If You Thought The Witch Trials Were Brutal, Those Condemned As Werewolves Suffered Far Worse Fates
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If You Thought The Witch Trials Were Brutal, Those Condemned As Werewolves Suffered Far Worse Fates

We are all familiar with the witch trials in Europe, but what about the werewolf trials? During the 15th, 16th, and 17th centuries, Europe went mad executing sorcerers and witches accused of practicing lycanthropy. Fueled by church politics and a deep-rooted misunderstanding and fear of mental illness, the werewolf trials accused men, women, and children of transforming into wolves and lapping up the blood of innocents. 

Historic accounts of werewolves and their inhumane trials started in Switzerland and then spread like wildfire to Germany, France, and the Balkans. Kings and church officials alike appointed 'judges' to reign in these werewolves, torture them within an inch of their lives, and produce confessions that merited brutal executions. Peter Stumpp was one of the first people to be convicted of lycanthropy in the late 1500s, but he wouldn't be the last. Thousands of people were killed for their alleged wolf-related crimes, whether it be turning into a werewolf or being a "wolf charmer." The times people were put on trial for being werewolves was a dark period for Europe and all of the hunt's victims. 

  • The Werewolf Of Bedburg Had His Skin Peeled Off With Hot Pokers And His Limbs Broken

    In 1589, the most horrific interrogations and executions of an accused werewolf were those of Peter Stumpp. Stumpp, otherwise known as the Werewolf of Bedburg, confessed to a quarter century of killing and cannibalizing people. He specifically confessed to killing and eating 13 children and two pregnant women, fetuses and all. Even worse, he confessed to intrafamilial relations with his daughter and his sister, all while having a mistress and a live-in partner. 

    His punishment was cruel and severe. He was strapped onto a Catherine wheel, and executioners peeled his flesh using red-hot pincers in ten places. The public flaying was just the beginning of his execution, though. His arms and legs were broken while on the wheel, and then he was beheaded and set on fire. Officials took his severed head and attached it to a wolf’s body, displaying it as a warning to the rest of the townsfolk regarding the evils of werewolfery. His daughter and mistress were also burned at the stake at the same time his headless body was reduced to ashes.

  • The Werewolves Of Poligny Were Serial Killers Who Targeted And Murdered Children

    The very first werewolf trial occurred in 1521, where two serial killers were tortured into confessing their true nature as werewolves by the Church. The two in question were Pierre Burgot and Michel Verdun; together, they confessed to the murder and cannibalism of multiple young children. Burgot confessed that he and Verdun attended a Pagan ritual where they both stripped down and rubbed a magical ointment on each other. That ointment was what caused them to transform into werewolves, at which point they began their campaign of murder.

    Burgot himself shared his experience as a werewolf with the courts, and said “I was at first horrified at my four wolf’s feet, and the fur with which I was covered all at once, but I found that I could now travel with the speed of the wind."

  • Pierre De Lancre Was The Righteous Psychopath King Henry IV Put In Charge Of Ending Witchcraft And Lycanthropy

    In 1582, King Henry IV was sick of the chaos in the Labourd region of France, so he commissioned two men to end the “witchcraft, werewolfery, and heresy” plaguing the area. Those two men were Pierre de Lancre, a judge, and Jean d’Espagnet, a polymath. 

    Of the two, Lancre was the decidedly more pious, righteous, and violently effective man. No one was safe from Judge Lancre; men, women, children, and even priests were tortured and murdered for their "crimes." His work in Labourd resulted in the executions of 600 people over the course of just three years. He held very racist views, believing the indigenous Basque community and the Jewish community were responsible for most of the witchcraft and black magic plaguing Europe. 

    His methods were brutal and mad. Lancre was obsessed with the details surrounding the alleged black magic of werewolves and during his torture sessions, he would ask his victims about their "carnal encounters" with demons. The more he tortured them, the more clear and vivid the detainees' recollections became. 

    His methods were so brutal that he was removed from his position as a judge, and the remaining trials were dismissed in 1614. According to Lancre, any moral slight was worthy of torturous scrutiny:

    “To dance indecently; eat excessively; make love diabolically; commit atrocious acts of sodomy; blaspheme scandalously; avenge themselves insidiously; run after all horrible, dirty, and crudely unnatural desires; keep toads, vipers, lizards, and all sorts of poison as precious things; love passionately a stinking goat; caress him lovingly; associate with and mate with him in a disgusting and scabrous fashion - are these not the uncontrolled characteristics of an unparalleled lightness of being and of an execrable inconstancy that can be expiated only through the divine fire that justice placed in Hell?”

  • The Werewolf Of Chalons’s Crimes Were So Horrifying He Was Erased From All Records After His Trial

    In the bustling French capital of Paris lived a tailor whose name was completely lost to history. And it wasn't because of poor records - it was because his name was actually erased from every record possible, including the newspapers, due to the horror of his crimes.

    Legends say he lured children into his shop where he tortured and violated them. After he had broken their spirits, he would slit their throats, dismember their corpses, and eat them to the bone. 

    In 1598, he confessed after being tortured to also prowling the woods at night as a wolf to hunt and kill even more children. It’s said that his shop in Paris was searched, and barrels filled with the bleached bones of his victims were found. He was very quickly found guilty, and summarily burned at the stake.

  • Gilles Garnier Was Burned At The Stake For Cannibalizing Children

    One of the most well-known werewolf trials was that of Gilles Garnier, AKA the Werewolf of Dole. He was famously accused of murdering and tearing apart children who lived in the town of Dole, France.

    It was around the early 1570s when kids started to disappear from the town, and people automatically believed a werewolf was to blame. The town launched search parties armed with polearms to find the wolf. During one patrol, the townsfolk came across a little girl being mauled by what looked like a wolf. They chased it away, and they believed it was Garnier.

    Garnier was immediately taken into town to be interrogated and most likely tortured. During his confession, he admitted to killing and eating four children. He also confessed to bringing home parts of the body to share with his family. Garnier was quickly found guilty and was burned at the stake in January 1573.

  • Thiess Of Kaltenbrun Was A Werewolf Who Fought Witches And Devils

    In 1692, an 80-year-old man by the name of Thiess openly confessed to being a werewolf without the prerequisite torture session. During his trial, he claimed werewolves were the Hounds of God who routinely went into Hell to combat demons and witches. They also brought back the earthly goods demons had stolen from the people. Thiess went as far as to admonish a priest, claiming his work as a werewolf was far more godly than anything the priest had done.

    The Church was aghast - for centuries their narrative was dependent on the fact werewolves were the Devil’s playthings. By that point, they had run tens of thousands of trials all over Europe condemning confessed werewolves, most of whom were put to death brutally. But Thiess wasn’t burnt to death at the stake; instead, his punishment was ten lashes. He was banished from the church, as the judge did not buy his "good werewolf" bit.