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  • The Beast Of Gevaudan

    Beast of Gévaudan

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beast_of_G%C3%A9vaudan


    The number of victims differs according to sources. In 1987, one study estimated there had been 210 attacks; resulting in 113 deaths and 49 injuries; 98 of the victims killed were partly eaten. However, other sources claim it killed between 60 and 100 adults and children, as well as injuring more than 30.


    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6nkVsNY5SkE&t=274s

    Almost 250 years ago, a frightening creature lurking at the foot of the French Alps is said to have killed more than 300 people. The creature has become known as the Beast of Gevaudan.
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  • #2
    I had never heard of the Beast of Gevaudan until I saw this video yesterday:

    https://youtube.com/watch?v=MATrLKCs71s&t=521s

    Of course I instantly over-analyzed the subject and read anything available that looked somewhat scientific. Then I was left with more questions and observations. Of especial interest for us at the Forum is the possibility that this episode had to do with covering up the actions of a serial killer. (So much for JtR being the "first" serial killer.)

    Secondly it is suggested this story was driven by the press, such as it was at the time.

    Since I was born and raised in the wilderness there are some obvious gaps in the information about The Beast. First and foremost, if a strange beast is lurking, especially if it is preying on livestock or threatening people, tracks are looked for. While there are many fantastical descriptions of The Beast, there seem to be NO descriptions or drawings of tracks! There are also no descriptions of fecal material left by The Beast. If she/he/it was preying on people, it seems droppings would have been discovered along the way showing human remains or something.

    Anyway, in a rural or wilderness setting, as this area of France must have been in the 1700s, these are obvious things rural people do in such situations.

    It is reported that there were numerous wolf attacks on humans in that region at that time. That is something else I need to research as I have been led to believe wolf attacks on humans are historically rare.

    The first woman to encounter The Beast was herding cows and the bulls in her herd lowered their horns and drove off The Beast. That indicates The Beast was a natural entity because the cattle acted as they would have if encountering wolves, etc.

    A large number of PEOPLE were attacked or killed over several years. It is very unusual for any large carnivore to focus on humans as prey. There were cattle and sheep present and we can assume there would have been goats, poultry, hogs and other domestic animals if a carnivore simply needed a meal. When humans are attacked in large numbers it is usually because a large carnivore in the wild has become ill or injured so that it is no longer to attack its natural prey. Recent theories have suggested the 'Man Eating Lions of Tsavo' attacked humans because of a profound drought and the lions wanted the fluid from blood.

    So why did The Beast seem to prefer humans as prey? Some humans or groups of humans were apparently able to drive off The Beast. I would assume sheep or goats would have put up less resistance and made nice meals for a large carnivore.

    We also do not seem to have records of livestock being attacked. Sometimes rogue carnivores will create great carnage in herds. We also seem not to have records of The Beast approaching farms or settlements at night, perhaps making horses scream in fright, etc.

    The Beast seemed to be diurnal rather than nocturnal. Most large carnivores are nocturnal though wolves may hunt in the day.

    So, who trained The Beast to eat humans and why? I do not believe this would be a learned behaviour of a truly wild animal.

    Theories about the identification of the beast suggest an exotic animal escaped from a menagerie. Private people had menageries before zoos were invented. Still, how did this beast come to prefer humans as prey?

    Recently a German zoologist suggested The Beast was a "sub-adult male lion" but my problem with this is that the beast was supposed to have pointed ears and lions have rounded ears. Further, people can generally tell a cat from a dog, a domestic tabby = cat just as much as a fully manes lion. A chihuahua = dog just as much as a huge mastiff. I think this line of reasoning goes back to Plato or something, that humans can see the essence of shapes.

    Further defending the feline identification, The Beast took its prey by the head or throat, typical big cat behaviour. Wolves of other predatory canines tend to hamstring prey and go for the abdomen. It was also reported that flesh had been "licked" from the skull of one victim. Big cats have tongues like razors and can lick flesh from bone.

    One theory which apparently goes back to the 1700s is that a local man trained The Beast to cover up the man's activities as a serial killer. The evidence for this is flimsy at best but it is interesting.

    There are historic incidents of rogue animals attacking senselessly. For instance the book and film "Jaws" was based on a shark that entered a freshwater river system and which attacked randomly and repeatedly. Such animals tend to be under stress of an illness or injury. Yet The Beast in the French tale was supposedly active over several years. If it was mentally or physically damaged I would expect it to have died in under a year. Likewise, if it was rabid I would expect a rapid death and more widespread attacks including farm animals, etc.

    I think there is a bigger story here but I have no idea what it could be. The story is grossly incomplete and lacks features that would be commonplace among rural folks living close to nature. It would be easy to dismiss the whole thing as folklore except there seems to be enough reportage from the day to say SOMETHING was happening, SOMETHING was killing and eating a large number of people.
    The wickedness of the world is the dream of the plague.~~Voynich Manuscript

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    • #3
      I researched the beast for my PhD thesis, which is available as a free download on the University of Sheffield website. An abridged version was published as Howls of Imagination, my first book and then I revisited the topic in the CFZ 2012 yearbook.

      Recommended sources are Monsters and Men by Jay M Smith and the translation of Abbe Pierce Pourcher's work.

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      • #4
        Originally posted by Paul Williams View Post
        I researched the beast for my PhD thesis, which is available as a free download on the University of Sheffield website. An abridged version was published as Howls of Imagination, my first book and then I revisited the topic in the CFZ 2012 yearbook.

        Recommended sources are Monsters and Men by Jay M Smith and the translation of Abbe Pierce Pourcher's work.
        Thank you, thank you, thank you! I will search it all out.

        I hope my comments make sense in context. I remember some terrible things from the wilderness but fortunately I have never been closely connected to anyone who was killed or eaten by a predator. The Gevaudan story makes a lot of sense till you apply real, rural life to the picture and you wonder what the peasants were doing and why they did not do normal things that are done when an unknown predator lurks, and why so MANY of them became victims.

        I will have your thesis for bedtime reading tonight! Have you been to Gevaudan? Another theory I thought of was a South American puma. Southern France is not that far from Spain and you can bet Spanish explorers brought back some exotic wildlife. I got to play with a little puma cub once and at 8 weeks or so it was REALLY strong, more like a young dog than a kitten.
        The wickedness of the world is the dream of the plague.~~Voynich Manuscript

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        • #5
          Thanks, Paul! I have your thesis. I should buy your book too.

          I know a wolf story I bet you have not heard in a book produced around here locally. If I can find the book I will share.

          With the usual government intellectual brilliance, huge, Canadian grey wolves were introduced back to the northwestern U.S. because the elk herds in Yellowstone Park were lying around, getting too fat and destroying the aspen forests by sharpening their horns when they got bored.

          Soon, the wolves who were supposed to know enough to hang around Yellowstone and harass the fat, lazy elk, wandered all over and started breeding. They even swam across the Snake River at one of the wider spots! Therefore they are all through the woods where I live in the Idaho/Oregon border area. I have had a couple experiences which surprised me.

          I take dogs with me into the woods, usually hunting dogs. They might attract wolves. Anyway, what I suppose was a wolf pair, maybe a male/female couple, followed us through the woods on a couple occasions. They stayed just beyond the tree line and communicated with each other. They are VERY different from our coyotes.

          Another time I had been picking berries for a couple days and had camped. When I was finally pulling out and had everything loaded, a chorus of wolves started howling very close, again just within the tree line. The difference in voices between the coyote and wolf is the difference between a really good singer and a magnificent opera singer. The wolves are EXTREMELY loud.

          I think wolves are curious and like to watch.

          ~~~~~

          I have read enough of your thesis to say I like your thinking. I am sick and tired of local papers with almost daily headlines about suspected wolf predation, the need to kill wolves, etc. I went to a political meeting on the Oregon side of the border, a regular meeting of one of our two major parties, and the biggest concern of the attendees was wolves! The wolves were not wanted around here but idiots brought them in and now wolves are supposed to pay the price. Unfair!

          A few years ago a hunter shot a wolf which was supposedly attacking. The wolf was still protected at that time so there was a big, stinky investigation. The results were something like the wolf was a distance away when shot and it was shot in the hind quarters or something like it was retreating instead of attacking. Poor wolves!

          I have not gotten to your opinion on Gevaudan yet and I am anxious to read that. IMO The Beast was not a wolf. Too much implies it was something else with feline qualities yet people described something they thought was canid. That whole episode was crazy!
          The wickedness of the world is the dream of the plague.~~Voynich Manuscript

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          • #6
            Hi Anna,

            My closest encounter with a wolf was in Slovakia. We had been tracking prints all day then suddenly one appeared in front of us and ran off in a different direction. We followed her without success then returned to the place of the sighting and saw the smaller prints going the other way. It seemed that she had deliberately led us away to protect the cubs.

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            • #7
              Originally posted by Paul Williams View Post
              Hi Anna,

              My closest encounter with a wolf was in Slovakia. We had been tracking prints all day then suddenly one appeared in front of us and ran off in a different direction. We followed her without success then returned to the place of the sighting and saw the smaller prints going the other way. It seemed that she had deliberately led us away to protect the cubs.
              What a lovely story! Films about Chernobyl have shown wolves living once again in that abandoned area.

              I have spent a great deal of my life camping. One fall my husband and I camped on open range that had previously been saturated with cows. The cows must have been practically shoulder to shoulder since the sagebrush was all splintered and ground into the dust.

              Anyway, one mid afternoon what looked to me as a large, mottled dog came to this recent pasturage and was foraging cattle droppings. My husband, who had been an international hunter, insisted she was a wolf and that she was starving. Of course I felt terribly sorry for the animal. It was our last day camping so I got out of the car and the "wolf" ran over the side of a hill. I followed and dumped all the dog food we had left upon a flat rock. For good measure I did the same with a pot of meat stew we had on the trip.

              The "wolf" was once again working her way up the hill but she had two, small grey pups with her. They looked like small foxes. I have no way to know if they ate my offerings since she was very shy and we left the area. I hope so.

              My husband had hunted in the Yukon and said wolves were very shy. My experiences with apex predators have always been positive. I have not had close encounters with bears and I do fear them to an extent as I believe their behaviour can be less predictable. I do not fear wolves or cougars. Both are curious animals and will follow a person through the woods.
              The wickedness of the world is the dream of the plague.~~Voynich Manuscript

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