Given the high number of animal attacks on humans in the past few weeks, it may be heartening to note that at one time there was an entire countryside completely paralyzed with fear over a pair of creatures terrorizing people every other day. The Beasts of Gevaudan, as they came known to be, had a three year reign of terror with a trail of blood left behind them.
On June first, in 1764, a woman first spotted one of the creatures eyeing her from the woods. As it approached her she began to flee, but the creature bounded toward her with ease, snarling with its massive teeth bared. Just as it was about to overtake her, the bulls from a nearby herd drove it away and the woman was saved. It would not be long, however, before the creature would come across another victim who would not be so lucky. On the 30th of that month, 14 year old Jeanne Boulet was killed by the creature near the village of Les Hubacs.
The monster had been terrorizing the area for quite some time at this point, earning itself a reputation as a desperate animal who would attack livestock and kill chickens and even cattle. While an attack on a human was not uncommon in the middle of the woods, the ferocity of the creature as well as its paranormal description soon earned it a reputation as a creature straight from the bowels of hell.
The creatures reportedly would suddenly appear out of nowhere with reddish fur, massive claws and teeth, and an odor like brimstone. No one knew where they had come from, but several feared they would be the death of the entire village as the bodies began to stack up. Soon the attacks were repelled by a group of six heroes, led by John Portefaix, who finally fought back, tired of the constant terrorizing by the monster. Though the group did not succeed in actually killing the monsters, King Louis the XV was so pleased upon hearing of their adventure that he awarded them a considerable cash settlement. Louis XV also employed the two most respected wolf hunters in the area, the long of name Jean-Charles-Marc-Antoine Vaumesle denial (Jean-Charles for short) and his son Jean-FranÃƒÂ§ois. Unfortunately, though they killed a number of wolves, the attacks continued unabated just outside of their sight. So Jean-Charles and his son were replaced by the king’s own gunslinger, Francois Antoine (a more French name never spoken) who gunned the creature down after a mere two months of tracking. The creature was brought before the king and stuffed. At the time no one knew if the other monster was just a rumor, so Antoine was sent home when the killings stopped for a few weeks. He received a title, land, gold, and a hero’s welcome.
The killings did not, however, stop. It was not until June 19, 1767, that local hunter Jean Chastel, finally fed up with the second creature, smelted the “balle argentÃƒÂ©e,” or silver bullet of legend. Once it had been made, he loaded it into his gun and trekked out with a hunting party into the wilderness where he intended to kill the creature and finally end its reign of terror.
As Jean broke from hunting, the rest of the party moved on and he began reading from his family’s bible. The creature, emerging from the woods, eyed him motionless as Jean held up his hand and calmly finished the passage he had been reading before dropping the book and in one swift motion producing his harquebus, and shooting the creature dead.
Though the actual account of the slaying of the creature itself is largely considered family folklore, the creature was indeed slain, and the murders stopped once and for all. By the time the second creature was slain, over 113 people had been killed and almost fifty more had been injured.