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.
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.
The Werewolf Of Caud Was Found Guilty Of Murder And Locked In A Sanitarium
In 1598, just outside of Angers, France, hunters discovered the body of a badly mutilated teenager and chased off the wolf eating it. The hunters followed the trail of blood and instead of a wolf, they found Jacques Roulet, the Werewolf of Caud. He was naked, covered in blood, and held pieces of human flesh in his hands.
They immediately took him into town where he was promptly arrested and tried for his horrendous crime. After the customary period of torture, Roulet confessed to having the ability to transform into a werewolf. According to Roulet's confession, he had been able to transform into a wolf since he was a child, thanks to a salve his parents gave him.
Roulet was found guilty of murder and cannibalism and sentenced to death. However, his case was quickly appealed. The courts found that he was actually just insane (and not a werewolf) and locked him away in a sanitarium for his malicious deeds.
Many Of The Condemned Werewolves Were Likely Suffering From Severe Mental Illness
Clinical lycanthropy is a condition where a person believes they are able to transform into a feral beast, such as a wolf or other predator. Dr. Jan Dirk Blom studied clinical lycanthropy in 1850 and found at least 13 cases where people identified as transforming into a wolf over a 150-year period. Although rare, it was certainly enough to link them all together as a common mental illness.
And it wasn’t the first time lycanthropy was noted as a form of insanity. The condition was noted as far back as the 7th century by physician Paul of Aegina. Aegina noted some people suffered from an animalistic dissociation from humanity.