Hello folks, and welcome to the last week in June. Hopefully you’re all going to have a 3-4 day weekend next weekend, and I’ll be here on the fourth with a special US history edition of Nyogtha geared on things you might think are true but aren’t, and vice versa.
But this week? It’s the usual format. Back to the answering of your questions after a week of Poppy Z Brite stopping by.
I was being a dork and browsing IMDB for movie trivia, when I found this in the section on the Brotherhood of Wolves (The really bad french werewolf movie):
“There actually was a Beast of Gevaudan (La Bete du Gevaudan) which was a real wolf(like) creature that prowled the Auvergne and South Dordogne regions of France during the years 1764 to 1767, killing about 100 people, often in bizarre circumstances.”
This may be history rather than occult folklore, but I figured you might be able to give me some good places to start to look on this. (Or at least more reliable/likely than I’d find on my own…)
Anything you could give would be awesome, but if you also feel like saying “no thanks” I won’t be upset.
Hey! I like Brotherhood of the Wolves. I saw it in some artsy fartsy cinema when it came out, yet I haven’t purchased it on DVD yet.
Yes, La Bete du Gevaudan was a real creature that plagued France.
Werewolves, or as they are known en francais, Loup-garous, are actually a popular piece of French folklore. Although La Bete does not fall strictly into a lycanthropic category, it can be considered a close cousin of the genre.
What you are looking at right now is a drawing of La Bete du Gevaudan. I’m not sure who the originator is, but it’s the most common picture I could find of the creature, and this version actually has the words still a part of it.
As mentioned in Linda’s email, La Bete was terrorizing part of France known as Gevaudan, which is the extreme southwest of Haute-Loire, and is inside the region known as Languedoc-Roussillon. La Bete was primarily concentrating its actions in the Margeride Mountains.
The first attack by La Bete was in June 1764. It involved a young girl from Langogne who was working in the Foret de Mercoire. The young girl reported a strange wolf-like being burst from the trees and charged at her furiously. Even the local farm’s dogs cowered and ran from the creature. It took the entire herd of bull living on the farm to attack La Bete before it retreated back into the woods.
For the next three years, La Bete du Gevaudan was sighted occasionally. Those who sited the beast all game a very similar description of the creature, and most of those who encountered La Bete did not know each other.
La Bete was described as being a wolf like creature easily the size of a cow. It had a long sinuous tail that resembled a lion’s. It’s head bore large protruding fangs, and it could leap up to thirty feat per pounce.
La Bete slew women, children, livestock and more. Often it left pieces of its victims for the neighboring humans to find. Half-eaten bodies and torn off limbs were all that was left of fathers, mothers, sons, and daughters. Those that survived were generally left to live out their remaining days totally mad. Many in France believed La Bete to be a Loup-Garou. Some even hypothesized that there was more than one, either a pair or a pack, and this is how it was able to cover the region so quickly.
More than one hunter that saw La Bete was able to shoot it. But the creature seemed impervious to bullets and shrugged them off as if they did no damage whatsoever. In 1764, TWO hunters encountered La Bete and both men shot it twice from a distance of only ten paces. Both times the creature was shot, it stood back up immediately. The second time, the beast arched onto its hind legs, dwarfing the humans, but luckily it chose to retreat into the forest and escaped, leaving a trail of blood.
The nearby villages had a brief moment of happiness, as they believed La Bete ran off to die. However the next day, and for several days after, several people from all over the region were taken and slain by La Bete. Now more than ever, the entire country of France was afraid. Including King Louis XV himself.
On April 29th, 1765, a nobleman named Chaumette made a report with his two brothers about their encounter with La Bete. All three men came across the beast as it was attacked a Shepard. They shot La Bete repeatedly, and as it fell to the ground, they shot it again and again. The beast managed to escape, bleeding heavily. The soil and bushes for yards around were soiled with La Bete’s red fluid. Again, all believed the creature to be finally dead. But as before, the killing became even worse than before, with La Bete slaughtered several for each bullet it had taken.
A month later, Captain Duhamel of the French army gathered FIFTY-SEVEN of his dragoons and they scoured the countryside, determined to catch and slay La Bete before it could kill anyone else. They failed miserably. Every trap they set, the Beast outsmarted them, or it escaped. Eventually, the peasants grew sick of the military invading their home and privacy and they began to wonder which was the bigger threat: the hunters or the hunted. However, so sooner did Duhamel quit his quest, than La Bete went on its bloodiest rampage yet. Now all of Europe knew of La Bete, and none dared say its name without a shudder. It had become the most feared creature on the continent.
Then, La Bete slew two children, and King Louis XV had no choice but to take public action to assuage his subjects. He called upon his greatest hunter, a man named Denneval, who was renowned for killing over 1200 wolves in his life time, and beseeched him to kill La Bete. Denneval took half a dozen of his best hunting dogs and spent the year of 1765 searching for La Bete. Soon Denneval came upon a 16 year old boy named Jacques Denis and they joined together as friends on a quest to capture this strange wolf-thing. And this is where La Bete seemed to show once again, it was more than an animal, for it went directly after Jacques’ 20 year old sister and mauled her, but then left her alive, completely mad with massive hideous scaring to shoulders and the face. Jacques swore revenge.
La Bete grew bold for some unknown reason, and actually attacked during the Spring Fair at Malzieu. It’s first victim was a young woman named Marguerite, who was close friends with Jacques Denis, who was still hunting La Bete at this time. The creature killed another three people in public sight. Denis and Denneval were actually nearby when this happened and a fanatical Denis gathered a small army of villagers to track down the beast using Denneval’s dogs to catch the fresh scent.
Soon, the Mob armed with torches and pitchforks found La Bete. This was Denis’ second time facing the creature, and it would be his last. With a cry of rage, Denis broke from the pack and impaled La Bete on his bayonet. From all the reports that came in, they were all eerily the same. The creature did not even flinch from the wound. It snarled and lept upon Denis and savagely tore him to ribbons. If not for the mob gaining reinforcements, Denis would have died that day. Instead the sheer numbers forced La Bete to retreat and Denis survived, although many would say it would have been bettered to have died that day than live in what remained of his flesh. From this horrible attack, Denneval quit the hunt right then and there. And never was he to encounter La Bete again.
By now, you must understand this creature had killed dozens and dozens of human beings and taken over twenty bullet shots from a point blank range. Yet it was still killing as if it was a young adult wolf in prime condition. Nothing hurt La Bete, and often times it seemed smarter than the humans trying to slay it. To 18th Century Frenchmen and women, how could La Bete be anything but a supernatural killing machine?
And the creature did nothing to discourage the rumours. In the month of june, it tore a little girl apart, but left her alive. It devoured an elderly woman, killed a 14 year old boy and carried off a small child. Finally King Louis XV had to summon another hunter. His name was Antoine de Beauterne. He was the King’s personal carrier, and he was charged to kill the beast, or not to return.
Beauterne spent three years killing wolves he thought to be La Bete, yet there were no changes in reports about the creature or its killing.
One of these encounters was on September 21st, 1765, where Antoine gathered 40 men, a dozen dogs and they went off to hunt La Bete. Antoine led them to the village of Pommier, and the circled around a ravine, and eventually, they encountered what they believed to be La Bete. Almost immediately the creature realized it was surrounded. All the men fired before the creature could spring on them. De Beauterne shot it in the shoulder, and one man even shot out the wolf’s right eye.
The wolf took over 80 shots and fell over. All were convinced it was dead. But lo, it STOOD BACK UP. Then men all fired in unison again. La Bete turned, took a few steps and fell over, finally dead.
The people examined the beat and found it to be a large wolf. Nothing more. It stood over six feet tall on all haunches, yet weighed only 143 pounds. It’s fangs were nearly two inches long.
All around France, villagers rejoiced and sung songs, and drank to celebrate the death of the horrible beast. But then came the mutterings of a woman who knew La Bete all too well: Julienne Denis, the sister of Jacques Denis. In fact, her very words were quoted and immortalized that this giant wolf was NOT La Bete. It was not the wolf that attacked her and her brother, and that she held little doubt the real La Bete was out there waiting and laughing, preparing for its next attack from the shadows.
For the next couple of months, no attacks were heard from, and the King to quell fears, ordered speaking of Le Bete illegal and a high crime. Then on Christmas Day 1765, Julienne was taken, never to be seen again. All knew exactly what had done it and what her fate was.
La Bete still lived.
however, it showed again its human level intelligence by being amazingly quiet. That year, only a few people disappeared at the paws of La Bete. However in the Spring of 1767, La Bete unleashed its greatest fury ever. Many died, but under pain of the King’s law, very few were willing to state on the record La Bete killed them. From March to June of that year, 14 people were massacred, with many more slain but belonging to families who chose to keep silent about the killings.
On June 19th, 1767, a posse of 300 hunters was formed in an attempt to kill La Bete. One of these men was named Jean Chastel, who was a friend of the Denis family. Chastel was one of many that believed La Bete was supernatural in origin and so he armed himself with blessed bullets. Bullets made from silver. And this my friends, is where this famous piece of folklore came from, even though after this infamous day, it would not reappear in the Lycanthropic legends until the 20th Century. For you see, it was Chastel who finally slew La Bete, a beast who could take nearly 100 shots and still walk away and slaughtered several humans the next day. And he slew it, with only two shots.
What happened was Chastel came upon La Bete entirely by accident. The creature sprang from the bushes and stared at Chastel, entirely unafraid. The creature seemed shocked by Chastel’s presence, and he shot it point blank twice with the blessed silver bullets. And La Bete feel to the ground dead.
Much like the creature killed by Antoine de Beauterne, this creature seemed to be a large wolf, but as Chastel got closer, he would swear it was…something else. La Bete was the size of two large men, and that was on all fours. On its hind legs it would have towered over a human easily. It was larger than any wolf ever seen before, and seen since. There creatures had scars from the hundreds of bullets that had penetrated it over the years, but it appeared to have healed completely aside from the superficial tissue When the creature was gutted, inside La Bete’s stomach, they found a partially digested little girl.
La Bete was finally dead. And no more attacks or disappearances were ever reported.
La Bete was gutted, embalmed and stuffed, and was taken from town to town and people would pay a small sum to see it in a manner in which it could no longer hurt others. Louis XV had other ideas and demanded La Bete become a trophy in his home. Chastel was himself to bring La Bete to Versailles.
The downside is that the taxidermy techniques of 250 years ago were not up to our current levels, and after a while, La Bete began to decompose and stink something fierce. Eventually King Louis ordered the remains burned, and that was the end of La Bete forever.
This my friends, is the closest thing to a Supernatural creature ever accepted by humanity at large. La Bete is officially classified as a “Dire Wolf” by naturalists, so yes D&D fans, it is a real, but now believed extinct species. However, due to La Bete’s existence, many Europeans, classify La Bete as a Loup-Garou, or an honest to God werewolf, or lycanthrope. This belief persists to this day, even into official government listings involving the creature. So depending on where you live, Lycanthropes are an actual accredited species.
La Bete was a creature that defied all known information about wolves. It went not for legs or throats like wolves and other predators do. La Bete straight for the head and would crush it. That is, unless the creature would purposely leave it alive. It fed almost exclusively on humans, and would pass up easier prey like chickens and other livestock, if it could claim a child or woman.
Over the years since La Bete died, many have tried to explain it away. Some would blame it on a lion that somehow came from Africa. Others claimed La Bete was a rabid Hyena. Some claimed it was a serial killed disguised as a wolf, or even a group of killers. Some even think Chastel trained and raised La Bete and that is why he was able to kill it so easily. It was his pet and he slew it to be considered a hero and to throw off any trail back to him. But even with all these theories, their remains the inescapable proof of hundreds and thousands of documents and the fact the body of La Bete was in the palace of Louis XV before it was burned. No, La Bete was a wolf, or perhaps even something more.
If you’ve seen “Brotherhood of the Wolf,” please note it was not even remotely historically accurate. But then, it was not meant to be. And it did managed to become the highest grossing French made film of all time. For those of you interested, a made for TV movie was released in France in 2003 called “La Bete du Gevaudan.” This was far more historically accurate.
La Bete is not a myth. It is not a Urban Legend. It is not fictional or even truly folklore. La Bete is 100% real and there over countless documents to prove, than in the mid 18th century, there walked a beast larger than any man, that proved to be as smart, and sometimes smarter than the greatest hunters of its day, and that could take dozens of bullets without even flinching. Whether you wish to classify la Bete as a Dire Wolf or you wish to believe that it was proof positive that sometimes things we believe to be fiction are in fact all to real, it will never be denied that for several years, all of Europe feared the wolf with the intelligence of a man.
I realize that for 99% of you, the realization that a creature such as La Bete being utterly real may be unsettling, and perhaps even frightening to realize nature produced something scarier than its descendants we see in films or read about in books. So let me give you one final word of reassurance. When you prepare for bed and have turned out the lights and feal a twinge of fear in regards to looking behind the curtains in case of seeing a face at the window or a howl in night from far off, just pull yourself together, breathe deeply and remember that after all…there are such things.
Summer, if you don’t have air conditioning, can be such a bitch of a time to cook. The stove heats up your entire home, and then it’s even worse. Grilling outside is fun and prevents the home from heating up, but you’re standing in front of an open flame and you’re just going to be a pile of blackheads waiting to happen.
So the key is to balance what you’re cooking with the temperature. Usually for me this means doing some New England style seafood. And if you have a beach nearby, I heartily suggest doing a clambake.
A clambake is a form of cooking shellfish that goes back many centuries. In fact, it’s ho the Native Americans would cook lobster, clams, mussels, etc.
The basic technique is to dig a bit pit in the sand (Check with your beaches before you do this. A lot do let you do this, especially on the coasts), and line it with rocks. Then put planks of wood or driftwood on the rocks. Set the wood on fire, and once it dies down, the coals are raked away and wet seaweed is layered over the white hot rocks.
The reason the seaweed is used is due to the fact the seaweed is laden with tiny sacs, each filled with salt water. This helps to add flavour to the shellfish you will be cooking. You then lay your food on the seaweed, and a heavy canvas tarp is spread over the pit to seal the heat. As the seaweed heats and releases the water, the salty steam cooks the food. When the tarp is lifted, the salty and smoked scent of the steamed seafood transforms the immediate area into a bouquet of delightful aromas.
Traditional clambakes aren’t just the shellfish however. Often corn, potatoes, smoked sausages, and onions are added as well.
Constructing a sandpit clambake is a huge task however, involving lots of people and is generally an all day affair. That’s what will allow you a backyard clambake. This is a fraction of the work, yet everything will still taste the same and is a great meal for parties.
You boil or steam the shellfish on a gas grill, or better yet, get a camp style setup for your backyard and place a large pot on a tripod and have it heated under a propane burner.
A clambake generally allows you to have a nice warm meal in the summer without makes your house feel like a sauna, and also lets you use your grill without standing over a flame and letting your food gets its salt content from your dripping sweat.
Give it a try sometime!
I did a Retrograding on Friday. This week I’ll have THREE games to review: KoF: MI, Eternal Mana, and Rivera.
In Games, Liquidcross reviews the new Pokemon-esque Mega Man Battle Network games and Tom. N reviews Batman Begins
In Comics, Jessie Baker rants on Marvel’s hypocritical stance on dead super heroes, and Mathan deals with the insanity that is Hector Hall. Just another reason I find Geoff Johns to be the most overrated writer in comics today.
In Music, Gloomchen spent the weekend in Madison, WI at “Reverence,” and Aaron Cameron needs new eating habits.
In Wrestling, Kevin Bufton somehow becomes the only human being to not view WMXXI as the worst wrestling video game ever made. However he IS British, so after a lifetime of Sheppard’s Pie, Bubble and Squeak, and other horrid English foodstuffs, I suppose anything can seem food by comparison. ;-)
Meanwhile Eric S. should have to pimp me in all his columns, for his Weds Pulse knocks me off the front page, which is a horrid travesty.
In Figures, Batesman shows us the sketches for the up coming “Sumara” figure, and PK shows us the newest Batman: Knightfall figures. Man, that comic saga came out while I was in high school about ten years ago!
In Movies, Kubryk braves the new Herbie movie, and McCullar shows us the destruction of Vin Diesel’s career.
And that’s it for this week. I’ll see you here on the Fourth of July! Have a great week people.