What was the mysterious Beast of Gevaudan?

An eighteenth-century drawing that depicted the beast, based on eyewitness accounts.

There are those who claimed it even had supernatural powers.

In Eighteenth-Century France, a bête noir was dispatching peasants in a very unpleasant manner.  Actually, the beast was not that picky about the social standing of his prey—it operated on opportunity and would attack anyone alone.  

The problem known as The Beast may have been active in many areas of France, or there may have been more than one horrid creature.  Those who caught a glimpse of it, or heard eyewitness accounts of the menace, sometimes transferred their impressions to drawing-paper or canvas. 

This is how we can get an idea of what those people were dealing with.  Some were convinced that the beast was a mutant giant wolf or a hybrid wolf that bred with a larger creature.  It was similar to a wolf but much larger.  There are those who claimed it even had supernatural powers.

A few images seem to be that of a lion.  How could that be possible?  It seems that traveling circuses and fairs with exotic animals were becoming all the rage in France.  Possibly a lion had escaped from its cage or captors.  They were afraid to mention the escape after it went on a killing spree fearing culpability and punishment.  

Because of all these bizarre and gory wolf events, books with tales of werewolves had a huge surge in popularity, and circumstances surrounding ridding the country of The Beast may be where the idea of killing werewolves with a silver bullet came about.

The Beast of Gevaudan terrorized French citizens from 1764-1767.   Gevaudan was in Southern France and is now known as Lozere.  The tales were no doubt embellished, but there is no mistake that it killed over 100 people and injured at least 300. 

The victims were attacked mostly in 1764, and many had their throats torn out—it often gnawed on the heads of its victims.  Who among them could put an end to the reign of terror?  Even the occupants of the Palace of Versailles wished to find an immediate remedy.

The news, via the burgeoning press, was being spread throughout the country.   Newspapers also reported remarkable tales of bravery.  Several had escaped The Beast and lived to tell about it.  Others had fought back, were injured, and escaped.

Beast attacks seemed to temporarily unify a disarrayed country.  Huge rewards were offered for killing the beast.  An infantry of 30,000 men set about to rid the country of the evil creature that often dragged its victims off for the kill.

A farmer named Jean Chastel was the man who claimed to finally do the job.  He is said to have shot it with bullets he had forged from silver.

It is estimated that from the 16th  Century to the 19th Century in France, 9,000 people were killed by common-variety wolves, alone.  No one has ever determined exactly what kind of an animal The Beast was. 

The Beast of Gevaudan is still a big mystery.

Sara Marie Hogg is the author of It Rises from the Pee Dee. Please click HERE to find the novel on Amazon.

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