging something quite large across the road.”

Victoria had lived with dogs all her life, but had seen nothing like this creature.
As she waited for the dog to get out of the way of her Fiat Panda, the headlights of another vehicle announced its approach from the opposite direction. The driver of the red Montego estate, evidently seeing her at a standstill, pulled up and wound down his window to ask if anything was wrong. Victoria, having wound down her own window, asked the man if he could see the dog in front of her car.

“At this moment he shouted “Oh Jesus!” and sped off into the night. I looked in front of me again and to my joy and amazement the creature had vanished. I drove home as fast as I could. I did a little research later and found a tumulus nearby, a river and an old boundary as well as the priory”.

There is a lot less exact geographical detail for this particular story and I have therefore made one or two “best guesses”.
Victoria was driving north out of Worksop along the B6045 in the direction of Blyth. This road is fairly straight and leads quickly to the Hodsock area. The very narrow yellow road to the west of the B6045 is the turn off to Hodsock Priory, which is a big country house, rather than anything of particularly religious significance. In Nottinghamshire, it is very famous for its magnificent displays of snowdrops in the very first days of Spring.
B6045

My contention, though, is that Victoria only saw a single snapshot moment of Black Shuck’s usual journey. I believe that the huge dog would have started his journey in the northern section of the B6045.  Here is a map with the middle of Blyth and the old unnamed northern section of the B6045 (see arrow). It leads past a church with the square tower, St Mary and St Martin.
wet blyth

Shuck’s exact point of departure would surely have been the churchyard of this ancient church which dates from as early as 1088, when it was a part of a Benedictine monastery. Clearly, if you are driving down the B6045 in a saloon car at 40-50 m.p.h. in the darkness of the night, you will see Black Shuck for a lot less time than if you are on foot, or in a pony and trap, or even on a slow motorbike back in 1915.

The one thing I would really like to know, though, is what “quite large something”  Black Shuck was dragging across the road. And the driver of the red Montego, how had he not seen the ghostly dog when he first stopped? He was going in the opposite direction to Victoria, and Black Shuck was right in front of her car. The driver of the red Montego must have been parked almost directly next to the “Hound from Hell”. Indeed, she actually asked him if he could see the dog in front of her car.

When he apparently and finally saw this enormous beast, he shouted out in terror and drove off into the night. Why? He left a defenceless young woman behind on her own. Did he see what Black Shuck was dragging? Given the Hell Hound’s connection with the imminent death of those who see it, did the man see his own ghostly corpse?
If you have followed the directions and maps carefully, you will not find my next question a particularly difficult one!

“What is the connection between all three of the Black Dogs seen in Nottinghamshire?”

Well, if you have paid attention, you will have realised the elements which occur and recur throughout all three stories.

There is always a church, and the Ordnance Survey map shows that it is always a church with a square tower. That church of course, will have a graveyard around it. Black Shuck then follows a route which is always a very ancient one, rather than opting for the new bypass or the new dual carriageway. It is always a road which has been there for centuries, almost as if he has been following that path for that same amount of time. And as the road continues away from the church, it will gradually become more and more lonely and isolated. At the same time it will lead through a landscape which contains enormous amounts of water, either in the form of lakes, rivers or streams. In one case, namely that of Beckingham, the road leads to the wettest place of all. This is an area of riverside water meadows, which have now been taken by the RSPB to form an official wetland nature reserve.

rspb reservezzzz

Black Shuck makes his departure from this route not only at an old shipyard, but he also sets off southwards alongside the River Trent itself. As if to prove that this is the strongest manifestation of Black Shuck in the county, the phantom animal will pass an ancient hill which is called “Black Island”. This may have been a tumulus in the dim and distant past. Somewhere as flat and wet as this area is certainly a strange place for a completely natural hill.

Victoria Rice-Heaps mentions a tumulus near the B6045, but I have been unable to trace it, although I have not visited the area personally. This does not mean that it is not there, of course. But there is a “Hodsock Red Bridge”, red with the colour of Black Shuck’s eyes, perhaps? And what is “Black Screed”? Nowadays, a screed is “a levelled layer of material (e.g. cement) applied to a floor or other surface.” Earlier than this, it was “a fragment cut from a main piece”, and then “a torn strip”. Was it called “Black Screed” because it was connected with Black Shuck and being “torn to shreds”?
I was delighted to find all these various connections, because they fit in perfectly with the book “Real Wolfmen: True Encounters in Modern America” by Linda S Godfrey. She provides a key quotation about the appearance of spectral canids. And this quotation applies not only to North East Nottinghamshire, but also to the state of Wisconsin in the north eastern part of the United States.

I will be looking at all these various connections and trying to explain why they are so important in another blog post in the future.

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Just what WAS the Beast of Gévaudan?

There is no shortage of theories as to the identity of the murderous beast I described recently,  la Bèstia de Gévaudan,which terrorised a whole province of France from 1764-1767, and claimed upwards of a hundred victims, mostly women and young girls. From what I have read, but above all, from what I have watched on “Youtube”,  basically, you will have to make your own  choice.

The creature was, therefore, perhaps a single enormous wolf, or maybe a number of wolves in a single pack, or even a large number of wolves in a number of separate packs.

Less fancifully, it could have been some type of enormous domestic dog, or perhaps even a wolf dog hybrid, perhaps with a red coloured mastiff involved. Its supposed invulnerability to bullets was because it wore the armoured hide of young boar.

It may have been a hyena although this species is thought to have been long extinct in Europe at this time. It has even been suggested that it was not a real animal, but a sex-crazed serial killer who dressed in a fur costume, pretending to be a wolf. In the same vein, it was perhaps a werewolf with a penchant for hunting women and young girls.

An initial, perhaps simplistic approach, is quite simply to look at pictures of the beast, and to compare it with photographs of the most likely candidates, and then to make up your own mind.

Firstly, here are some pictures of the beast itself. You need to bear in mind that they are unlikely to have been drawn directly from a witness descriptions, and that many of them may have been mere copies of the work of other artists. Furthermore, at this time, it was accepted practice to draw animals in a very stylised fashion, rather than in the more accurate zoological one. Because of this, therefore, the head and limbs are often out of proportion, and the body is frequently too large for a small head and legs. In many pictures, the artist sought to portray an unknown animal by reaching into his knowledge of Heraldry…

 

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Here are some photographs of wolves. I have deliberately picked what I consider to be the largest individuals, and to provide illustrations of animals in poses which are hopefully similar to those in the engravings of the beast.

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Here are some photographs of what are usually called wolf dog hybrids. Having looked at a much larger number of them on the Internet, I do feel that most can be dismissed immediately because an ordinary person would think that they were pure bred wolves. They are only noticeably different when crossed with a very distinctive breed of dog.

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Many cryptozoologists favour the hyena. Certainly, a number of the original drawings from the eighteenth century are titled as being “la Bèstia de Gévaudan, the hyena”.  Many of them, even the most wolf-like, have their flanks covered with either stripes or spots.
This picture was allegedly drawn by the killer of the second beast, Jean Chastel.

drawn chastel

Here are some pictures of the striped hyena.

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And here are some pictures of the spotted hyena.

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Basically, you pay your euros, and you take your choice.
As blogposts cannot be of infinite length, let me summarise the fors and againsts of all the possibilities as I see them.

A wolf or wolves?

This is the mot acceptable of a very large number of  explanations. Certainly, the prints found were deemed to be those of a wolf. Monsieur Antoine de Beauterne who was to kill the first animal, the Wolf of Chazes, said that there was « aucune différence avec le pied d’un grand loup » “no difference with the pawprint of a large wolf”

BUT…

Wolves do not normally attack Man. The locals used to kill around 700 wolves every year, so they all knew what a wolf looked like and could defend themselves against them. All the witnesses were adamant that the animal was not a wolf, but an animal that they did not know. That is why it was immediately christened “la bèstia”. Neither can wolves have a white breast and underparts, as a large number of witnesses said in their descriptions and, indeed, as is portrayed in many of the contemporary illustrations. Only a hybrid animal could exhibit this pattern of coloration.

Wolves do not strip the clothes off their victims, neither do they decapitate their prey.

After the Wolf of Chazes was killed, the deaths did not stop.

A rabid wolf?

An animal  diseased in this way would not have been afraid of Man, but it would certainly have died well before the three year period was  up. A number of rabid wolves? Isn’t that possibly stretching the argument a little?

A hyena?

The animal would certainly have been unknown to the inhabitants of the area. Members of the French nobility, however, frequently indulged themselves by importing exotic animals such as lions and tigers into the country, and we know that hyenas were brought into France at this time. So too, hyenas are supposedly relatively easy to train, or at least, easier than you might expect! Whether this would extend to converting them into fearless and ferocious attack animals is a different matter, however.
Hyenas are certainly capable of decapitating their prey. I have been unable to ascertain if they take the clothes off their victims, although I would have thought that they might have needed opposable thumbs for any particularly intricate garments.

BUT…

the second beast to be killed, the Bête de Chastel, did not have enough teeth to be a hyena. This creature was, without doubt, a canid of some description, according to the King’s Notary, Roch Étienne Marin, the man who carried out what appears to be an extraordinarily thorough autopsy. On the other hand, the creature was also examined by the famous Comte de Buffon, an extremely famous scientist and naturalist of the day, whose ideas were to have a great influence on Charles Darwin. Buffon pronounced it to be a very large wolf.

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The Striped Hyena, which resembles most closely perhaps, la Bèstia, does not hunt but scavenges. The Spotted Hyena does  hunt for itself, but nobody has ever really mentioned spots as a feature of la Bèstia.
In one of his blogposts, C.R. Rookwood suggests another exotic solution. He suggests that la Bèstia was a  mesonychid, a prehistoric mammal related to present day whales. They were very large predators with huge heads, long tails, and hooves instead of feet. The largest was Andrewsarchus mongoliensis, known only from its skull, minus the jawbone: for this reason, illustrations of its colour are, for the most part, just well informed guesswork. The structure of the animal is based on the other members of the family, whose skeletal structure is better known.

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This animal does fit quite closely the description given by many of the peasants who saw la Bèstia. A few of the reports did mention hooves instead of feet, although the creature may well have been described as having hooves to emphasise its connection with the Devil.

BUT…

How could a gigantic, fierce, flesh eating mammal have survived from a prehistoric era until the eighteenth century, without anybody noticing it?

A human serial killer?

Humans can remove dead people’s clothes. Humans can decapitate their victims. Some bizarre serial killers would enjoy the chance to mask their activities behind the depredations of a very large trained carnivore.

BUT…

All the reports by eye witnesses say that only an animal was involved. This idea of a human serial killer can only be maintained  if mutilated bodies were found and there were no eye witnesses who saw an animal attacking them. Only in the Cantal area, apparently, were these circumstances fulfilled.
Of late, many people have  become increasingly concerned by the involvement of Jean Chastel in this marvellous enigma. Jean, a farmer and inn-keeper in the province of Gévaudan, and his son Jean-Antoine, have come under suspicion because when both of them were imprisoned for a period  because of their aggressive attitude to two of Francois Antoine’s gamekeepers, the number of attacks by the monster diminished noticeably.

chastel 2 ccccccc
It has therefore been put forward that la Bèstia was the result of Jean’s crossing either his own or his son’s red-coloured mastiff with a wolf, and then subsequently training it to kill. Almost all the evidence is perforce circumstantial, but much of it is quite compelling.
The creature may have been, therefore, a particularly  aggressive hybrid, which Jean-Antoine Chastel trained to have no fear of human beings, but instead to attack and to kill them. Witnesses have said that if its attacks were met with strong resistance, la Bèstia would retreat fifty yards or so, then sit and wait, as if sizing up the situation, before finally returning to the fray. This has been  taken to be the behaviour of a trained animal, unafraid of its opponent, rather than a wild one, whose natural instinct in an equal contest would have been to save itself by fleeing. Furthermore, witnesses thought that la Bèstia was driven not by hunger but by its own fury and an innate aggressiveness. It could also be more agile and jump much higher than a normal dog.
According to hunters in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, crosses between dogs and wolves were invariably very varied in appearance with dark or light tinges, sometimes marked with yellow or white or striped a little like a zebra. This, of course, agrees with many of the eye witness descriptions of la Bèstia.
Here are some pictures of mastiffs, although it is very difficult to know exactly what they looked like two and a half centuries ago. Nowadays, they simply don’t look particularly fierce….

 

Here is an English Mastiff around 1700.
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If we are going down the road of wolf-dog hybrids, then I was quite attracted to a long extinct breed of German bulldog, or Bullenbeisser…

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On the other hand, others have said that no successful interbreeding of a Mastiff, or Mastiff type dog, has ever been successfully carried out with a wolf, even though such a hybrid might explain the colours noted by many witnesses.
From the summer 1764 to its death in 1767, la Bèstia wandered over vast distances in almost no time whatsoever. Perhaps the two Chastel were conveying their creature around the province by some artificial means…an explanation of the high frequency of attacks spread over a not inconsiderable area.
On many occasions, people reported the apparent invulnerability of the creature when either stabbed or shot at. It has been suggested that it was wearing some kind of body armour made from the skin of a wild boar. Many witnesses told of the creature being shot several times by experienced hunters, and not being affected by it. Other witnesses spoke of its entrails hanging down after it was stabbed. Could this have been the strapping for some kind of home made armour?
When it was killed, la Bèstia died in the parish of La Besseyre Saint Mary, where Jean Chastel and his son lived. Perhaps they felt that they were about to be discovered, so they shot the creature and then manufactured a tale of heroism and religious devotion to snatch a glorious propaganda victory from the jaws of ignominious discovery and defeat.
As to why the two Chastel would want to kill so many of the people in the area where they lived, that remains a matter of pure guesswork. Certainly, Jean Chastel was supposed to have been an unpopular loner, and given his previous record of various episodes of fairly serious criminal behaviour, he may well have been a man who the locals disliked and feared in equal measure.
Perhaps les Chastel, père et fils were rejected and hated by local women and children, and then took their massive revenge on them, like those American teenagers who return to their High School and kill everybody they can. Perhaps they were sexual psychopaths who enjoyed killing and eating women and little girls.

One further detail which may be of significance is that the loud, belligerent and generally anti-social behaviour of the father, Jean Chastel, seems to have changed profoundly from May 16th 1767 onwards. On this date, in the village of Septols, Marie Denty was attacked in a little lane near her house, right under the eyes of her parents, and killed, just before her twelfth birthday. Supposedly, she and Jean Chastel were very close friends and he doted on her like the grand-daughter he never had. Now he was “fou de douleur”, “mad with grief”, and seemed about to lose his sanity. Perhaps, les Chastel and their appalling pet had killed by mistake. Certainly, his ne’er-do-well son, Antoine, seemed suddenly to be released from an evil spell, and he turned straightway to God. Jean spent his time in pure pursuits such as prayer, confession and penitence. For his redemption to be complete, he and he alone had to be the man who finally killed la Bèstia. According to which sources you believe, in best werewolf killer tradition, he made some silver bullets. Or perhaps, he made them from molten lead which had had a statue of the Virgin Mary dipped into it. Or perhaps he made them from the medals of the Virgin Mary which he wore on his hat. Whatever the case, he certainly had them blessed at a religious ceremony.

The manner in which he killed the creature is extremely suspicious, and could very easily be interpreted as a tale told merely to satisfy contemporary religious feelings, and to exonerate a man who is not bravely hunting down a ferocious killer beast, but who is, instead, shooting it through the head in its kennel before the locals find out it is actually his beloved pet, and then string him up from the nearest tree. The following account I have translated from the French Wikipédia

“On June 19th, the Marquis d’Apcher decides to organise a beat around Mont Mouchet in the wood of la Ténazeire. He is accompanied by a few neighbours as volunteers including Jean Chastel reputed to be an excellent hunter. The latter finds himself at a place called la Sogne d’Auvers,  a crossroads where he sees the animal go past. Chastel fires at it, and manages to wound on the shoulder. Quickly the marquis’ dogs arrive to finish off the beast.”
“As regards this rifle shot, Legend has preserved the romanticised words of the priest Pierre Pourcher which he used to say came from tale told by his family, “When the beast came along, Chastel was saying prayers to the Holy Virgin. He recognised it straightaway, but through a feeling of piety and confidence in the Mother of God, he wanted to finish his prayers. Afterwards, he closes his prayerbook, folds his glasses up, puts them in his pocket and takes his rifle. In an instant he kills the beast which had been waiting for him.”

“A week after the destruction of the beast by Jean Chastel,on June 25th, a female wolf which according to several witness accounts used to accompany the beast itself was killed by Sir Jean Terrisse, one of the hunters His Grace de la Tour d’Auvergne.  He received £78 as a reward.”

Perhaps they were acting on behalf of somebody else. The usual favourite is Jean-François-Charles de La Molette, the Count of Morangiès. He may have wanted to destabilise the area, so that he could take over when the revolution inevitably came.  There were others. The Church wanted to teach the King and the members of the  intelligentsia of the time that free thinking is frowned uon by God….

“Return to the Ways of the Lord or face the Hound of Hell”

As I said before, basically, you pay your euros, and you take your choice.

I had just finished my investigations about la Bèstia de Gévaudan, and had made up my own mind that all the devastation could be attributed, without necessarily knowing the real motivation behind it, to Jean Chastel and his son Antoine.
And then I bought “Real Wolfmen: True Encounters in Modern America” by Linda S. Godfrey. I was enjoying reading this interesting and innovative book, when I stumbled upon page 93 which was about the Wampus Cat of Ariton in Alabama.

“The man who wrote me was disturbed by unidentifiable animal sounds while camping on his ten acres on the Pea River near Ariton, which lies about half an hour’s drive south of the picturesquely named town of Smut Eye. His normally rambunctious standard poodle refused to leave the safety of his trailer that afternoon, and the man was having a cup of tea at about 5.00 p.m. when he heard loud rustling sounds coming from outside the camper.”
“As he peered out the camper window he noticed a large black furred animal with a doglike face surveying his campsite on all fours. It was bigger than his standard poodle and, he said, “Looks like a cross between an ugly collie and an even uglier lab.” Weirdly, it sported a white chest.”
“The creature ambled nonchalantly through the camp and when it jumped over a fallen tree, the man saw that it had a long, sinuous tail like that of a cougar. He reported the creature to the area game warden who said that while she didn’t know what it was, others have reported seeing it, too!”

You can pursue this interesting hunt for truth a lot further if you have any knowledge of French. There are three exceptionally good videos about la Bèstia which can be found on a tourist website for the Auvergne region. They are well worth your time, and seem to portray this most baffling of stories in a fairly reasonable and sensible way. Un, deux et trois.
If you want to see even more videos about la Bèstia, then go to this website which is the French equivalent of “Youtube”. If you search for “la Bête du Gévaudan”, you will find a huge number of films, varying from 15 or 20 seconds long to an hour or more. On the first page, there are eighteen different videos, a further eighteen on the second page, and any number of pages after that.

Bonne chance! And don’t be put off by having to practice your French!

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