One werewolf is incredulous enough, but a whole family of werewolves? Such a story happened in the Jura region of eastern France in 1598. In the spring of that year, a boy named Benoit Bidel and his sister were picking strawberries near the village of St. Claude. While Benoit was climbing a tree, a wolf with human hands emerged from the forest and lunged at his sister. Benoit hopped down and tried to stab the wolf with a knife. The wolf tossed his knife away though, and it then bit his neck and ran back off into the trees.
Some near-by peasants who heard the scuffle rushed to the scene. They found Benoit badly bleeding, although his sister was unharmed. Before dying on the spot, Benoit gave a description of the strange wolf he saw. The angry peasants immediately set off looking for the wolf in the forest, but instead they stumbled on a local girl named Pernette Gandillon. The furious mob noticed that Pernette’s dress was covered in blood, so they grabbed her and tore her apart.
Regardless of whether Pernette confessed to being the wolf or not, as some accounts claim, Pernette was a pretty unpopular person to begin with. She and her family lived in the forest, isolated from the rest of St. Claude. They were rumored to be Satanists and witches, so it wasn’t that big of a leap to suspect her of being a werewolf either.
Following Pernette’s murder, her brother Pierre and sister Antoinette were also accused of being werewolves. They were both accused of attending sabbaths, as well as summoning hailstorms and having sex with demons. (In Antoinette’s case, her sexual partner was a goat, who was actually the Devil in disguise.) After being tortured, surely the most reliable method of truth inducement, Pierre cracked and confessed that the accusations were true.
He admitted that the Devil gave his family magical wolf-skins, which had the power to turn the Gandillons into werewolves. Wearing the skins, they couldn’t help but run across the land on all fours, devouring animals and humans alike. Pierre’s son, Georges, also confessed to having an ointment that had the same magical power. With the help of his aunts, he said that he killed two goats while in the form of a wolf.
Unluckily for the Gandillons, the infamous judge Henri Boguet was put in charge of their case. Belief in werewolves might have been widespread during the time, but educated people were generally more skeptical. They thought werewolves were mentally ill, or suffering from delusions caused by the Devil. (Hey, they were close.)
Boguet, on the other hand, took werewolves seriously. He was the author of a best-selling book about witchcraft, and claimed to have sentenced over 600 werewolves to death during his long and, shall we say, distinguished career. While visiting the Gandillons in jail, he noted that Antoinette, Georges, and Pierre walked on all fours and howled. Their faces, hands, and legs were marked with scratches. Pierre was so badly disfigured, in fact, “that he bore hardly any resemblance to a man and struck all those who looked at him with horror.”
The Gandillons never transformed into wolves during their captivity, but Boguet attributed this to a lack of magical ointment. The Gandillons’ behavior in their cells was proof enough for Boguet, and he sentenced all three family members to be burnt at the stake.
Be sure to check back on Bizarre and Grotesque every Sunday and Wednesday for new articles, and don’t forget to hit those SHARE buttons down below!