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Legendary werewolf that plagued the southern French region of Le Gevaudan in the 1760s. It allegedly killed hundreds of peasants in just three years. It was described as a hairy monster that walked on two legs. It was covered with dark, bristly hair, and those who saw its face swore that it resembled the face of Satan. It also had a very foul smell.

It all started on January 15, 1765, during a mountain blizzard. A farmer, Pierre Chateauneuf, went out to search for his teenaged son, who was tending the family's flock of sheep. Chateauneuf found his son's mutilated body and took it back to his house. After laying the boy on the floor and covering him with a quilt, Chateauneuf looked up and saw a hairy, glassy-eyed face staring at him through a window. He grabbed a musket and fired point-blank at the creature, but it ducked away just before the gun was fired. The farmer reloaded the musket and ran outside, where he saw the beast running toward his orchard. The werewolf looked like a man running in an animal skin. Its footprints were huge. Chateauneuf returned to the house and locked the door 'til morning.

Soon after, another local farmer, Jean-Pierre Pourcher, reported that he had been out hunting rabbits when the monster rose up before him from a nearby thicket. Pourcher said he fired at it, but was shaking too much to hit it.

Five days later, a young boy named Jean Panafieux ran into some bushes during a game of hide-and-seek and ran smack into the werewolf, which immediately seized him by the throat. The boy's weak cries alerted his playmates, who ran for help. Andre Portefaix, a young farmer, stabbed at the werewolf with a pitchfork and, with the help of other men from the village, ran the beast back into the hills.

The people in the region petitioned Louis IX at Versailles for help, and the king ordered a detachment of dragoons to search the mountains for the monster, but they found nothing, and after they left, the Beast increased its rampage -- the years of 1765-67 are still referred to as the "time of the death" in Le Gevaudan. Records show daily attacks by le loup-garou, which seemed to prefer to attack children and housewives.

Finally, the Marquis d'Apcher organized a posse of several hundred armed men. After days of tracking, they surrounded the Beast in a grove of trees near the village of Le Serge d'Auvert. As darkness fell, the werewolf charged at the posse and was shot down. Jean Chastel was given credit for the kill.

Chastel said that he was sitting a short distance from the other posse members and reading a prayer book. He happened to glance up and saw the Beast heading right for him, walking erect on two legs. Chastel's musket was loaded with bullets made from a silver chalice blessed by a priest. His first bullet struck the monster in the chest. It let out a terrifying howl and charged at Chastel, but his second bullet struck it in the heart and killed it.

Though some modern researchers believe that the creature may have been a type of rare leopard or a wild boar, Chastel described his trophy as possessing strange feet, pointed ears, and lots of dark, coarse hair. The other members of the hunting party described it as half human, half wolf. Records indicate that the carcass of a large wolf was paraded through several villages as proof of the monster's demise.

However, Abbe Pourcher of St. Martin de Bourchauz parish, who interviewed many people who survived the monster's attacks, as well as members of the posse, noted rumors that the body of a wolf was displayed because the actual Beast of Le Gevaudan was too horrifying to look at...

The French film "Le Pacte des Loups" (released as "Brotherhood of the Wolf" in America) is based very loosely on the events described above.

Primary research from The Werewolf Book by Brad Steiger, (C) 1999, Visible Ink Press, pp. 27-30.

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