12 'Real' Werewolf Cases Throughout History

Woodcut of a werewolf by Lucas Cranach the Elder, Germany c.1512. Wikimedia Commons

Gilles Garnier

Gilles Garnier, ‘the Hermit of Dole’, was convicted of lycanthropy and executed at Dole, Eastern France, in 1573. Our source for his life and crimes is another contemporary pamphlet, printed at Sens in 1574. Taking the form of a wolf, in 1572 Garnier first attacked a 10 year old girl in a vineyard near Dole, and dragged her into the adjoining Bois de la Serre. There he stripped her naked and ate the flesh from her thighs and arms. He then removed some more of her flesh and carried it to his wife, Apolline, to eat at their shared hermitage.

Soon after, he attacked another young girl in more or less the same place. This time he killed her and wounded her in 5 places, but was chased off by three men before he could start his meal. A week later, he again attacked, this time a boy in another vineyard, whom he partially consumed before tearing off a leg for later. His next crime proved his eventual undoing: having killed another young boy and dragged him to the woods, Garnier was surprised at his intended meal, and after retreating a distance resumed his human form, leading to his identification.

Disgusted by the remains of half-eaten children in the district, the Parliament of Franche-Comté issued a decree in 1573 which demanded that werewolves be hunted down by locals and brought to trial. However, it was not these huntsmen who caught Garnier but a group of workers who incidentally came across the hermit crouched over a dead child one night after returning from work. They initially thought the figure in the shadows was a werewolf, but as the light from their torches illuminated it, they identified Garnier. Acting quickly, the men caught Garnier, and took him to the magistrates at Dole.

Garnier was, of course, tortured to extract a confession. He explained that he had spent much of his life as a hermit in the St Bonnot woods. He married in 1572, and fathered children, but struggled with the new task of feeding more than one mouth. Desperately foraging one night in the woods, a spectre appeared to him and offered him an unguent that could turn him into a wolf, allowing him to hunt more effectively. He confessed to murdering 4 children, supported by the testimony of over 50 witnesses, and was burned alive at the stake.