12 'Real' Werewolf Cases Throughout History

Dog-headed men, detail from Livre des merveilles du monde, Paris, 13th century. Wikimedia Commons

The Werewolves of Poligny

This is another case from Franche-Comté, a real hub of werewolf activity in the 16th century. The Werewolves of Poligny were Michel Verdun and Pierre Burgot, alias ‘Gros [fat] Pierre’, two men executed for lycanthropy in 1521. Their trial by the Inquisition drew throngs of people and we have, as ever, a full and lurid confession of their crimes. Burgot said that one night in 1502 he was struggling to herd his flock of sheep during a thunderstorm when three riders dressed in black approached. Burgot told them that he was fearful that his sheep would be taken by predators.

One of the riders said that if Burgot would acknowledge him as his lord and master, none of the sheep would be lost. This he did, renouncing God and kissing the rider’s corpse-cold hand. Years later, he was weary of his pact, but was summoned to a sabbat in the woods by Michel Verdun, who bade Burgot to strip naked and be anointed with an unguent that turned him into a lightning-fast wolf. Verdun had the same ability to shape-shift, and the two werewolves together waged a campaign of bloody violence against unwary travellers and children in the district.

Between them, they first seized a boy of 7, tearing him to pieces before the alarm was raised. They also ate a little girl whole, save only an arm, and killed agricultural workers indiscriminately. Burgot also confessed to tearing out a 9-year-old boy’s throat with his teeth. Their chief motivation in procuring only free range meat was the taste of warm blood, which they would lap up like a kitten with a saucer of milk. Shockingly, they also confessed to bestiality: Burgot and Verdun would seek out she-wolves, and stated that they preferred fornicating with the beasts than human women.

They were finally apprehended when Verdun was caught in the act of being a werewolf. A traveller passing through Poligny was attacked by a wolf, which retreated to a thicket after he bravely it fought off. The traveller followed the blood trail, hoping to prevent the angry wolf surprising him again further along his route. Instead of a wolf, the man found Verdun, whose wife was bathing a wound in precisely the same place as the wolf had been injured. Verdun instantly implicated Burgot when questioned, and also named Philibert Montot (who never confessed to lycanthropy). All three were burned.