Tag Archives: sheep

The Beast of the Vosges

The Beast of the Vosges is a fairly recent monster to rampage through the French countryside and it has a very different flavour from the Beast of Gévaudan, the Beast of the Cevennes, the Beast of Trucy or the Beast of Sarlat. Its victims, for example, were not human beings but rather livestock, much like the modern monsters of the USA such as the Grassman of Perry County, Ohio or the Devil Dog of Logan County, West  Virginia.

And there were more than just one Beasts of the Vosges. The first struck between 1975-1977 and the second reared his enraged, ugly head from 1994-1995.  And then a third Beast appeared as recently as 2011.

But first, some geography. The Vosges are in the east of France:

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They are mountains which are much lower than the Alps and they do not have the same snow capped peaks. They are more rounded, with conifers and moorland:

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While not a top tourist destination, the Vosges are famous for their savoury cuisine and their beers, both of which look towards Germany and the east for inspiration.

For the Beast, once again, I will look at a number of French cryptozoological websites and you can take your own average between them. “Vampire Dark News” says:

“The “Beast of the Vosges” is one of the favourite topics of discussion for residents of the local cafés. Everyone remembers the ravages of this strange creature from 1977 to 1988.(these dates differ from other sources).  It killed more than 300 animals, between Epinal and Bresse (an area of over 150 square kilometres).  Poultry houses were attacked, horses were injured, at least 200 sheep were slaughtered … but there were no attacks against human beings.

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The animal would disappear only to reappear later and begin its misdeeds all over again. Was it a wolf?  A rabid dog?  Several stray dogs?  An animal trained to kill?  The mystery was never solved because nobody ever managed to get a really good look at the beast, neither hunters nor the police nor the military despite 26 hunts being  organized to kill it.  The Beast was able to avoid all the ambushes and all the traps.  Shot at several times from fairly closely range, the animal was never wounded or identified. The only conclusion was that it was some sort of canid.  And because of this, stray dogs were killed everywhere.

And then in 1994, a she-wolf that attacked flocks of sheep was saddled with the nickname of the “Beast of the Vosges”.

1994

It was filmed by an amateur and was active for several months before being found dead in 1995. Protected by a Decree of the Ministry of the Environment, the protected animal could not be hunted, at least officially.  But who buried the remains which were found in early 1995?

The name of the Beast of the Vosges was later given to a type of lager produced in the Vosges area.”

(My own translation)

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Wikipedia adds a few more details:

In December 1975, at Rambervillers, forest workers noticed footprints of a carnivore that they could not identify. In March 1976 , in Domèvre-sur-Durbion, seven cattle and a number of sheep were found slaughtered.  A few days later, cattle were the victims at Moriville and sheep at Hadigny-les-Verrières.  They accused the Beast of attacks on poultry sheds, of  injuring horses and of slaughtering at least two hundred sheep. No attack though was made against human beings  After a final attack on sheep on June 2, 1976 , nothing more was heard of the animal.
A few years later, in 1994 , a female wolf was given the nickname of the “Beast of the Vosges”.  For several months it maintained its attacks on  flocks of sheep, before its remains were found on May 19th 1995 .
In 2011, after an absence of some 17 years, the Beast again attacked flocks of sheep in the Vosges in the village of Ventron; forty sheep were found dead in less than a month.”

(My own translation)

Another well known cryptozoological website adds some extra, more scandalous suggestions :

“It all begins with a report on February 6th 1977 when Lucien Baret, a Federal Guard, is the witness as the beast stalks a roe deer in the woods at Rambervillier. It is some kind of enormous wolf-dog which hunts in the open without making the least noise. And then in less than ten months, not far short of 62 sheep, two lambs and a bullock weighing 300 kg have their throats cut out, and more than a dozen cattle are attacked.

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What seemed at first sight to be a mere footnote in a newspaper, just mentioning  feral dogs, now becomes transformed into an affair with a monster where everybody has their very own something to contribute. First of all the talk is of a wolf or a dog or a lynx. And then suspicion turns to human beings. Fingers are pointed at certain people, but the favourite is Herr Reinartz, the owner of a vast estate which partially covers sections of a more ancient hunting ground, the most frequently hunted area in the region. Furthermore this German industrialist is not particularly lucky because he has a name very like that of a Nazi colonel, Colonel Reinardt, who committed atrocities in the region during the Second World War, only thirty years previously. This is a similarity which fans the flames of old hatreds. Present day Monsieur Reinartz fears for his life. Has he imported a couple of wolves to guard his estate, but then they have escaped, as certain people claim? Certainly not. A wolf only attacks in certain conditions and these were not fulfilled here. The estate of Monsieur Reinartz being a hunting ground, the wolves would have had more than enough to eat without having to go beyond their enclosures in search of what they already had in their cage. A large cage covering several hectares but a cage nevertheless.
And against all expectations, the press goes wild. The German industrialist is attacked. Abuse is heaped upon him. He is insulted on the front page of certain newspapers. The affair goes to court. Had he been of another nationality, things would probably not have degenerated in this way. None of this, though, stopped flocks of sheep being ripped to pieces by the teeth of the beast:

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And then one day, roughly one year later,  everything just stops. No more massacres, no more animals to put out of their misery in the first light of morning. As mysteriously as it appeared, the Beast of the Vosges disappears. It flies away. All of this, of course, without anybody really understanding at all why. But after its disappearance, the Beast leaves lots of unanswered questions, and even 32 years later, tongues will not be loosened. There are a few clues perhaps, and doubtless some details are completely true, but the people who know, or who think they know, just add to the legend. One can well imagine what will have been written about this Beast in 210 years’ time when other people look at this business, in exactly the same way that we nowadays look back at the Beast of Gévaudan. How many arguments there will be in future generations between all the different viewpoints !
It is impossible not to see in this business numerous similarities with the Beast of Gévaudan. The same black magic seems to protect the animal which escapes through the fingers of the hunters on every single occasion . Beats are organised, but with only the same effectiveness of those of Duhamel in 1765, despite the fact they are now carried out with methods which the eighteenth century could not possibly have imagined. One day the Beast of the Vosges manages to escape its pursuers because one of the hunters is not at his post. A strange reminder of the indignation felt by the noblemen at Malzieu in 1765 when the Beast of Gévaudan was similarly allowed  to escape its pursuers because a guard was not in the correct place. And as one thing leads to another, people realise that this affair is not, in actual fact, very different from that of the Beast of Gévaudan. There are no human victims to pity, of course, but the chain of events is a mechanism which remains essentially the same for both affairs: first of all, people want to put things into perspective: it’s just a wolf. Everything will soon be taken care of. Then, as the Beast evades beats, traps and poisons, it becomes a tool of vengeance. In the Gévaudan of the eighteenth century the Bishop of Choiseul Beaupré sees the Beast as the avenging arm of God. In 1977, in the Vosges, it soon turns into a dog, radio controlled from some distance. But nobody will say a word about it. Nobody?”

 (My own translation)

This same website, and many others, contain the only three known photographs of the Beast of the Vosges. They prove it, apparently, to have been a canid of some sort, but not definitely a wolf. The account concludes with:

“always this question comes to everyone’s lips: the Beast, what was it? I asked Daniel Jumentier, who was present when the photos were taken, and he himself saw the Beast from afar

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The animal was probably a wolf dog cross, first or second generation, weighing at least sixty pounds.

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It was released to attack herds and flocks to hurt their owners.  Vengance between men, but through the intermediary of animals.  We can see two periods in the attacks: at first the Beast is confined to attacks on the plain, but then goes beyond La Bresse (a mountainous area) where it then goes wild. According to Daniel, one reason for this fit of madness: the loss of its master.”

And of course, unless somebody suddenly decides to speak up and reveal some hitherto hidden secret about this creature, we have reached the end of our investigation. Here some films to keep you going. The ancient ones date back as far as 1977, when Mankind’s existence was only occasionally slipping into colour:

And here is the second:

And this one shows that even a third comeback is not necessarily excessive:

There will be no more Beasts of the Vosges though. The Grey Wolf has now officially returned to the Vosges Mountains, thanks to the conservation efforts of a number of countries in the European Union, including Spain, Italy and Germany. Indeed, the Beast in 2011 was most probably one of the first two wolves who arrived in the Vosges that very year.  “Smile, you’re on Trailcam!”:

ATTAQUE DE LOUP

 

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by | June 10, 2015 · 2:15 pm

The Beast of Gévaudan: a real monster

Last week I watched my heroes, the six Hillbilly Hunters, chase vainly after the Hell Hound of Pike County, Kentucky. As a European, though, I could not possibly be unaware of this fearsome creatures’s striking similarity to the so-called “Beast of Gévaudan”, or, in Occitan, the language spoken by the ordinary people in this area of France at the time, “La Bèstia de Gavaudan”.
Whichever language is used, this is the historical name given to the creature which ravaged an area of up to 300 square miles in the province of Gévaudan, in the Margeride Mountains in south central France.
250px-Lozère-Position_svgIn those distant days, between May 1764 and June 1767, this entire area was completely agricultural, and it was common practice once winter ended, to send the herds of cattle or flocks of sheep up into the spring and summer pastures in the high mountains. In an era long before mass communication, news was slow to emerge from the region of an epidemic of killings by an unknown but huge creature. This animal preyed for the most part, usually in broad daylight, on the young boys and girls who were sent up into the mountains for months on end to look after their father’s animals. Sometimes its prey was the women who lived in lonely cottages and tiny villages, often as they tended their animals or gathered crops in open fields. These three categories constituted, of course, the easiest of targets. They were made even easier by years of failed harvests and famine during the period preceding the first appearance of La Bèstia. Indeed, during the many huge beats which were to be organised during the following months, a whole succession of high ranking officials from Paris were all astonished to see the peasants who were taking part, fainting and  falling over, passing out from malnutrition and the physical effort involved in walking for any distance across fields or through woods.

The creature, for the most part, ignored men, and likewise cattle, sheep and goats. After the kill it would disappear into the dense patches of forest scattered across the granite plateaux and grass covered hills.
The number of victims differs according to sources. One study estimated there were 210 attacks, with 113 deaths and 49 injuries. Nearly a hundred of the victims killed were partly eaten. However, other sources put the number of fatalities at between sixty and a hundred, mostly defenceless children, or perhaps adult women, with more than thirty victims injured. Attempts have been made to compile full lists of his victims’ names. Click on “Attacks” on the left hand side of the webpage.

Here are some contemporary illustrations of the creature, nearly all of which depict girls or young women as the victims.

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According to those who saw the attacks, the monster had formidable teeth and an immense tail. In general, La Bèstia resembled a wolf but it was huge, between a calf and a horse in size. Overall, its fur was said to be unusual in colouration, mostly red, but its back was streaked with black. It had a large doglike head, a snout like a wolf and a mouthful of large teeth. Its small straight ears lay close to its head, and it had a strong neck and a wide chest. The tail was immensely long, and somewhat like that of a panther. People who were struck by the tail said that it was a blow of considerable force. One or two witnesses said La Bèstia had cloven hooves, or that the end of its four limbs was tipped with a hoof. Others said the claws were so heavy that they merely resembled hooves.
Here is one early depiction of the creature. The text at the top of the illustration below means…

“This is the figure of the Monster which is ravaging Gévaudan. This animal is of the size of a young bull. It attacks by preference women and children. It drinks their blood, cuts off their head, and takes it away. £2,700 is promised to whoever kills this animal.”

(My own translation)

-Figure_du_monstre_qui_désole_le_Gevaudan

This is an entry in an unknown parish record…

another burial
« L’an 1764 et le 1er juillet, a été enterrée, Jeane Boulet, sans sacremens, ayant été tuée par la bette féroce, présans Joseph Vigier et Jean Reboul. »
“In the Year 1764, on the first of July, was buried, Jeane Boulet, without the Last Sacraments, having been killed by the ferocious beast, present Joseph Vigier et Jean Reboul.”

(My own translation)

My knowledge of Old French is limited, and I do not know whether the spellings are correct for 1764, or whether the priest was writing the words as he would have said them. They would certainly not be correct by modern standards of orthography.
Here is a legal document taken from the parish records in the village of Rocles, with the graphic description of the death of a little girl called Magdeleine Mauras, a victim of the Beast of Gévaudan…

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“On the 30th day of the month of September in the Year 1764, Magdeleine Mauras was buried, the daughter of the late Jean and Pagès from Pierrefiche. She was about 12 years old and staying with her uncle John Baptiste Mauras from a place called Thorts in this parish. Her body was found on the 29th day of the month, gnawed on the neck and the breast by the ferocious beast which has been ravaging through this diocese for five months. It ripped her throat out when she was coming back to herd her uncle’s cattle homeward at 4.30 in the evening.”

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“The rest of her body, which was lacking an arm, ripped off and consumed by the said beast, was laid in the cemetery of this parish of Rocles in the tomb of the ancestors of her father. Present at this were Jean TF, Jean, Jean-Pierre Bouet and Pierre Martin, the son of the late Antoine, from the place called Thorts, all of them illiterate.
I made these enquiries, the Priest at Aubignac.”

  (My own translation)

At least one grave of a victim remains…

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The French means

“Here was devoured by the Beast Carobal Gayon, June 13th 1765”

He must have been one of the very few adult male victims.
The horrific method of killing victims by ripping their throats out was frequently used by the Beast. Not surprisingly, the government eventually undertook to rid the area of this ferocious creature.

One of the first to try his luck, in October 1764, was Captain Duhamel and his dragoons from Clermont. They did not have an enormous amount of success, and the dragoons themselves were extremely unpopular with the people of the region, as they frequently damaged their crops, and refused to pay for their lodging when billeted with local families. Duhamel was supposedly responsible for this picture of La Bèstia…

Gevaudanwolf xxxxxxDuhamel’s written description said that the monster had the chest of a leopard, the legs and feet of a bear and the ears of a wolf. He thought the animal was some kind of hybrid, but considered that its father was a lion. He did not know what the mother had been. He, like d’Enneval and his son, who were to succeed him in March 1765, refused to believe that it was just an ordinary wolf.

It was January 12, 1765, when twelve year old Jacques Portefaix and his little group of seven friends were attacked by La Bèstia. After several assaults, they drove off the monster by staying grouped together. The encounter came to the attention of King Louis XV who gave rewards to all of these gallant young men. including Jacques Portefaix who was given enough for his education. The King then decreed that the French state would help find and kill the monster.

At this time, of course, the population of France believed that Louis was king by Divine Right. In other words, he was directly appointed by God. Clearly, if Louis could not protect his people from the ravages of an animal that was initially supposed to be merely a large wolf, then questions would certainly be asked about his suitability to rule the country in the face of what might easily be called a punishment sent from God.

Three weeks later, therefore, a concerned King sent two professional wolf-hunters, Jean Charles Marc Antoine Vaumesle d’Enneval and his son Jean-François, to Gévaudan. They arrived on February 17, 1765, bringing eight bloodhounds trained to hunt wolves. Over the next four months father and son hunted wolves believing that eventually they would surely kill the beast. The attacks, however, continued and they were eventually to lose their jobs. D’Enneval père had previously been considered “l’un des meilleurs chasseurs de loups qui ait jamais existé“, “one of the finest wolf hunters who had ever existed”. He had killed some 1,200 wolves in his lifetime, the majority of which, amazingly by today’s standards, were in the  Normandy region. His final departing judgement, though, was that, whatever La Bèstia was, it was no wolf.

On June 22 1765, therefore, Monsieur Antoine de Beauterne, the king’s arquebus bearer and Lieutenant of the Hunt arrived. They began immediately to organise beats by the local people, and set about the same policy of killing as many wolves as they possibly could,  in the hope that one of them would turn out to be La Bèstia.


On September 20, 1765, Monsieur Antoine, as he was universally now known, killed his third and largest wolf measuring 31 inches high at the shoulder, 5 feet 7 inches long, and weighing 130 pounds. The wolf was named Wolf of Chazes after the nearby Abbey of Chazes. Strangely, though, this shooting did not take place where the Beast had ever killed anybody, and indeed, it had never been seen there previously.
Antoine_de_Beauterne

Monsieur Antoine  stated officially:

“We never saw a big wolf that could be compared to this one. This could be the fearsome beast that has caused so much damage.”

The animal was identified as the culprit by attack survivors who recognised the scars on its body inflicted by victims defending themselves. The wolf was stuffed and sent to Paris where Monsieur Antoine was received as a hero, receiving a large sum of money as well as titles and awards.
wolf of hunter 1
And then, OH NO!! Very soon, and certainly from the month of November onwards, there were rumours of fresh attacks. They continued throughout the whole of 1766, and then twelve year old Marie Denty was attacked and devoured  on May 16th 1767.
On June 19th, 1767, a hunt was organized by a well intentioned local nobleman, the Marquis d’Apcher,
JeanJosephd'Apchier
The supposed second beast was duly killed by a local hunter named Jean Chastel. The death of this creature seems finally to have marked the end of these appalling attacks in this benighted region of France.

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Writers later introduced the idea that Chastel had shot the creature with blessed silver bullets of his own manufacture. This was probably so that it would fit in more exactly with the largely twentieth century tales told about werewolves, particularly in the cinema.

Upon being opened, the animal’s stomach was shown to contain human remains. Like the first creature, this second wolf was sent to Paris, but, because it had decomposed so badly and was extremely smelly, nobody was particularly interested. Even so, what seems a very thorough autopsy was carried out by the King’s Notary, Roch Étienne Marin.

One television programme, Australia’s “Animal X”, stated that this picture shows, according to Chastel himself, the animal that he shot.

drawn chastel

Jean Chastel is nowadays commemorated as the saviour of the region. His signature is preserved, and so is his rifle…


His house is prominently labelled…

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The French means

“In the country of the Beast of Gévaudan  Here lived Jean Chastel who killed the beast on June 19th 1767. ”

He has a statue…

chastel 2
There are, as you might expect, any number of explanations of the identity of the Beast of Gévaudan. I will look at as many of these as I can in another blogpost.
One thing, however, remains indisputably true: La Bête du Gévaudan  was only too real, and terrified thousands of people for a good three years.
Nowadays, La Bèstia is much more in favour. He has numerous statues dedicated to him…

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He has his very own website
He also can be googled, and any number of sites put forward their own interpretation of events.
Un, deux, trois, quatre, cinq, six, sept, huit, neuf, dix, onze

If you can read French, the best website is the French version of Wikipedia, “numéro sept”

The Beast is on Youtube.

 

 

He is also on Twitter  and on Facebook where, hopefully, he no longer eats his friends.

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