Have you heard of the Beast of Ge’vaudan? Are you curious? Travel with Voices of the past and explore this riveting tale with me.
Between the years of 1765 and 1767, there was an unknown creature believed to have killed over 100 people in a rural region of France.
This creature both captivated and horrified the world during that time.
La Bete duGe’vaudan, 1764-1767, a creature called “the Beast” ravaged this rural region, with about 100 men,women, and children falling victim. Many French presumed this creature to be a wolf and many modern scholars agreed, although some have suggested it may not have been a wolf at all.
Are you intrigued? If so, keep reading.
One of the first fatal attacks occurred on June 30, 1764. Jeanne Boulet, a 14-year-old shepherdess was tending a flock of sheep. France had been in a slump, on the heels of the Seven Years’ War. Losing battles to Prussia and the British, caused Louis XV to loose colonies overseas, this beast offered a perfect foil to rally around.
This beast attacked so many, that some speculated that there had to have been two or more beasts, with the beast partially eating women and young children, and lone adult men were also targeted according to the reports.
Individual acts of bravery captivated the public. Bounties had been offered and hunters had combed the countryside in hopes of finding this creature. Only hours after a mauling, this creature was seen stalking a herdsman at Chateau de la Baume, on October 8, 1764. These hunters had followed the Beast into the woods to flush it out into the open. A volley of musket fire was said to have been shot into the creature, but the Beast got up and ran off.
The story of the Beast had spread and covered newspapers in Boston to Brussels, causing it to become on of history’s first media sensations. Children had been celebrated for taking on this beast. Jacques Portefaix, age 10, had been attacked. He and a group of his friends, ages only ranging from eight to twelve, counterattacked this beast with sticks driving the creature away. All of the children were rewarded by Louis XV, as well as Portefaix being given an education paid by the crown. This prompted the court of King Louis XV to send his royal hunters to destroy this beast. A 6,000-livre bounty was placed on the Beasts’ head.
Marie-Jeanne Valet became known as the “Amazon” as well as the “Maid of Ge’vaudan, when at age 19 or 20, she was attacked by this beast while crossing the River Desges, on August 11, 1765. She was armed with a bayonet affixed to a pole and impale this Beast in the chest, but the creature got away.
Francois Antoine, age 71, the kings nephew, shot a large wolf, assumed to be the Beast, near an abbey at Chazes. He was awarded money and titles. The corpse of the animal had been stuffed and sent to the royal court, but attacks began again that December.
The royal court ignored the reports of these attacks, even with accounts of the Beast acting different. It was said the beast had been afraid of cattle before but now it showed no fear. The king insisted that Antoine had killed the creature.
A sudden outbreak of attacks happened in June of 1767, compelling a nobleman, Marquis d’Apcher to organize a hunt. A local man, also one of the hunters, shot a wolf on the slopes of Mount Mouchet. Upon autopsy of the animal, human remains inside the animal were revealed. The animal had non-wolf characteristics, described by witnesses.
The attacks stopped, and it was presumed that the beast the local man bagged was indeed the Beast, with doubts remaining that the animal was a wolf. Described by eyewitnesses, the Beast was consistently described as something other that a wolf with descriptions of it being as large as a calf or a horse. The coat was described as being a reddish gray, and the creature having a long, panther-like tail. The head and legs were said to be short-haired and the color of a deer. There was a black stripe on its back with talons on its feet. The wounds this creature tyically inflicted were found on on the head and limbs. Sixteen victims had been decapitated. Witnesses described the Beast as an ambush hunter, stalking its prey and seizing it by the throat, primarily prowling in the evenings or mornings.
As with anything, there are conspiracy theories about the Beast by historians, scientists, and pseudoscientists. These theories consist of a : Eurasian Wolf, an armored war dog, a striped hyena, a lion, a prehistoric predatr, werewolf, dog-wolf hybrid, and the human. The fanciful of the list if the werewolf.
Suggested by others is that it may have been the act of a serial killer, as many of the Beasts’ victims were reported to have been decapitated, which is something few animals could do. It is unlikely that a serial killer would roam about in broad daylight wearing a beastial costume, but some support this theory and believe the human killer used an animal to carry out the crimes.
Depictions of the Beast that was killed by the nobleman, suggest it did resemble a striped hyena. Hyenas are not not native to France and striped hyenas are not known to attack humans. This theory does appear to be unusual.
As for the lion theory, author and biologist, Karl-Hans Taake, argued that this Beast could have been an immature lion. He stated that a lion hunts in a similar way that the Beast did. A sub-adult male lion does not have a fully developed mane and does sometimes have a mohawk-type stipe that runs down its back. Taake argued that the description of the beast and that of the immature male lion match.
There are many theories and voices arguing about the true identity of the “Beast of Ge’vaudan, and they admit that the true identity may never be known without genetic or forensic evidence.
The Beast of Ge’vaudan will forever remain a mystery! What are your theories? Let us know here at Voices, Past, Present, and Future!