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Gevaudan part II

In spite of the injuries the Beast suffered, it disappeared once again. Although Marie-Jeanne Valet’s lance proved that the Beast had been severely wounded, neither François Antoine nor his men were able to trace the mysterious animal.

 Read part 1 of the story

Five days later, an event is about to stir more suspicion concerning the origins of the Beast. Two of François Antoine’s men ( Messieurs Pélissier and Lachenay ) accompanied by Jean, Antoine and Pierre Chastel were hunting in a wood. A joke made by the Chastels almost turned into a gunfight.

 

Pélissier and Lachenay, asking the Chastels about the difficulties they might meet on the terrain fell into a swamp, making the Chastels hilarious. It ended with all of them aiming at each other. This fact was reported to François Antoine who gave the order to arrest the three Chastels. Mysteriously, the attacks considerably decreased during the time they were in jail. Many people, peasants and nobles became suspicious…

 

September 1765, the Beast is seen in the wood of the Chazes. François Antoine with around 50 men surrounded the wood. According to him, François is attacked during the beat after shooting on what he thought was the Beast and saved by one of the hunters. The report says that they have killed a giant wolf whichwas autopsied as the Beast. Jeanne-Marie Valet positively testified.

 

The first of October, the stuffed Beast is exposed at Versailles in front of the King by Robert François Antoine de Beauterne. The Beast of Gévaudan is officially dead, the story is buried for good. At last the Gévaudan is peaceful.

 

November is a quiet month. Some wolf attacks are reported, but nothing unusual. However, people start to talk again about the Beast and attacks that happened around Saugues (where the official Beast has been autopsied). The Beast is back in 1766.

The King, now alerted, does not want to hear about the Beast. Even the newspapers refused to write again about it. During March, attacks became more and more frequent and violent but apparently happening in a perimeter of 20 kilometres. Everyone in the region knows that the King is not going to send help.

After March, the Beast seems to slow down its slaughters but remains unfindable.

 

Spring 1767, it is a nightmare. The people are desperate, the level of attacks increase. A young man is killed in the area of the Marquis d’Apcher so he started and joined a beat with among others Jean Chastel, who was imprisoned and blessed three bullets made from a medallion of Virgin Mary.. During the hunt, Monsieur Chastel saw what he was tracking, shot and it its shoulder. The dogs of the Marquis killed the Beast for good on the 25 of June 1767.

 

The Beast is sent to Versailles but the King refused to see it because of the wolf’s putrefied state. The Count Buffon, member of the court, accepted to examine it. It was said that a big wolf was killed and nothing more. The Lords of Gévaudan gave  mediocre amount of money to Jean Chastel. After that, no more attacks attributed to the Beast happened in Gévaudan.

 

Between June 1765 and June 1767, approximately 80 people died were victims of Beast and 90 others were wounded or  attacked. The sources are rare and subject to differences. Maybe more people were killed … maybe less. And the truth may never be revealed. Here are some theories ;

Several wolfs : Some historians think that the Beast was in fact more than one animal. They take for example the fact that the wounded animals died and the whole pack was enraged. So the number of beasts would be 3 or 4.

A retribution of God : A few members of the Church were convinced that the killings of the acts were not the works of men nor animal, but unique creature sent by God to punish the men of the region.

Serial killer : An other interesting theory is about a man committing these crimes and not an animal. The best argument for those who think it was a human serial killer  and not an animal is because victims were beheaded. Indeed there are no reported cases of animals killing by decapitation. Furthermore, a wolf is not strong enough to cut off a human head. Historians also used the fact that some of the victims ( mainly children ) were undressed. It joins the idea of a human-animal duet because no witnesses saw a decapitation or undressing.

 

The conspiracy theory incriminated members of the Chastel family and nobles people. This theory seems to be the most probable. The Marquis Pierre-Charles de Morangiès may have been involved with Antoine Chastel ( Jean Chastel’s son ). It was thought that they used an exotic animal like an African hyena or even dog trained for war and killing equipped with an armour.

 

If you liked this story, you will enjoy this film Brotherhood of the Wolf
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 Read part 1 of the story

By Alister

Studying at the University of Besaçon, Burgundy Franche-Comté, France