The European Werewolf Trials
You’ve all heard about the Salem Witch Trials, but how much do you know about the European Werewolf Trials? Before the witch hysteria started to spread, the fear of werewolves took hold of Europe – fueled by superstition and rumor. Some believe that politics and religion also played a part. Others believe that it was a way to explain unsolved murders.
The first place to accuse someone of being a werewolf was Poligny, France. (Check out our article here). Poligny may have had the first recorded werewolf trial, but the belief in werewolves spread just as fast as the belief in witches. This is a very brief rundown of some notable trials:
- In 1598, France, Jaques Roulet was on trial for killing and eating children. He was known as The Werewolf of Caud. He claimed that he had a magical salve that would turn him into a werewolf. He was sentenced to death. Before he was executed he was diagnosed as “feeble-minded” and sent to an institution instead.
- From 1591 to 1595, there were several trials in The Netherlands. One was the trial of Folkert Dirks, who claimed that his whole family could shape-shift into cats or wolves, courtesy of the Devil.
- Fourteen-year-old Jean Grenier admitted to being a werewolf in 1603. Children were disappearing in the town of Gascony, France. He claimed that had met a “man in black”. The man kissed his mouth and Jean became part of a pack of werewolves. He claimed to have eaten over fifty children. He was sentenced to spend his life in a monastery in Bordeaux, France.
- In 1651, a boy named Hans was eighteen when he was executed for being a werewolf. Hans admitted to it, saying that he had been bitten by “a man in black”. He claimed that he had been a werewolf for over two years. During questioning, he showed a bite mark that he claimed was from the man in black. He admitted to transforming and being “more beast than man” The court ruled that the man must have been Satan and that his transformation was witchcraft. He was sentenced to death.
- Theiss of Kattenbrun was in his eighties when he was accused of being a werewolf in 1692 Something he was proud of. He said he was turned into a werewolf by a man that “toasted him” and gave him the power. He claimed that he was the “hound of God”. He said that he went to Hell three times a year to fight the Devil and his witches to rescue the grain and livestock that the witches had stolen from the Earth. No one was quite sure if he was evil or crazy. He was whipped and banished from the town.
- In 1809, Manuel Blanco Romasanta was known as “The Werewolf of Allariz”. He said he was turned by “a couple of creatures” in the mountains. He would kill women and children, and then write to their families telling them that all was well. (sneaky werewolf). He used a fake passport to travel to different places. He was arrested after trying to sell the victims’ clothes and soap made of human fat. He claimed he murdered thirteen people but was convicted of only nine. He died in prison.
- A Polish man named Swiatek was also known as “The Galician Werewolf” in 1849. He said he was in a fire in a tavern that killed a lot of the patrons. He claims to have eaten some of the roasted patrons. He was a beggar who relied on the generosity of the townspeople. Children started disappearing and people thought it was wolves at first. Then they started to suspect Swiatek. He was found with a girl’s head. The rest of her body had been butchered and there was a bowl of blood on the floor. He hung himself in prison.
There are several other werewolf trials that we will be covering in more detail in the future. After the Middle Ages, the belief in werewolves disappeared. Soon the werewolf was only found in books and eventually movies. Today’s theories are that the werewolves of the past were either serial killers, suffering from Hypertrichosis (excessive body hair), or suffering from clinical Lycanthropy. Or maybe they’re real and still exist. Who knows? I guess we’ll have to wait till the next full moon to find out!