Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Werewolf Syndrome: Compulsive Bestial Slaughterers

Werewolf of Châlons

The "Demon Tailor," known also as the "Werewolf of Châlons," was arraigned in France on December 14, 1598 on murder charges so shocking that after the trial all court documents were destroyed.  Officials wanted no one to see in writing what he had done.  Nevertheless, there were rumors, and these were written into documents that have been passed down. 

The unnamed man was reputed to have lured children into his tailor shop in Paris, where he tortured them with sexual perversions before slitting their throats.  He would then dismember them, dress the flesh as if he were a butcher, and consume the remains.  When he could not get victims that way, he roamed the woods, supposedly in a wolf's form, to find them, and he was alleged to have killed several dozen.  Officials raided his shop and found barrels full of bleached bones in the cellar, along with other foul items.  They were presumably human, although it's unclear if officials were actually able to make that determination or were guided instead by superstition.

This offender was quickly convicted and sentenced to die by being burned at the stake.  Nigel Blundell reports that a large crowd gathered to watch him get his due.  Even as the flames burned hot and scorched his flesh, he showed no remorse for his deeds and never confessed or asked for forgiveness.  "He could be heard cursing and blaspheming to the very end."  The people took that as a sign that his soul belonged to the Devil.

Book cover: Vampires, Werewolves, and Other Monsters
Book cover: Vampires, Werewolves, and Other Monsters

The same year, a sister, brother and two of the man's children — the Gandillon family — were tried together in France.  Rosemary Ellen Guilley tells the tale in Vampires, Werewolves, and Other Monsters: Pernette Gandillon believed she was a wolf and displayed wolf-like behavior.  She attacked two children one day, and the older one survived to identify her to authorities.  They seized her and "tore her to pieces."  They then accused her brother, Pierre, of being a witch and a shape-shifter.  He and his son confessed that they possessed an ointment that allowed them to change into wolves.  The scars on their bodies reportedly attested to attacks from dogs when they were in wolf form.  Once they were imprisoned, they moved around on all fours and howled.  Pierre's daughter was also accused as a witch, and all three were hanged and burned.  But only Pernette had been a killer.

It was not just France that had a werewolf problem.  Another famous case had also emerged in Germany.

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