The beast of Zhevodan, how could they catch the monster that ate 123 Frenchmen
(ORDO NEWS) — Do you believe in the existence of monsters? Not like sharks and crocodiles, but real monsters like werewolves? Something tells me not. Today I will tell you a story that will make you doubt.
Who is the Zhevodan monster?
It was described by the few survivors as a wolf the size of a horse with a narrow but elongated head. The coat of the animal was red with black spots, and the fangs did not fit in the mouth.
The beast attacked mainly children and women, killing the victim with a blow to the head. At the same time, he ate most of the human carcass and did not touch other animals.
“He lived ten months in freedom between Zhevodan and Vivaret; he ate women, children; he was chasing armed horsemen; pursued a stagecoach with a horseman along the royal highway, and the carriage and horseman fled from him in horror, at a gallop. Posters were put up with him everywhere and ten thousand francs were promised for his head. And finally, when he was shot and brought to Versailles, behold! an ordinary wolf, and even a small one.
Quote from the book of the writer Robert Stevenson “Journey with a donkey to the Cevennes”.
What is the famous beast from Gevaudan
In the middle of the 18th century, in the vicinity of the Tenazaire Forest, in France, the Zhevodansky beast inspired fear in the locals. In three years, he made 250 attacks, 123 people did not survive.
The monster was named so because of the area where he lived – the province of Gevaudan. The first case occurred in the spring in 1764, when a peasant woman went out to walk the bulls in the pasture near the town of Longoni. An unknown monster attacked the girl. The shepherd dogs did not dare to confront the beast. The girl hid behind the bulls, but the beast scattered them to the sides, like houses of cards. The peasant woman still managed to escape. Already in the summer, an incomprehensible creature attacked the girl Jeanne Boulet, this meeting turned out to be her last. Thus began a series of bloodthirsty crimes of the Zhevodan beast.
Legends of the Zhevodan beast
Such impressive events could not remain without public attention and detailed coverage from the press of that time. Due to the increased interest in the beast, its history has acquired many legends. One of the most popular notes that the monster was actually a werewolf. This opinion of people was prompted by inexplicable behavior for the wolf and its elusiveness. Another legend is connected with the circumstances under which the beast of Gevaudan was killed from the gun of Jean Chastel. The fact is that the hunter was a pious man and treated the monster as a manifestation of evil spirits. Therefore, as the legend says, he loaded the gun with a silver bullet. During the search for the beast, Chastel made a halt, during which he began to read a prayer. At that moment, a man-eating wolf appeared, who was subsequently killed by two silver bullets.
In total, according to general estimates, in three years he ruined, not counting the missing, over a hundred lives (according to other estimates – ninety-six). Seventy-five of them are children and teenagers, almost all of the rest are women (and one old man). Apparently, an adult man was never killed by the Beast – although he also attacked such men, even armed (!), Walking in a group (!!). And the wounded, mutilated after his attacks were at least three times more than those killed …
There were not enough guns in the then Zhevodan, so the peasants, going beyond the village, armed themselves with home-made peaks. In addition, less than three of them now did not even dare to go to the neighboring village for firewood or to the fair. But the Beast attacked even such detachments. Closing in and putting up spears, people usually managed to fight back (sometimes getting wounded). Repeatedly they managed to injure their mysterious enemy, but this did not affect either his combat effectiveness or his ability to move quickly: the very next day he used to sow death in another part of Zhevodan, tens of kilometers away!
The easiest way, of course, is to assume that there were several Beasts (in the end, this was confirmed: at least two). But the appearance of the monster was so characteristic that the locals had no doubt: it was one and the same creature. So what did he look like?
“… This creature is much larger than a wolf; his paws are clawed; wool – borax; the head is huge and elongated; muzzle – just like a greyhound dog; ears – small, straight and pointed upwards, like horns; the chest is broad and greyish; back – in black stripes; the mouth is huge and dotted with razor-sharp fangs, capable of biting off the head from the body in an instant. Its movements are unhurried, although, if necessary, it can move in gigantic leaps – with unusual dexterity and speed – and in a matter of moments without much difficulty cover a distance of two or three leagues. It stands on its hind legs, rushes at the victim with one jump and grabs it by the neck – either from behind or from the side.
The last characterization, as we will soon see, is not entirely correct: it was precisely by the neck that the Beast rarely grabbed. But the descriptions of appearance, in general, coincide with different witnesses. Moreover, many (i.e., really, few: those who saw the Beast up close and remained alive) emphasize the same features: clawed paws, small, by wolf standards, ears (sometimes they report that the eyes are also small), sharply narrowed muzzle (here “dog” comparisons prevail: “like a greyhound”), rather a cat’s than a wolf’s tail and not at all wolf’s fangs, because of which the mouth acquired strange shapes!
“The vile creature was a little smaller than a donkey, with a wide chest, a huge head and a thick scruff; the ears were like a wolf’s, only a little longer, and the muzzle was like a boar’s snout.
Here, as we see, the ears, on the contrary, are larger than those of a wolf. True, “fear has big eyes”: many observers get confused in details, their main attention is riveted – and this is quite understandable! – fanged mouth.
And here is the testimony of another eyewitness: “The body of the Beast is elongated, he presses him to the ground; the coat is reddish, with black stripes on the back. Very long tail. The claws are of incredible size.
“He is much larger than even the tallest watchdog; his hair is brown and very thick, and on his belly it is more yellow. The head is huge, as are the two front fangs sticking out of the mouth on both sides; ears are short and straight; the tail is rather stiff, because the Beast, when running, hardly waves it.”
There is no question of fear here: this description was made by two horsemen who first fired a couple of successful (alas, not fatal) shots at the Beast, and then pursued him on horseback for a long time, trying in vain to finish him off. But even in their story there is a “tiger” (?) and seemingly inflexible tail – although other eyewitnesses observed how, rushing to attack, the Beast whips its tail on the sides.
In general, it turns out something in between a wolf and … a hyena? There is some ambiguity with the fangs sticking out: some observers do not notice them. Perhaps, when the mouth was closed, they protruded only slightly; however, for a “normal” wolf, this is not typical. In addition, it is not known whether these were upper fangs (like a … saber-toothed tiger?) or lower ones (like a bulldog or other dogs of “fighting” breeds). We will come back to this…
The image of the beast and the tactics of attacks
Eyewitnesses described the animal as a predator, outwardly resembling a wolf, but only much larger:
- the beast had a broad chest;
- curved long tail;
- elongated narrow muzzle;
- big pointed ears.
As for the color, someone said that the coat was red, with a yellowish tint, and a dark stripe stretched along the ridge along the back. Others claimed that there were large dark spots on the sides and back. If you combine all the characteristics, with the exception of size, then the beast looks very similar to a hyena.
The monster attacked people in an unusual way for predators. The beast always aimed at the head, tore the face and did not gnaw through the throat or limbs, as predatory animals usually do. As a rule, he, rapidly jumping, knocked the victim down. Later, he began to act differently: he crawled closer to the person, then stood in front of her on his hind legs and began to beat with his front legs.
Almost all of those killed were beheaded.
Other animals were completely of no interest to the beast. Most often, he only attacked women or children who were alone or in small groups. Due to the large number of attacks, people began to think that not one beast was operating, but a whole flock. Some allegedly saw him next to a person. There was a version that someone specially trained the animal in order to attack and kill.
Interestingly, the devilish creature could not be caught either with the help of special traps and traps, or with poisoned baits. The beast was very smart, its intelligence was compared to that of a wolf. This was the basis for the appearance of the version that it was not just an unknown predatory animal, but a werewolf.
Start. First victim
It all started in the spring of 1764 near the town of Langoni. The local peasant woman drove the bulls out to pasture – and suddenly a terrible beast attacked her from nowhere. The shepherd dogs did not even move at the sight of him – they only trembled and whined. The shepherdess, terrified to death, rushed to the bulls, trying to hide behind them. Fortunately, the bulls turned out to be bolder than the wolfhounds: they met the predator with exposed horns, but he deftly avoided blows and rushed at the shepherd over and over again. It looks like he chose her as a victim.
At that time, the bull herd managed to drive away the predator. But in early July, a predatory beast ate a fourteen-year-old girl, Jeanne Boulet. That was the first victim of an invulnerable monster. Or rather, the first case when the name of the victim became known: already ten people were listed as missing …
September 6, at seven o’clock in the evening, the Beast showed up right in the middle of the village of Estre, not far from the town of Arzenk. At this time, a thirty-six-year-old peasant woman was digging in the garden near her house. The beast (he was no longer afraid of crowded places and began to attack even adults) knocked the unfortunate ground, plunged his fangs into her throat and began to eagerly suck out blood …
The silence of the village was broken by a heart-rending cry: “The Beast! ..” After that, all the inhabitants jumped out of the houses – some with pitchforks, some with an ax. They rushed to the garden, from where they heard frenzied screams – and saw a terrible picture: the Beast, bending over the victim, tore it to pieces with huge fangs. Noticing the people and realizing that he could not defeat them all, he shook his huge head and slowly trotted away, as if showing that he was not at all afraid.
How they tried to destroy the beast
Already in the first six months, when the beast managed to kill several women and children, the local governor sent a military detachment in order to find and neutralize the monster. As a result, several raids on the forest took place, many wolves were destroyed, but the bloodthirsty killer could not be found. Further attempts were also unsuccessful. Sometimes the beast could be wounded, but a month passed, and the victims reappeared.
After the king of France realized that an ordinary military detachment could not cope with the task, he hired the most professional hunters. We are talking about the father and son d’Ennevali. They took with them more than a hundred people, carried out several operations. But as a result, just a huge number of wolves were killed. Bloodthirsty attacks on people continued.
The king then entrusted the matter to Francope-Antoine de Botern, who specialized in hunting wolves. In 1756, he found an unusually large wolf near Shaz Abbey. The detachment kills him, finds the remains of clothes in his stomach. It would seem that the terrible Zhevodansky beast is killed, but it is not, the attacks continue.
Awakening of the Beast of Gevaudan
The first victim of an unknown monster was a 14-year-old girl Jeanne Boulet, who was found torn to pieces on June 30, 1764 near the village of Yubak. A month earlier, a peasant woman from the nearby town of Langong had seen a large creature that had tried to attack her while walking her herd.
None of the townspeople supported the version of the cannibal monster, until the torn remains of 7 more children were discovered in August and September of the same year.
After that, real panic began. The monster has been hunted. A detachment led by Captain Jacques Duhamel arrived in the city. The detachment destroyed many wolves in the vicinity, but the fight with the monster ended only with a wound. Until the end of 1764, the wolf ate more than 20 people.
Dawn of the Kills
In 1765, the attacks of the beast continued. In January, he attacked a 13-year-old boy, Jacques Portfet, and a group of his friends, but the guys managed to fight him off and run away. The king of the state Louis XV himself drew attention to this case. He ordered two hunters, father and son d’Enneval, to kill the creature.
From February to August, hunters staged huge raids on the creature, which, despite the scale, did not have any success. By September, the death toll had risen to 55.
In mid-summer, Lieutenant François Antoine de Botern arrived in the suburbs. He was more patient than his predecessors. During the next 3 months, he destroyed more than 1200 wolves that lived in the forests. On September 20, 1765, an officer and his detachment discovered a very large wolf (80 cm in height, 170 cm in length, weighing about 60 kg). In a hard fight, he was killed with several shots to the head.
The victim was nicknamed “the wolf from Shaz”, because. was discovered near the abbey of the same name. His effigy was delivered to the king, and the lieutenant was declared a hero. It would seem that the legend of the Zhevodan Beast should have ended there.
Who killed the Zhevodan beast?
For a while, the mysterious killings really stopped. However, in December 1765, someone again began to attack people, although not as regularly as before: 3-4 times a month.
The beast from Zhevaudan either disappeared or attacked again. No new hunt was opened. Until the end of 1766, he mauled another 30 people.
The Beast began his bloody return with the murder of a young boy in the spring of 1767. Before the beginning of the summer, he killed another 30 people.
From that moment on, it became clear to everyone that the horror of Zhevodan cannot be stopped just like that. Local residents began a major roundup of the animal – the largest hunt, in which more than 300 people participated. On June 19, 1767, the townsman Jean Chastel managed to shoot a large monster with silver bullets.
Evidence that the wolf shot by Jean Chastel is the Beast of Gévaudan was the body part of the last victim found in the stomach. Although this wolf was smaller than the previous one, it was also large in size.
With that, the bloody murders ended, as did the story of the Beast.
Who was it really
There is still no definite answer as to who it was – just a big wolf or an animal unknown to mankind. Scientists cryptozoologists who investigate issues related to hidden, mythical animals put forward a number of options.
Big wolf or pack
The most common and real version. There are two factors to prove:
- In those days, wolves were indeed much larger in size than they are now.
- It is common for these animals in some situations to start hunting prey that is atypical for them.
In addition, it is quite possible that it was not the same animal that killed, but a whole flock. After all, several hunters neutralized and found grains of human clothing in the stomachs of animals, but the attacks continued anyway. But in this situation, there are also many questions. For example, what exactly was the impetus for several animals to change their hunting style at once. It is also unlikely to neutralize absolutely all cannibal predators in such a short time period.
According to the first descriptions, the Zhevodan beast was very reminiscent of a hyena. In addition to color, similarities are also noted in the specifics of the attack. These animals can really rush at people and at the same time cling directly to the face. The inconsistency of the version lies in the inability of hyenas to jump so high and being in European forests is an unusual habitat for these animals.
Dog and wolf mix
Such cruelty towards humans is completely uncharacteristic of dogs. One way or another, there was also a version that an aggressive animal had an owner. Therefore, some believe that the predator is the result of a cross between a dog and a wolf, and some put forward a different hypothesis. The son of Jean Chatel, Antoine often traveled to exotic countries. It is assumed that it was from there that he brought a leopard or a hyena. Historians of those times claim that the young man disappeared just during periods of monster activity.
There are two aspects to this version:
- Graceful unhurried running after the attack.
- Wounds were inflicted with claws. It was with them that the animal tore the skin on the face and neck. For a wolf or a hyena, such behavior is completely uncharacteristic.
There are many examples in the history of mankind when a predatory animal attacked people. But the legend of the Zhevodan beast is striking in its cruelty and the demonic nature of the animal.
Version of the maniac
Returning to the version of the maniac, let’s say: for a long time, the greatest suspicion in this sense is … the Chatel clan. Perhaps not Jean himself, but one of his adult sons, Antoine Chatel. At one time he traveled a lot in the Muslim regions of the Mediterranean, was captured in Algeria, was, according to rumors, castrated – and returned home as a loser embittered by the whole world.
Yes, this is, perhaps, exactly the material from which serial killers are formed. In addition, according to some reports, Chatel Jr. was in captivity for some time the caretaker of the Sultan’s menagerie (!), Which could also contain very exotic creatures.
Some time ago, the well-known researcher of the Gévaudan Problem, G. Purrat, in a fictional form told the world the story of how the angry misanthrope Antoine Chatel returns from captivity with a tame hyena, how he teaches her to throw herself at people and uses her as a partner in murders, how, using the support of a family clan, remains beyond suspicion for a long time – and in the end, when the situation becomes too dangerous, he brings the trained beast under the shot of his father. (According to this version, the first Beast was still a wolf – but if a brood of hyenas was brought, all this could have been done in 1764.) Yes, this is more literature than science, but Gerald Menatori, already known to us, acted as a consultant for the book. !
To be honest, as a “maniac’s accomplice” the hyena fits into the Gevaudan story worse than the wolfhound dog or the hybrid wolf. However, in the summer of 1997, another scientific discussion dedicated to the Zhevaudan Beast took place in Paris. Its participants did not expect any special news (after all, more than two hundred years have passed!) – but one of the reports had the effect of an exploding bomb.
This report was made by France Julien, not a cryptozoologist, but an “official” biologist, leading taxidermist of the Paris National Museum of Natural History. He collected all the data on the stuffed animal of the first Beast, which was kept in the museum’s collection from 1766 to 1819, when it was destroyed by fire. And it turned out that, although Buffon’s colleagues at first really “turned up their noses”, nevertheless, during this period, several quite qualified naturalists examined the unique exhibit. They all gave it a clear definition: this skin was taken from a striped hyena.
Perhaps the clarity and unambiguity of the wording is evidence of the excessive “self-confidence” of science of those times. Determining the type of hyena only by the skin, without a skeleton or even a skull is not an easy task now: the appearance and color of these predators are very variable. But up to a family, a confident conclusion can indeed be drawn. And if Julien’s data is accurate – apparently, a beast of the hyena family, and not a dog, raged in Zhevodan!
If in the version with the proto-bull terrier Antoine Chatel is just not an ideal candidate for maniacs (rather, this role suits one of the local nobles, owners of hunting packs), then the “genius version” with his personality, given his stay in Algeria, is easier to connect. A striped hyena lives in those parts (actually, it is more of an Asian animal, its range stretches to the Caucasus), and the spotted habitat (this is already exclusively African) is within easy reach. But can the types of hyenas known to us, even after special training – and they lend themselves to it much worse than dogs – look and behave like the Zhevaudan Beast?
Even if you consider almost all descriptions exaggerated – no, this is impossible. Suppose the eyewitnesses got it wrong with the shape of the muzzle and ears (especially since there really are disagreements); but there are still a few characteristic features. A long tail, powerful claws (combined with extraordinary jumping ability and a manner of fighting with the front paws), enlarged fangs, a massively squat physique. In hyenas, the opposite is more likely: they are high-legged and short-tailed – so, being noticeably heavier than a wolf (60 kg for them is a fairly average weight), they do not exceed it in length. They jump poorly, their front paws are relatively weak (especially in the striped one), and the claws are developed worse than those of a wolf or dog. The dental apparatus is extraordinarily strong, much stronger than a wolf’s – but … not due to fangs!
Yes, and the basic features of behavior can be changed by training no more than appearance, that is, not at all. It is completely excluded that a hyena alone, over and over again, rushed at a bull herd bristling with horns, or, even more so, an armed detachment, without retreating even after several wounds!
But all of the above applies to the species of hyenas KNOWN TO SCIENCE (in fact, there are two more species in the family, but they are even less suitable for the role of the Beast). Who can guarantee that in the Algerian menagerie of the XVIII century. was there a creature that fell out of the statistics of official science?
On the territory of Europe during the ice age (and possibly a little later) the so-called “cave hyena” lived. Her life was not really connected with the caves – just a number of finds of the bones of this animal were made there. About suit and habits, of course, nothing can be said; the skeleton as a whole corresponded to the spotted hyena – perhaps it was generally its very large subspecies. But, of course, she had time and even the need to noticeably evolve: the European fauna has changed very seriously compared to the Ice Age.
Apparently, there was also a certain crypto-species of hyena in North Africa (is it not a descendant of the cave one?). There is no data on Algeria, but on the ancient Egyptian frescoes there are images of these strange creatures, similar to their spotted counterparts, but exceeding their height and somewhat differing in physique.
And again – the main question: is it possible that the cave hyena, albeit as a small endangered species, lingered in Europe or Algeria for so long (if not until our days, then at least until the 18th century) without being noticed?
During one of the Caucasian scientific expeditions in 1991, a striped hyena was discovered on the territory of Kabarda: by the way, the official zoological reference books say that the last entry of this animal into the territory of the Caucasus was noted in the pre-war period! However, although any specialist (including an experienced hunter) at a glance will determine its sharp and undeniable difference from a wolf or a feral stray dog - for an ignorant person, including ordinary hunters, these differences are almost imperceptible. Consequently, a small population can remain “invisible” for a long time – all observations are automatically transferred to its very distant “twins” …
What is true for the modern Caucasus, apparently, also applies to old Europe (not to mention the fact that in this case the importation of a pair of “puppies” from North Africa did not turn the problem of the Beast into biological nonsense). It is curious to note that the legends about werewolves, although they “mean” the transformation into a wolf, in fact contain some details that make one think of hyenas. So, the werewolf rips up fresh graves and eats corpses; such behavior is not alien to wolves, but it is more “befitting” for hyenas. Yes, and he himself, as a rule, is distinguishable from an ordinary wolf: not only more aggressive, but also larger, dressed in longer hair, sometimes forming a mane … The legendary nature of this information does not refute anything in itself (after all, legends about werewolves do not make a wolf a mythical beast !) – but probably, the very appearance of such legends is to some extent connected with “non-standard” wolves, which could well turn out to be animals of the hyena tribe! Especially if we recall the “laughing” or “sobbing” cries of hyenas, terrible for human hearing – which is why in Africa they themselves appear as werewolf animals …
Perhaps this version is the least controversial. But it’s hard to say if we’ll ever know the whole truth!
Not only the Zhivodanian beast frightened simple and not very people in the Middle Ages. Chilling descriptions of terrible witch gatherings have terrified European inhabitants since the Middle Ages. Today, the image of the coven is actively exploited by both writers and filmmakers: modern readers and viewers are not averse to tickling their nerves with a description of sinister rituals. But is the devil as terrible as he is painted? Was the Sabbath really a terrible satanic ritual, or did it have other goals?
Hypotheses of the origin of the Zhevodan beast
Before the capture of the wolf, there were several versions of its origin:
- MYSTIC. At that time, France was a country in which they believed in everything otherworldly. The village peasants assumed that the Beast was a demon sent by the forces of evil, sorcerers and witches. Many also thought that the Beast of Gévaudan was a werewolf;
- BIG BEAST. Nevertheless, the main version remains the story of a big wolf, which, due to its abnormal size, decided to feast on human flesh. Such behavior is rare for wolves, they are usually afraid of people and attack only livestock and herds. In addition to the wolf, this version also includes assumptions about other animals, such as the African hyena, a hybrid of a wolf and a dog, someone from the cat family. According to eyewitnesses, the beast bore little resemblance to a wolf;
- HUMAN. Also very popular is the version that the Beast was tame and its actions were led by a living person. Historical references point to Antoine Chastel, a resident of the surrounding lands. It is known for certain that he traveled and even lived for some time in Africa with local tribes, from whose inhabitants he borrowed faith. It was after his arrest that the Beast calmed down for a while. And new victims fell down just after the release of Chastel. It’s funny that it was Antoine’s father, Jean, who ultimately destroyed the Beast.
However, after the capture and killing of the Beast by Jean Chastel, it became obvious to everyone that it was just a large wolf or a hybrid with some anomalies in form, body structure and behavior. In any case, the stuffed animal began to rot and was destroyed. So the authenticity of this story can only be confirmed by historical writings.
Image in culture
- The story “Averuan Beast”, K. Smith;
- The book “Journey to the Cevennes in the company of a donkey”, R. Stevenson;
- “Journey to the Cevennes in the company of a donkey”
- The book “Professional Werewolf”, A. Belyanin;
- “Professional Werewolf”
- The film “The Brotherhood of the Wolf”;
- Poster for the film “Brotherhood of the Wolf”
- The film “Brotherhood of the Wolf 2” Return of the werewolf;
- Poster for the film “Brotherhood of the Wolf 2” Return of the werewolf;
- Television series about the descendants of the Zhevodansky Beast “Teen Wolf”;
- TV series “Teen Wolf”
- Board game “Nightmare”;
- Computer game “The Beast of Gevaudan”.
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