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You've Heard Of The Salem Witch Trials, But What About The WEREWOLF Trials?

I'm HOWLING.

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Gather 'round my figurative campfire, y'all, for a truly bone-chilling true story.

We've all learned about the witch trials that took place throughout the 1600s. But have you heard about people who were executed for being werewolves at that same time? For hunting children in the woods and eating them?

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The werewolf trials occurred throughout Europe beginning in the 15th century and ending by the early 18th century. Accusations of "lycanthropy" — transforming into a werewolf — started in Switzerland and quickly spread to France, Germany, and the Balkans.

Lucas Mayer / Via http://www.elmar-lorey.de, Public Domain, commons.wikimedia.org

Fueled by everything from politics to fear of the devil to complete ignorance around mental illness, the trials accused some "werewolves" of eating people and lapping up their victims' warm blood.

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In 1521, two men, Pierre Burgot and Michel Verdun, were burned for allegedly being werewolves in Poligny, France, according to The White Devil: The Werewolf in European Culture:

“Together, they attacked and killed a seven-year-old boy, a woman out collecting peas and a four-year-old girl, whom they ate except for one arm. Many more were killed by them ‘for they loved to lap up the warm flowing blood.’ They also claimed to have had sexual intercourse with a number of ‘she-wolves.’ Verdun was eventually caught, when in ‘wolf form’, attacking a traveller... A third man, Philibert Montot, was also charged for ‘being’ a werewolf and all three were executed for their crimes."

It became such a prominent issue that, according to The White Devil, "In 1608, King Henry IV of France commissioned Pierre de Rosteguy de Lancre, a French judge, to wipe out witchcraft, ‘werewolfery’ and heresy.”

WEREWOLFERY.
en.wikipedia.org

WEREWOLFERY.

While some consider the werewolf trials to be the male equivalent of the witch trials, women and children, many of whom were mentally ill, were targeted too.

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For example, Witchcraft, Lycanthropy, Drugs and Disease: An Anthropological Study of the European Witch-Hunt notes that "a woman in Andermatt, Switzerland, was beheaded in 1459 for turning herself into a wolf and causing an avalanche while in the company of the Devil."

Now, let's talk about Peter Stubbe (spelled Stumpp or Stumpf in some texts), aka "the Werewolf of Bedburg." He was convicted of being a werewolf in 1589 in Germany, after allegedly killing (and eating) many children, women, and animals over 25 years.

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It seems unbelievable that the authorities would even be able to get a confession to werewolfery out of their suspects. So, how did they do it? In many cases, including Stubbe's: torture.

According to The White Devil, “When he was put on the rack, and fearing the torture to come, he quickly confessed to being in league with the devil, who had given him the Wolfe girdle, to killing and eating his victims, and to being involved in black magic. He also confessed to having had sexual intercourse with a succubus which the devil had sent to him.”

A pamphlet circulating in London at the time claimed that, by the powers of a belt gifted to him by the devil, Stubbe became "strong and mighty, with eyes great and large, which in the night sparkeled like vnto brandes of fire, a mouth great and wide, with most sharpe and cruell teeth, A huge body, and mightye pawes..."

Warner Bros.

To make things even creepier, after Stubbe confessed to his use of this magical devil belt, as well as murder, incest, and cannibalism, he was executed on Halloween that same year.

Another case? In 1598, a man by the name of Jacques Roulet, or "The Werewolf of Angers," was convicted of werewolfery after being found half-naked with bloodied hands near the corpse of a mutilated teenage boy.

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Eyewitnesses reported seeing two wolves flee the crime, according to The White Devil. Initially sentenced to death, an appeal ruled that Roulet was to “be admitted to what would now be a psychiatric hospital for two years, as he was ‘clearly more of an idiot than a malicious killer.’”

Okay, one more case, because I'm quivering right now and I need your support: Around 1572, several children went missing in the town of Dole, France, and were later found ripped to pieces in the woods. The townspeople were tasked with hunting down the werewolf responsible.

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While searching for said werewolf, a group of townspeople (I'm assuming they were hoisting pitchforks into the air a lá Beauty and the Beast, but who can say) witnessed a wild animal attack on a child, and someone claimed that the creature had similar features to the local hermit, Gilles Garnier. When another child disappeared a week later, Garnier and his wife were arrested.

Fifty witnesses testified against Garnier, and he confessed to his crimes of werewolfery: murdering and eating children who wandered into the woods, and sharing the meat with his wife. In January 1573, Garnier was burned at the stake.

So, yeah, the world may be an abominable mess right now, but at least you're not being executed for turning into a werewolf and causing avalanches with the devil?

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I need to lie down.

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