Europe’s Forgotten Werewolf Trials

Stories of witch trials throughout history are pretty well-known. During the witch hunts that took place across Europe, but especially in the areas of present-day Germany and France, thousands of innocent people were put on trial for witchcraft. Many of them were put to death. But while this was going on, trials of people accused of being another sort of supernatural creature were also occurring. People were put on trial for lycanthropy, the crime of being a werewolf, but these cases were often overshadowed by the more numerous witch trials.

The first known prosecution for werewolfery took place in Poligny, France in 1521. After a wolf attacked the town, three men wound up being arrested for being werewolves. After undergoing torture, one of the men, Pierre Bourgot, said they had made a deal with some men dressed all in black. The black-clad men gave them a potion that turned them into werewolves whenever they used it. As werewolves, they then roamed about eating children. The accused werewolves were put to death.

historyhustle.com

Another case occurred in the French town of Dole, when the town’s children began disappearing in 1573. Some of the bodies were found dismembered in the woods. When a man named Gilles Garnier was caught with a child’s body, he was tortured on the rack. He also confessed to receiving an ointment that turned him into a werewolf. He said he and his wife were eating the children because they couldn’t afford food, but it is unclear whether or not he confessed just to stop the torture. He was found guilty and burned alive.

One of the more gruesome fates to meet an accused werewolf happened to a German man named Peter Stubbe. Instead of a potion or ointment, Stubbe claimed he was given a magic belt by Satan himself. This belt allowed him to turn into a werewolf. He confessed to killing and eating 14 children, including his own son. He also confessed to killing pregnant women and ripping their fetuses from their bodies before eating them.

Needless to say, such a sensational crime demanded an equally sensational execution. First, his skin was ripped off with hot pincers. Then, all his limbs were broken and his head was cut off before he was burned. His daughter, who he had raped, was also burned to death for some reason. Stubbe’s head was put on display to warn people against doing business with Satan.

Of course, none of these people were werewolves, and most of them were probably not guilty of anything. Research into the trials has shown that many of them might have practiced folk magic, a practice that caught up many of the women accused of witchcraft, too. Some of the accused men were also accused for political reasons, such as converting to Protestantism in a Catholic region. And more than a few were possibly mentally ill. Once they were put under torture, they probably would have confessed to anything to make the pain end.

No one is sure just how many were accused of lycanthropy, though it was only a small fraction of the number accused of witchcraft. Some werewolf trials were also combined with accusations of witchcraft, further complicating the numbers. All we know is how brutally they were treated, which begs the question: who were the true animals of the werewolf trials?

Next Article
ADVERTISEMENT
  • Dutch Company Wants to Train Crows to Pick Up Cigarette Butts

    Pollution in the form of garbage on city streets is a major problem in cities worldwide. Discarded cigarette butts make up a large portion of this street rubbish as more than 4.5 trillion of them are thrown out every year. These cigarette remains then go on to contaminate the environment with toxic chemicals and carcinogens....

    Read More
  • The Surprising Diet of the Vikings

    The Vikings are well-known for their warlike nature. It is no wonder then that images of a Viking feast often contain large platters of roasted meat and mugs of some strong alcoholic beverage, with little else as an accompaniment besides perhaps some type of bread. You might be astonished to learn, then, that the Viking...

    Read More
  • Whales and Dolphins Have Human-Like Societies

    Whales and dolphins have long been known to be smart animals. Some of these oceanic mammals can communicate with each other using a special language, and some, like bottlenose dolphins, even use simple tools. They are almost human-like in their intelligence at times. And a new study, published in the journal Nature and Ecology, shows...

    Read More
  • What Happened to Bobby Dunbar?

    On August 23, 1912, the Dunbars, a wealthy family from Opelousas, Louisiana, went on a fishing trip to Swayze Lake, also in Louisiana. The small family group consisted of Percy and Lessie Dunbar and their two young children, Alonzo and Bobby. At some point that day, four-year-old Bobby went missing. Volunteers and police searched the...

    Read More
  • The Unlikely Witch of Edinburgh

    From late 17th-century Scotland comes one of the strangest stories of witchcraft to emerge out of that period. Most people who were convicted and executed for the crime of witchcraft had to have their confessions tortured or bullied out of them. But this person’s confession was totally voluntary and completely unexpected. Major Thomas Weir was...

    Read More
  • The First Vending Machine Was Invented 2000 Years Ago

    Vending machines are a part of everyday life for most people. They can be found just about everywhere, from offices to schools to rest stops on the side of the highway. With the vending machines of today dispensing everything from sodas to electronics, one could be forgiven for thinking they are purely a modern invention....

    Read More
  • Origins of Easter Island’s First Inhabitants Remains Mysterious

    Easter Island, also known as Rapa Nui, is one of the most mysterious places on earth. The tiny, isolated island, with a total area of only 64 square miles and over 1100 miles away from any other inhabited area, is perhaps best-known for its giant statues. These statues, known as moai, are themselves a mystery....

    Read More
  • The Mysterious Tunguska Event

    On the morning of June 30, 1908, a huge ball of fire was observed streaking across the sky in a remote part of Siberia, in Russia. No one knew what it was at the time, but whatever its origins, it exploded above the Podkamennaya Tunguska River, flattening nearly 800 square miles of forest. This strange...

    Read More