Tag Archives: loup garou

Werewolves in Yorkshire: Ee bah gum !

I have written a good deal, some would say too much, about the monsters which terrorized France between 1500 and the end of the nineteenth century. The most conservative zoologists say that the so-called monsters were just wolves behaving badly. Other more daring individuals say they were cave hyenas or dire wolves or waheelas or whatever:

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I personally think that they were some kind of Superwolf which was like generally pretty much like an ordinary wolf in appearance, but with enough differences in behaviour to stand out from the rest. Just enough for the French peasant of 1764-1767 to think to himself, “C’était comme un loup, mais ce n’était pas un loup.”
What I have never imagined as the solution to this blood spattered conundrum is the werewolf. In French, it is the Loup-garou:

werewolf

The Americans in those areas of the USA which have a French heritage call it the Rougarou, rather as if somebody in 1700 had slightly misheard the word. Given that the Rougarou allegedly lives in the bayou and perhaps makes a “Wooo-hooo” call, I have always been somewhat surprised that no aspiring songwriter has ever taken up this subject.

werewolf attack
Nobody, though, would expect there to be any claims of werewolves, Loup-garou or Rougaroux in England, but, of course, there have been. I visited a forum recently, and they mentioned not one, but several.

werewolf_van_helsing_zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz
In two cases, back in the day, they were unknown creatures that attacked livestock and left a trail of blood and gore. That could have been anything, of course, perhaps even the first Alien Big Cats in the country but much more likely to have been just feral dogs, which regularly kill both people and livestock in far larger numbers than either wolves or werewolves:

feral
There was mention of a genuine werewolf near Ripon, Yorkshire, in the 1920s and then another in Edale, Lancashire, in 1925. It was described by the forum contributor, Jerry_B as “some large animal…tearing sheep to bits”. Sounds like it’s back to those feral dogs to me.
A bloodsucking equivalent of these two werewolves, allegedly, was the monster “on the prowl in 1905, at Badminton (Gloucester)”.
All of these seem extremely far-fetched in my humble opinion, but there is one interesting English werewolf tale which features very widely on the Internet.  For me though, it is a superb example of putting a couple of interesting facts together, and then using them to come to a fairly ridiculous conclusion. After that, everybody is more than happy to view this iffy conclusion as completely sensible and to consider it henceforth as hard fact. No need to bother about questioning the reasoning process. If you still don’t understand what I’m getting at, then treat yourself to the finest example I know of, namely any episode whatsoever in the “Ancient Aliens” TV series.

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First of all, though, for the sake of argument, I am willing to accept the supposition, for the moment, that wolves in England, centuries ago, were capable of behaviour that, nowadays, would be dismissed as being highly unlikely. That behaviour, of course, would be to treat human beings as a prey item and to attack them as a matter of ordinary routine:

621166__the-wolf-pack_p

Whatever you may think about that as a supposition, the author, John Harries, in his book “A Ghost Hunter’s Road Book”, states that things were so bad in Saxon times that, presumably at the behest of King Aethelstan:

“ about the year 940 AD  a hostel was built in the village of Flixton to shelter wayfarers in wintertime from attacks by wolves. At that period packs of the animals were not uncommon in the north of the country, and they were regarded with particular loathing because in times of severe weather they scavenged in graveyards.”

That statement is by no means outrageous, although it would be nice to know where the story originally came from. After all, there cannot be too many sources available to be cited when it comes to events more than a thousand years ago in 940 AD.
What tips it over the edge, though, is the next piece of rather iffy logic:

“Their cunning in discovering unprotected cattle, their boldness in attacking travellers, and their habit of suddenly descending in large numbers on an area where they had previously been unknown, all helped to give rise to the belief that the animals were not ordinary wolves but human beings who adopted a travesty of wolf shape by night.”

Wolves capable of finding “unprotected cattle”? How unusual! How unprecedented! I’m sure that has never happened in the northern states of the USA.

“Descending in large numbers” to a source of easy food? How extraordinary for a pack predator to be any good at doing that!

wolf bounding

The wolf is one of the most widespread and successful predators on the planet. So why do we need to explain his achievements as the work of werewolves? And not even ordinary werewolves at that…

“Their nocturnal exploits were supposed to be organised by a wizard whose innocent appearance enabled him to gather information about cattle, sheep and human wayfarers in taverns and market places.”

Look out! There’s a wizard about!! Careless talk costs lives!!

Flixton, by the way, is in Yorkshire, in the north of England, near Scarborough. Look for the orange arrow:

small scale

Here is a more detailed map:

large scale

Further details about the Flixton Werewolf were that he has glowing red eyes and a particularly bad body odour. (Don’t say it!) Reports supposedly began all over again in 1150, although by now he had grown a very long tail. In 1800 a stagecoach making its way to York was supposedly attacked by an apparent werewolf. In 1970, the Flixton Werewolf made an unsuccessful attempt at attacking a long distance lorry. Easy prey, of course:

Volvo_FH12

All these additional details, and a succession of precise dates, all help to give the story of a werewolf in Yorkshire veracity and credence, of course.

I was able to find mention on the Internet of just a two other werewolves in England, both of them in Devon (in the Valley of the Rocks in Lynton and the Valley of the Doones on Exmoor). On the latter occasion, a Victorian lady walking home in the dark saw a grey man with a wolf’s head, apparently stalking a large rabbit. The grey man disappeared when he was disturbed by a stag emerging suddenly from some nearby woodland.
Funnily enough, this apparently bizarre tale of the grey man with a wolf’s head sounds a lot more probable to me. If you have read my articles about Shuck and then the Wolfmen in the USA, you may recall that the almost cute behaviour of this grey man with a wolf’s head is much more typical of these cryptocanids:

michigan-dogman cccccccMuch more interesting than the Flixton Werewolf though, was the article I found by Nick Redfern about Wolfmen in the Cannock Chase German Cemetery. Nick’s approach is much more studied and cautious, and it is remarkable how close his “2+2” comes to equalling the “4” of Linda S.Godfrey in her description of such entities as the Beast of Bray Road and the Michigan Dogman. Reports mentioned by Nick include:

“Nick Duffy, of the West Midlands Ghost Club, reported that “The first person to contact us was a postman, who told us he had seen what he thought was a werewolf. He saw what he believed was a large dog, but when he got closer, the creature got on his hind legs and ran away.”

The next report was:

“A local scout-leader reported that: “It just looked like a huge dog. But when I slammed the door of my car it reared up on its back legs and ran into the trees. It must have been about six to seven feet tall.”

Both of these pieces of behaviour come much, much closer to the Dogmen and Werewolves of the USA. If you read Linda S.Godfrey, you will see that the majority of these monsters prefer not to attack but to run away:

book cover linda

Let’s finish with two things. Firstly a question. Why do you always have to shoot a werewolf with a silver bullet to kill it?

were lon

It’s because back in the days of muskets and similar hit-and-miss weapons, accuracy was way below today’s standards, as was killing power. One, albeit expensive, way to improve both was to discard the third rate bullets of the day, and make your own, rock hard, bullets from…you’ve guessed it! Silver.
And secondly I was unaware that when they were filming that classic tale “An American Werewolf In London”, the opening scenes on the Yorkshire moors were all filmed in Wales because “Yorkshire didn’t look Yorkshire enough”:

THE-GUYS

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Beast of Veyreau….another cannibal killer!

One more man eating monster to terrorise the local peasants of France was the “Bête de Veyreau”. At a time and in a place both relatively close to the Beast of Gevaudan, his bloodsoaked career peaked from 1799 onwards as he laid waste to an area of France called the “Causse Noir” or “Black Causse”. This beautiful countryside is situated more or less in the south of the Massif Central. Here is the old province of Rouergue, whose capital was Rodez:

rourgue

And this is a more detailed map, with a red square in the extreme east representing the village of Veyreau. The orange arrow refused to travel abroad:

map square

The province directly to the east of the green area is Gévaudan. The “Causse Noir” or “Black Causse” is dry, rugged and rocky.

1280px-Causse_Noir

There are many mountainous areas and some notable gorges such as the “Gorges de la Jonte”:

gorges de la jonte

Normally, the best approach for these French monsters is to take an average of the various French websites. In this case however, that is not really going to work, because, as far as I can see, more or less every account of this creature is virtually the same, and probably owes a great deal to Wikipedia:

“The Beast of Veyreau was a man eating animal which ravaged an area in the “Causse Noir” not too far from Gevaudan, from 1799 onwards.  This was an area where livestock were raised and is nowadays part of the Département of Aveyron. These attacks filled the inhabitants with such immense fear, and the Beast had so many “dozens of victims”, that the locals thought the Beast of Gévaudan had come to their region.”

I have been able to find one person who could expand a little on that:

“around the year 1799, there appeared in the country a beast which filled all the inhabitants with great fear. Its build was slimmer and more willowy than a wolf. Its way of walking had such agility that it was seen first in one place, but then four or five minutes later in a different place perhaps several miles away. And woe betide any child that might meet the creature. The Beast would carry them off and eat them , first the liver and then the limbs. In the space of six months this beast killed three victims including a boy of six whose limbs they found hidden in the earth in the Malbouche Ravine, in the very same place which was, people used to say, the haunt of the ogre.”

Mention of “The Ogre” will lead me neatly to another blogpost in the future, when this long series of familiar crazed creatures, blood soaked beasts, maniacal monsters, feral dogs, wolf-dog hybrids, wolves with attitude or whatever nasty four legged beast you can imagine, becomes just for a few hundred words, a two legged cannibal killer, with the supercool name of Jean Grin.

To get back to the story, this is the tiny village of Veyreau:

Veyreau_aerien1

The very best version of the story of the “Bête de Veyreau” comes from a website designed to “découvrir et aimer la Lozère”, in other words to “discover and love La Lozère”, which is one of the most beautiful and picturesque areas of the “Causse Noir”. The account of the Beast below is quoted directly from the parish records of the village of Veyreau, which were collected together in 1870 by the then parish priest, Père Casimir Fages. The road sign  below shows that two languages were/are spoken in this southern part of France. “Veirau” is the village name in Occitan. Try the Wikipedia website to read about this ancient language. You will find a really interesting use of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which has been translated into a number of widely spoken languages but then into a good number of others such as Occitan, Gascon, Provençal and half a dozen others. At the very least, it has a wonderful moving map which you can click to enlarge:

veyreau_entree_panneau

As was so often the case in old France, the parish priest was the only literate person in the immediate area, and it was for him to record the history of tiny villages such as Veyreau. Père Fages’ church is still there:

eglise-de-veyreau-e1380921126557

The hard work for this website has all been done by an extremely dedicated gentleman, Monsieur Bernard Soulier. Bernard is the President of the Association “In the country of the Beast of Gévaudan”, in French,  “Au pays de la Bête du Gévaudan”. This organisation is based in Auvers, a small village in the Haute Loire district.

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Here is Père Fages’ story:

“Around the year 1799, there appeared in the country, especially around the village of Paliès, a beast that filled all the people immense fear; its size was slimmer than a wolf ; Its way of walking had such agility that it was seen in one place, and four or five minutes later it was seen in another place perhaps a league away. It had the head and muzzle of a large greyhound ; it used to come into villages in broad daylight, and woe betide any child that might meet the creature, the Beast would carry them off and eat them, first the liver and then the limbs. One summer’s day, the Beast appeared at Paliès. Children spied it from a long distance away and ran to take refuge in a tree close to a house on the northern side of the village; faster than lightning, the Beast seized one of the children, who was already two metres off the ground and carried him off into Madasse Wood. Men shearing the sheep of a local farmer, including the father of the unfortunate child, ran at top speed to the place where the Beast had gone. The noise that they made caused the Beast to abandon the little boy who was found shaking on the ground with his insides ripped out! Seeing his father looking for him, he did, however, have the strength, to shout “I’m here”, but he died a few moments later. This child aged six, was called Pierre-Jean Mauri; in the register Monsieur Arnal who carried out the baptism ceremonies in 1794 when the child was fifteen months old, has added to the margin of that register, “Devoured by the ferocious Beast”.
Fifteen days later, the Beast took a child from the farm of Graille at Rougerie. In company with his older brother, he was keeping watch over the cattle close to the natural spring of St. Martin; the elder brother tried hard to help his brother, but when the beast stood up on its hind legs, he was so frightened that he fled and went for help at Veyreau ; it was a Sunday, a large crowd came to help, and searching the Malbouche property, they found the remains of limbs that the Beast had hidden in the earth. This same beast also seized a little girl named Julien who lived in Bourjoie ; her father was busy knocking nuts down from the trees; the small children were close to the tree, and the Beast, in full view of the father, seized the little girl; the father set off after her, but he could not catch her up, and a few days later, she was found buried in the undergrowth; her liver had been eaten.
These different characteristics of the Beast filled the people of Veyreau and St André with justified fear; several people saw the Beast which accompanied them, gambolling along, jumping about, but not daring to attack adults; One day in bright sunshine, the Beast walked through the village of St André, and stopped outside the door of a weaver’s house; they took it for a dog, and at the very moment when they were going to stroke it, it disappeared in  a flash. Monsieur Gaillard, the parish priest of St André, with whom I have discussed this extraordinary animal, assured me that he had heard it one evening in a small field below the duck pond, emitting howls like the braying of a donkey, something which was confirmed by several other people:

howl

All the local poachers met to hunt the creature, but when they encountered the Beast, they said that sometimes, especially when it was being shot at, the creature rolled around on the ground but then disappeared with enormous speed. The people who were children during this era, agree how great was the terror that it produced throughout the whole region of the “Black Causse”. Never attacking men or animals, because we had seen it pass through the middle of herds of cattle and flocks of sheep without doing them any harm, the Beast targeted only children. In the course of this year, from June to December, two boys and a girl were the sad victims of its ferocity; nobody dared walk outside on their own at night, and by day everyone carried a halberd at the end of a stick to defend themselves, in case they met the creature:

halberd

What was this Beast? It could not be classified as one of the known animals in the area; Monsieur Caussignac claimed that it was a hyena; Monsieur Gaillard, the village priest of St. André, thought it was a lynx, and the common people gave it the name of “Werewolf”, in French “Loup garou”:

loup-garou-1
After some six months or a year, the creature disappeared without anybody knowing what had happened to it. About the same time, a similar beast was seen in the Sanvero woods near the village of Cornus in the Aveyron province; it almost managed eat a little girl that I was to know twenty-five years later; she was near her home in the village of Labadie, in the parish of St Rome Berlières ; her brother, older than her, rushed to her defence and grabbed her from the creature, he dragged her into the house ; through the cracks  in the closed door they could see the Beast watching and waiting for some time for the prey which had escaped, only by the skin of her teeth. Indeed, a bite from the creature had taken a considerable piece of skin from her side; this scar was never to fade throughout the rest of her life:

werewolf
Whatever this animal was, its appearance had an enormous impact throughout the whole area of the Black Causse. Uneducated people saw in the Beast something supernatural, especially after all the upheavals and ordeals of the recent Revolution.”

And there you have it. Yet another wolf that seems to be not quite a wolf. At the moment, I am favouring the idea that up until about two hundred years or so ago, there was a second, much fiercer and larger species of wolf living in the remote and most mountainous areas of France, some prehistoric survivor that had lingered on until the nineteenth century in ever diminishing numbers, until, after tens of thousands of years, it finally became extinct. I cannot believe that the locals were incapable of recognising an ordinary wolf when they saw one. I cannot believe either that wolves were hybridising with dogs across the whole of France to produce killer hybrids. Wolves don’t have steamy affairs with dogs. They eat them!

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