12 'Real' Werewolf Cases Throughout History

Maurice Sand, ‘Le Loup-Garou’,France, 1857. Wikimedia Commons

Jean Grenier

In early spring 1603, the St. Severs district of Gascony, South-West France, was gripped by terror. Little girls and boys had disappeared without trace from the fields and roads, and on one occasion a baby had been taken silently from its cradle whilst the mother was in another part of her small cottage. The local magistrate began an investigation, and several witnesses came forward. One, a 13-year-old girl, stated that she had been attacked by a savage wolf under a full moon, whilst another had been watching cattle when she was assailed by a gigantic wolf in broad daylight.

Shockingly, a 14-year-old boy, Jean Grenier, had been heard to boast that he was behind the attacks. Tending cattle one day with Jeanne Gaboriaut, his fellow servant, he told the 18-year-old that he would one day marry her. When she remarked how filthy he was, Grenier replied that this was because of the wolf-skin he wore to turn himself into a werewolf. He further elaborated that he was part of a pack of 9 werewolves that hunted 3 times a week in the area. He stated that his favourite prey was young children, owing to the tenderness of their flesh.

Terrified, Gaboriaut immediately informed the local magistrate, who arrested Grenier. The teenager made a full confession without the need for torture. He had run away from an abusive father, and was compelled to make a living by begging and cowherding. Another boy, Pierre de la Tilhaire, had taken him one night to meet ‘The Lord of the Forest’, who gave Grenier an icy kiss and a mark on his thigh. The Lord also gave the boy a wolfskin and unguent, which transformed him into a wolf, and cautioned him never to cut his left thumbnail, which now resembled a claw.

His first murder was of a 3-year-old girl, named Guyonne, whom he ate whole. He confessed to various murders, and in each case was able to give exact details about the time and place at which the victim was taken. He also reported being chased away from a young boy by an elder brother, who came forward to corroborate Grenier’s statement. In spite of all this, the court showed clemency to Grenier on account of his age and poor education, and he was sent to stay with Franciscans at the friary of St Michael the Archangel, Bordeaux, in 1603.

In 1610, one Pierre de Lancre visited him, and later reported what he found. Grenier had fierce, sunken black eyes, long teeth that looked like fangs, and his hands were like talons, with long and crooked nails. He would often rush around on all fours, and seemed better able to move in this way than on two legs. He loved to hear talk of wolves, and the friars reported that in his early days at the friary he would only eat raw meat and offal. Grenier, clearly suffering from a psychological disorder or disease, died shortly afterwards in 1611.