Gévaudan, Beast of (page 2)
On April 29, 1765, a local nobleman called Chaumette and his two brothers came upon the beast as it was stalking a shepherd. They shot at it, and the animal collapsed on the ground, rolling over two or three times. They fired again. The beast rolled over to a nearby wood, managed to gain shelter and fled. But this time a lot of blood stained the soil and bushes all around. Everyone hoped it had gone away to die alone in the bushes. It proved to be a false hope. Shortly after the beast was back on its bloody rampage.
This time the beast attacked at the great spring fair held at Malzieu in May 1765. It stared by killing a young lady named Marguerite, who by a strange coincidence happened to be a very good friend of Jacques Denis. Afterwards, the creature killed three other victims on that same day. This was the last drop. Enraged peasants grabbed pitch forks and bayonets, and led by Jacques put their dogs onto the still-fresh scent. Soon enough they found themselves face to face with 'La Bête', Jacques for the second time. He attacked the animal violently with his bayonet, but the beast remained unconcerned, leaping at the young man. If not for the arrival of more hunters prompting the beast to flee, Jacques would have joined his friend Marguerite in the afterlife. In June 1765, Denneval gave up the hunt.
The beast, as if it had sensed the departure of its enemy, went on a rampage. On June 16 it attacked and mangled a little girl, who fortunately was saved by villagers at the last moment. On the 21st, 'La Bête' killed a fourteen year-old boy, devoured a forty-five year-old woman and carried off a little child. A furious King then charged his personal gun carrier, Antoine de Beauterne, with the demise of the problematic beast.
The King's emissary did little at first. He surveyed the area, drew some maps of the animal's routes, and inspected the environment. Then, on September 21st, he organized a beat composed of forty local hunters and 12 dogs.
This time things seemed to be going all right. Guided by his intuition, de Beauterne had the men encircled a ravine in the woods near the village of Pommier. As soon as the dogs were unleashed, they stared to bark furiously. 'La Bête' was there! Antoine de Beauterne's approach and intuition had paid off.
As the beast came out of the brush, it immediately became aware that it was surrounded. Desperately, it tried to find a hole in the trap. De Beauterne fired, hitting the beast in the right shoulder. The hunters also opened fire, and one shot went right through the animal's right eye and its skull. The creature fell, as the men sounded the horn in triumph.
Suddenly, to everyone's surprise and bafflement, the beast rose and charged at de Beauterne. The men fired again, and again the creature was hit. 'La Bête' turned around and tried to escape once again, but it finally collapsed — dead at last!
Upon examination, the animal proved to be an enormous rare type of wolf measuring a little over 6 feet (1.8 meters), weighing 143 pounds (65 kilograms), with a huge head and fangs about 1½ inches (3.5 centimeters) long.
There was great rejoicing in the region's villages. 'The beast is dead! The beast is dead!' But still many folk would not dare to believe it was true, including Jacques Denis' other sister, Julienne:
"I know it is still alive, out there, watching us from the shadows! It will get me, I just know it!"
For the next couple of months no ominous alarm bells were heard at the villages, but just because of the King's order forbidding anyone to speak of the beast. The killings went on, and Julienne disappeared, never to be seen again, on Christmas Day.
For the next year (1766) things were much calmer, with just a few disappearances. But in the spring of 1767 the massacres resumed, although it is not known how many were killed: many families did not admit to the deaths and the authorities no longer registered them. But somehow it came to light that from March to June 1767 there were 14 victims of the beast, all in an area 3 miles (5 kilometers) long near the town of Paulhac.
On June 19 a local nobleman organized a huge beat, composed of over three hundred hunters and beaters. Jean Chastel, an acquaintance of Jacques and Julienne Denis, came along armed with his gun and blessed silver bullets. He positioned himself on a prime spot to get first bids on the creature, and opened a prayer book.
As Chastel preyed, suddenly there was a rustling at the edge of the woods. The beat had worked, and the creature sprang from the brush. It stopped surprised, a few steps in front of Jean Chastel, which in turn raised his gun and fired once, twice. The beast fell, dead. Just as the animal killed by Antoine de Beauterne it actually looked remotely similar to a wolf, but it was abnormally bigger than any local wolves ever seen. Upon gutting the creature, remains of a small girl were found inside it.
The animal was embalmed and taken from town to town so people, for a small fee, could have a look at it. The King however wanted it to be exhibited at the royal palace, so Jean himself went to Versailles with the body. Unfortunately, embalming techniques were not very good at the time, so when they reached the palace the carcass was starting to stink. After a few days of displaying the creature's corpse at his court, the King — upset by the smell — ordered it buried at once.
One week after the killing of the creature, during a hunting party organized by marquise Labesseyre-Saint-Mary, a hunter named Jean Terrisse killed a giant female wolf. It was considered that this was the mate of the monster. After the slaying of these two animals no more attacks were reported.
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Sources: Article is scheduled to be reviewed.
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