Category: paedophilia


Gilles de Rais

The real mystery of the Gilles de Rais case is in the depth of Christian sentiments which change a story of Hell into a manifestation of Grace.  Louis Pauwels writes:

“Nothing seems to me to be more moving than the short dialogue between the Bishop of Nantes and the accused, after the Bishop has veiled the Christ’s face.

“And nothing seems to me to be more beautiful – and farthest away from our mentality of today – than the crowd of parents of the victims praying for this soul’s salvation.  That is spiritual nobility.”

***

The original manuscripts of the trial, in Latin, are in the Archives of the Prefecture de Nantes.  The Acts of the ecclesiastical trial and of the civil trial are at the Bibliotheque de Nantes.  Louis Pauwels thinks that the best use of these documents, in modern times, has been by Michel Bataille for his work consecrated to Gilles de Rais.

***

The estimation of around one thousand victims is the one usually retained.  But there has been some controversy about it.  According to some historians, including Pierre de Sermoise, Gilles de Rais did indeed commit a few sexual and diabolical crimes, but only a small number of them.  And the trial (at a time when one did not bring a High Lord to Justice for having raped and killed a few peasant children) would have been political, inspired by jealousy and personal interest.  Gilles de Rais, short of money, had sold part of his possessions to Jean, Duke de Bretagne, and to Jean de Malestroit, Bishop of Nantes (who owed him large sums of money).  But he had sold, “a remere”, which means with the possibility of buying back.  If he managed to restore his fortune (through acts of war, the King’s friendship, or alchemy), it would be a bitter disappointment for his buyers.  The two Jeans are said to have built the case, bought witnesses, and obtained confessions, by torture, from the two people closest to Gilles de Rais, his valets Henriet and Pontou, executed with him.  This is, however, a very doubtful thesis.

***

One curious thing!  Prelati, the Florentine alchemist who was the probable instigator of the human sacrifices, was not executed.  He was “forgotten” in prison.  And Rene d’Anjou came to get him out and make him his personal alchemist.  Justice was done, however, a little while later, but in another circumstance.  Prelati, a few years later, was arrested and executed for forgery.  He had taken the ducal seal to establish false Acts for his own profit.

***

Although Gilles de Rais was a companion of Jeanne d’Arc, he was neither the only, nor the most illustrious Captain at her side.  He is not as present as Dunois, La Hire, or Xaintrailles.  Although he follows Jeanne to Paris, he is hardly to be seen in the army afterwards.  Although he is made Field-Marshal of France, it is mostly because of his family’s prestige.  A family to which La Tremoille belongs.  But his feelings for Jeanne are sincere.  The cult that he devotes to her is real.  As the historian, Jean Pesez, says:

“There remains in him the tenacious memory of the time when he followed Jeanne, of that parenthesis of Light in his life of blood and shadows.”

***

All of Gilles de Rais’ possessions are not confiscated after his execution.  His niece, Marie de Croizil, who is later the sole heiress of the Houses of Rais and Laval, marries, in 1516, Sieur Joachim Foucher, bringing him in her dowry the Barony of Rais and the Seigneury of Machecoul.

***

For his judges, as well as for the families of the children he has killed, Gilles de Rais suddenly ceases to be a person convicted of dreadful crimes.  Or rather, he ceases to be only that.  He is the image of a man who is the Demon’s prey, is fighting for the salvation of his soul, and needs the whole of Christendom to participate in the communion of the Faith, so that he can present himself before God.  There is no longer an atmosphere of vengeance.  Human justice has been done.  But, over and above the guilty man who is going to pay with his life, there is a soul who is asking for salvation, and it has to be helped to this salvation.  Which is also connected to the salvation of each individual.  An old Christian writer, Bernanos, said that if only one man is cold from despair, the whole world’s teeth chatter.  Gilles must not feel despair as he climbs to the gibbet.  That is why this crowd, who has been so odiously plunged into grief by him, kneels in prayer for him…

***

Gilles de Rais has sometimes been identified with Bluebeard.  In fact, this character in Perrault’s tale seems to have existed in oral tradition before the XVth Century, as certain specialists have shown.

***

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Gilles de Rais' trial in Nantes. The Bishop is in the centre on the left.

Is this the same man?  He is unrecognizable.  He is no longer wearing any insignia, jewels, or ermine collar.  He no longer has that air of haughtiness.  He is dressed like a villager.  He has put on the tunic of the people, which is ordinarily of red cloth.  This modesty envelops him in the colour of blood.

He is calm.  In peace.  Almost radiant.  And, however, at the entire disposition of the Duke de Bretagne, who has already taken for himself a good part of his possessions, of the Bishop of Nantes, who owes him too much money to have an impartial mind, of the civil judges, who will punish the crimes, of the ecclesiastical judges, who will punish the sacrileges, and of the People who demands vengeance for the children raped, tortured, their throats slit, their bodies cut into pieces.  He has nothing left, only self-loathing and senseless hope in divine misericord.

He rises:

“There is no-one in the world who knows or is able to understand all that I have done in my life.  There is no-one, on this planet, who is able to do it in this way…”

Then he begins the confession of all his crimes:

“It is very true, my lords, that I have ravished children from their mothers.  These children, I have killed them or had them killed, either by slitting their throats with dagger or knife, or by separating the head from the body with axe, or by breaking the skull with stick or hammer, or by splitting their chest, or by opening their belly.  Sometimes, by attaching them with a cord to an iron hook, other times by burning them…  These diabolical ideas came to me eight years ago.”

He is asked how many children.

“The count would be long, and I recall less their names than their heads before and after death.  In truth, the demon tormented me often.  And I confess to having invoked him many times.  But before doing it, I heard Mass and confessed myself, so that the devil could not bite into my soul.”

How many children?

“Around six twenties each year.”

Which makes nearly a thousand.

He gives so many horrible details, that he stops, exhausted.  In this silence, the old Bishop rises, stretches up on his toes, and puts his mantel over the crucified Christ, to veil it.

Gilles is crying.

The Bishop descends towards him, and places the weeping man’s head on his own shoulder.  Very moved, he says to him:

“Cry.  Cry so that your tears can cleanse the churning charnel house of your soul.”

And Gilles replies through his tears:

“I, who was the instrument of my downfall, may I be, by my repentance, the instrument of my salvation.”

An extraordinary moment, when the crowd of parents also cries over the tragedy of this perdition and this repentance.  When these people, who have Christ in their simple hearts, pass over horror and vengeance, to join misericord.

The Bishop returns to his place.  The trial is drawing to its end.

Before judgement is pronounced, Gilles asks that the Christ be unveiled, and, his eyes fixed on the Saviour’s face, declares in a strong, firm voice:

“My lords, and you, good people who are in this place, hear my last confession and interest yourselves in the salvation of my poor soul as a reward for my admissions.  I have merited an exemplary punishment both by men and by God, which punishment I accept with patience as the expiation of my sins and preparation for eternal life.”

When the sentence is pronounced – cord and fire – he again asks to speak:

“I, detestable sinner, thank God for having had me condemned according to my merits.”

He asks to be executed at the same time as his accomplices so as to be able to exhort them and show them the example of dying well.

“Request accorded, My Lord, and, because of your contrition, I again accord you that, the execution over, your body is to be removed from the fire before it starts to burn, and carried into the church of your choice.”

Gilles again asks to speak.  Extraordinarily, he addresses himself to the clergy, to celebrate the greatness of God who has maintained his soul above the demon.  He invites the auditory to venerate the Holy Church thanks to which, in spite of the Beast, he dies reconciled with his soul.  Extraordinarily, he begs the parents present, who still have children, to raise their progeniture severely, so as to keep it from the idleness and greediness which were his downfall.  And he implores the parents of the victims to pardon him and pray for him.

And what happens next, in this tribunal room, a chapel emptied for the circumstance, is incomprehensible and sublime:  the tribunal and the crowd all fall to their knees with hands joined in prayer, all of them imploring the salvation of this inhuman, torn, repentant soul, who is about to appear before God.

***

Gilles de Rais' execution in the presence of the parents of his victims.

The following day, at eleven o’clock in the morning, in the prairie of Biesse, on the bank of the Loire, mounted on the gibbet’s estrade, Gilles chants the De Profundis.  The prelates, the executioners and the human tide, respond.  He mounts the ladder, and passes the cord around his neck, himself:

“Good people who are here present to see what will be my end, I remind you that I am your Christian brother.  Therefore, pray for me.  I entreat the fathers and mothers of the children that I have killed, to please forgive me and pray God for me in memory of the Passion of Our Lord.  Do not be more inflexible toward me than God, please!  When my soul leaves my body, may My Lord Saint [the Archangel] Michael receive it and present it to God.”

He kicks the ladder over.  The cord tightens.  He dies.  He is thrown onto the fire, just the time necessary for the flames to lick him.  Then six veiled women, dressed in white, remove him, and place him in a coffin which is carried to the Carmelite convent.

At its passage, people kneel and pray.  At the passage of the remains of a very luxurious demon, so that the soul of a poor sinner can repose in peace.

***

To be continued.

Gilles de Rais, Field-Marshal of France and a companion of Joan of Arc.

Hidden away inside his fortresses, Gilles de Rais senses the threat of the ecclesiastic and civil enquiries.  But he is in a quandary for, surprisingly, at the height of his deliriums, he denies being in the total power of the Evil One;  he is dual:  one part infernal, one part calling God to help his soul…

On 13 September 1440, after some hesitations and prodded by the Bishop of Nantes, the Duke de Bretagne [Brittany] decides to arrest Gilles de Rais in his Machecoul Castle.  He sends twenty archers, led by Captain Labbe, to Machecoul.

When the archers are announced, Gilles de Rais does not seek to resist.  He has the drawbridge lowered and says:

“The moment has come to render account to God.”

His cousin and accomplice, Pierre de Sille, points out that there are only twenty archers, and that they, themselves, have many soldiers.  Gilles answers:

“If there were only one, I would deliver myself to his mercy.”

His cousin insists that they defend themselves.  Gilles replies:

“I forbid you to harm one hair of these people.  For my astrologist told me that I was destined to become a monk in some abbey.  And the one who is at the head of this little troop of archers is called Labbe [The abbot].  That is a sign.  It is by Labbe that I will come back with my whole soul to God.”

He willingly surrenders himself.  And has gold pieces distributed to the men who have come to arrest him.

***

He is taken to Nantes Prison.  But he is treated with great respect.  He is given an apartment to lodge his organ on wheels, his musicians, his Archdeacon, two bards, two choir boys, some valets.  His table remains magnificent.  Except for liberty, he is refused nothing.

Duke Jean de Bretagne delays judging him.  Should such a trial be held for a Field-Marshal of France?

As for Gilles, too strong a character to have any consideration for the laws of men, settling only with himself the affairs of his destiny, and completely occupied with his salvation, he writes to Duke Jean from his lordly prison, the following astonishing letter:

“Monsieur my cousin and honoured Lord, it is very true that I am a sinner, and of all sinners perhaps the most detestable, having sinned with my body and soul in many, many occurrences.  But the truth is also that I have never lacked in my duty toward religion, hearing many Masses, Vespers and Prayers, fasting at the holy times of Lent and at Feast Day vigils, confessing and deploring the said sins that Nature has made me commit and receiving very devoutly the blood of Our Lord at least once a year.  I beg of you, Monsieur my cousin, that you give me licence to retire into a convent, to live there good and exemplary life.  I do not care which convent you will assign to me for home.  But I want all my goods, chattels and real estate, rents and acquisitions, lands, castles, fields, privileges, to be distributed into the hands of the poor who are Jesus Christ’s own limbs on this Earth.  I desire also that, with my money, there be founded at Machecoul, Tiffauges and other places, Masses and Anniversaries in memory of certain mistreated children, for which I feel a bitter displeasure.  While awaiting your glorious clemency, I call myself in all earthly humility, Brother Gilles, already Carmelite by intention.”

This contrition, which appears extravagant to us, is sincere.  But is it the threat of a distribution of the enormous possessions which he still owns, “into the hands of the poor”?  The Duke de Bretagne hesitates no longer.  The trial opens.

On 11 October 1440, Gilles appears before Pierre de L’Hospital and the civil and ecclesiastic judges.  He is dressed in white, decorated with all his lordly and military insignia, ornaments of knighthood, gold chains around his neck, jewels.

He is hardly in front of his judges when, without a glance at the crowd, straight and proud, he says:

“Messieurs, I beg you to rapidly judge my case and send me away in haste, for I am in a great hurry to consecrate myself to the service of God who has forgiven me my sins.”

To which it is replied that it is good and helpful to think of the salvation of one’s soul, but that this trial was to decide on the salvation of his body.

“I have fully confided in my confessor.  He permitted me to approach the sacrements.  Therefore, I am absolved and purified.”

He is told that the justice of men is not that of God, and is asked to swear on a book of Gospels and to declare the truth.

“Nenni.  Witnesses are held, under oath, to declare what they know.  The accused is not at all held to the oath.”

He is then informed that the accused can be obliged to it by torture.

“All the accusations retained against me are calumnious.”

He is asked if all the witnesses who are complaining of having lost their children have all lied under oath.

“Assuredly, if they accuse me of having lost them, myself.  They didn’t give them to me to look after!”

For two days, he arrogantly denies everything.  But on the evening of the second day, he learns that the Bishop is excommunicating him.  He crumbles.  He begs that the sentence be delayed.  He cannot live a minute in a sacrilegious state.  His life doesn’t matter to him, but his salvation does.  If God is given back to him, he will tell the truth.  He begins a terrible confession in his cell.  And it is another man who now appears.

***

It is raining.  Day has not yet dawned.  In the side roads filled with dead leaves, through the pastures waving in the wind, the villagers are on their way.  At dawn, the rumbling crowd invades the streets of Nantes, and climbs towards the ducal palace where the trial is being held.  No-one wants to miss the last hearing, the confessions, the condemnation.

To be continued.

Gilles de Rais, Field-Marshal of France and a companion of Joan of Arc.

Gilles de Rais is strong and dexterous with weapons, redoubtable in tournaments.  At seventeen, he laughs as he transpierces his first man, an English Captain who is looking for a fight.  He is beautiful, intelligent, gay, cultured, valiant, artistic.  His grandfather, proud Jean de Craon, has taught him the loftiness and the liberty of great men.  His inheritance is considerable.  Castles, immense lands, millions in revenues.  Whole provinces are to come to him:  Anjou, Maine, Poitou.  His library is famous, known even to the Great Khan of Moscow.  His collegiate church, which is greatly admired by the Roman Cardinal Gaffarillo, shelters eighty magnificently adorned incumbents, the same number as for a cathedral.  His stables serve as a model for King Henry [VI] of England.  He maintains an army to watch over his possessions.  His taste for music is equal to his taste for weapons.  He recrutes the best balladeers, jugglers, troubadours, musicians, singers.  He possesses several organs, one of which is mounted on a cart which accompanies him in his travels.  He can afford anything, and denies himself nothing.  But his dreams are greater than his fortune.  At twenty, he is already borrowing against his lands and raises crushing taxes on his peasants.

Is he rushing to disaster?  No.  War saves him.  War against the English.  This prodigious and refined young man, who has his honey sent from Greece and his perfumes from Arabia, is also an heroic knight.  When Jeanne d’Arc appears, he lends her his sword.  They ride spur to spur.  He loves Jeanne with pure love:  she is sent by God, a Virgin figure.  In Reims, he has the honour of carrying the holy phial kept in the Saint-Denis Abbey, the holy oil with which the Kings of France, starting with Clovis, are annointed.  On the day of the Coronation [17 July 1429], the King [Charles VII] names him Field-Marshal of France.  He is twenty-four.  What would his destiny have been without the fall of Jeanne, her martyrdom, her execution?  Perhaps he would have entered a convent.  Perhaps he would have figured in the calendar of the saints.  Instead of which, he throws himself into Hell and leaves us the memory of the greatest criminal of all time, and the legend of Bluebeard.  The flames which consumed a saint, will consume a demon.  Jeanne’s companion, he is also her reflection in the Devil’s dark mirror.

He returns to his lands, after a few expeditions and pillages, and retires to his Tiffauges Castle.  At thirteen, his grandfather had married him to a rich heiress, Catherine de Thouars.  Having given her a daughter, Marie, his wife no longer interests him.  Neither do other women.  Disdained, Catherine goes with her child to Pouzauges.  As for him, putting into aesthetism the passion that he applied to war, he lives surrounded by cupbearers who serve him half-naked, and by the “beautiful children” with the angel voices of his chapel.  He possesses the most admirable choir of his time, and when his favourite Alma Redemptus Mater is heard in seraphic chants, he falls into ecstasy.  In memory of Jeanne d’Arc, he has written, and performed at great expense in Orleans, a Mystere, whose six hundred participants change costumes at each performance.

Luxury, the Arts, voluptuousness precipitate his ruin.  He has to sell part of his lands to Jean, Duke de Bretagne [Brittany], and Jean de Malestroit, Bishop of Nantes.

Then, without renouncing the Arts, he delves into the greatest ambition of all the cultured minds of his time:  the capture of the ultimate secret of Nature, forcing matter to metamorphosis, obtaining the powder of projection which changes vile metals into alchemical gold.  Does he have to conclude Devil’s pacts in exchange for the philosophical stone, like Georg Sabel who, half a century later, in Germany, will take the name of Faustus, and give birth to the myth of Faust?  In his homes of Tiffauges and Champtoce, magicians, necromancians, sorcerers take the place of engravers, goldsmiths, scholars, singers, musicians, dancers, poets.  To force the alchemical secrets, they resort to malefic invocations.  They sacrifice white cocks, doves, lambs.  But that isn’t enough.  At great expense, Gilles de Rais has brought from Florence a young, dodgy alchemist:  Prelati.  He is now surrounded by sombre people:  a Poitevin, named Lariviere;  a Breton witch, Perrine Martin, known as La Meffraye.  When Prelati claims human victims for his magical operations, Gilles is fascinated by the black gulf.  Nothing troubles him more than innocent flesh.  Nothing will exalt him more than the victims’ blood.  He is homosexual.  Alchemical folly, satanic folly and sexual folly combine into sadistic folly.  La Meffraye, dressed in black, a veil over her face, combs the countryside, talking to little boys.  Paid “receivers” seize them.  In the sombre Tiffauges fortress, children suspended on iron hooks scream in anguish.  Gilles pretends to free them, coaxes them, then bleeds them as he pollutes them.  Their entrails are offered to the Devil, attempts are made to make their decapitated heads speak.  How many victims?  Roughly a thousand perhaps.

“Lost at Saint-Etienne-de-Montluc, the son of Guillaume Brice, who was a poor man and went begging.”

“Disappeared at Machecoul, the son of Georget le Barbier, who was seen a certain day picking apples and hasn’t been seen since.”

“Lost at Thonaye, the child of Martin Thouars, the said child aged about twelve.”

“At Chanteloup, Pierre Badieu, haberdasher, says that he saw in the countryside of Rais two children aged nine, who were brothers and children of Robin Pavot, and no-one has seen them nor knows what has become of them since.”

Etc.

The rumour swells, although the common people do not dare to speak out.  However, the Bishop of Nantes, Jean de Malestroit, receives complaints during a pastoral visit.  Then, two enquiries are set up.  One of them for magic, by the ecclesiastical authority.  The other for kidnappings and murders of children, by the civil authority.  Discrete enquiries, for it concerns a very high lord.

To be continued.

To try to identify the Beast,  it is necessary to divide all of these attacks into groups.

In the first group, we must put the attacks and wounds caused by an animal, as well as the rare victims whose bodies had really been completely, or partly, eaten.  These misdeeds can legitimately be attributed to enraged, or simply hungry, wolves.  At the time, numerous wolves lived in the Massif Central.  One hundred and fifty of them had been killed during the hunts organized to exterminate the Beast.

The adventure of the children of Chanaleilles must be put into this category.  Andre Portefaix, four other boys and two girls, aged from eight to twelve years, were attacked on 12 January 1765.  Here is the story according to a document in the departmental archives of Herault.

“They only saw the beast when it was close to them;  they quickly grouped, took the covers off their small weapons, made the sign of the cross, and arranged themselves in defence.  Portefaix who was their leader placed himself at the front with Couston and Pie who were the strongest, he put the girls in the second row, behind the Pannefieu and Veyrier boys who were the youngest of the group.  The beast came to them and circled them several times, they were themselves turning beside it.  It grabbed Joseph Pannefieu’s cheek, one of the smallest who was at the back;  the three biggest rushed at it, stabbing at it several times, they were never able to pierce its skin.  However, by continuing their efforts, they got it to let go;  it retreated two paces taking with it part of Joseph’s right cheek which it ate in front of them, then it attacked them once more with more fury and, circling them again, it first pushed over the youngest of these children who was Jean Veyrier with its muzzle.  Portefaix, Couston and Pie made it move away.  It came back onto this child and wounded him by biting his lips.  They chased it away again, it rushed onto him a third time, grabbed him by the arm with its mouth and dragged him away.  The whole group ran after it, encouraged by Portefaix who, seeing that they couldn’t catch up with it, made Couston pass onto one side, and passed himself onto the other side so as to make the beast take a path through the bog which was fifty paces away from them.  This was successful, the beast getting bogged down to the point of stopping its flight and the children being able to catch up with it.  One of them who had behaved very well at the beginning of the combat had lost courage when he saw the blood flowing from Joseph’s cheek…  He had first suggested to the others that they flee and let the beast eat the boy it had taken, but Portefaix running at their head called out to them that they must rescue their friend or perish with him and they all followed him, even the one who had had part of his cheek taken off.  When they reached the beast he told them that they should attack its head and in particular its eyes or its mouth which was continually open.  They gave it several blows but they were never able to reach its eyes.  The beast was still holding the child it had taken under its paw during the combat, but it never had time to bite him being occupied in eluding the blows they were trying to give him.  It seized with its teeth young Portefaix’s weapon which was bent.  At the last blow that he gave it, it jumped backward, leaving the little Veyrier in the bog.  Portefaix placed himself between it and him so that it couldn’t retake this child who got up behind Portefaix and hung onto his jacket.  The beast retreated onto a mound, the children were able to follow it there and chased it away.”

So, the Beast ran away, as would an ordinary wolf.  Portefaix’s exploits will be largely publicised, to the point that they were brought to the attention of the army, which signed him up with a cadet officer scholarship.

There also appear to have been a few Beast impersonators.  People covered in wolf skins poking their heads through windows and growling, while women gathered around the fire talked about the Beast’s latest exploits, or a mother threatened her children with it, is an easy way to frighten people.  This could also explain those human gestures and laughing which have been reported, as well as Pierre Blanc seeing the Beast “buttoned”.

As well as Beast impersonators, there were also fake victims.  The sum of 9,400 pounds had been promised to whomever killed the animal, but indemnities were also accorded to its victims.  To have the right to receive these indemnities, some peasants didn’t hesitate to fake wounds.  Some were found out, but how many others weren’t?

There remain the atrociously mutilated bodies that an ordinary wolf would never have done in that way.  Professor Puech attributes them to a human being, a sadistic madman, like Jack the Ripper, Vacher, or the Dusseldorf Vampire.

Dr Cabanes makes the following remarks:

“These sadists only have a sex life by associating sexual pleasure with acts of cruelty or violence.  If some of these perverts are able to satisfy themselves simply through imagination by the evocation or the creation of mental, spoken, written or painted scenes of cruelty, if a few of them keep themselves to real, but light, violence, a lot of them need blood.  These are the blood-letters capable of the most horrible deeds, such as assassinations by throat-slitting, disembowelment, gutting, dismemberment, removal of genital organs; there are also vampires who increase their pleasure by sucking the blood from the wounds they have made or by eating their victims’ flesh.”

Professor Puech was unable to find forensic evidence to back up this assertion because no serious autopsy had been performed on a victim.  However, even if proof is lacking for the thesis of a “sadistic madman”, certain facts corroborate this.  Dr Cabanes lists them as follows:

“The Beast rarely ate its victims, which is contrary to the habits of carnivorous animals.  Even the most ferocious of them do not kill for the sake of killing, but only for food or in self-defence.

“The victims were almost always women and children.  These are the usual victims of sadistic madmen.  An animal, spurred on by such murderous instincts, would never have made such a distinction.

“Some victims had had their heads cut off.  The cut through the neck was so clean that it could have been done by razor blades.  Agnes Mourgues, aged twelve years, had had, according to Canon Ollier, priest of Lorcieres, who officiated at her funeral, her head cut off, the front of her “breasts” eaten, a few “openings in her lower abdomen”, and her clothes were so shredded that she seemed as naked as the day that she was born.  As for a twenty year old girl found in grassland near Saint-Alban, the monster had drunk all her blood and ripped out her organs.”

Although these cases were not the only ones, Dr Cabanes tells us that they had appeared sufficient for Puech to establish an analogy between the misdeeds attributed to the Gevaudan Beast and those committed by “degenerate sadists, blood-letters or vampires”.

One last fact:  the remains of a woman named Chabannes who was found buried.  Dr Cabanes declares that only humans try to hide the traces of their misdeeds.

He goes on to say “the hypothesis of the sadistic madman accepted, a lot of particularities, at first disconcerting, find their explanation.  We can then understand why the numerous poisoned baits, strewn around everywhere, had been ignored by the Beast;  why the Beast never approached sheep enclosures, as a priest of the place where it operated had noticed;  why similar accidents were reported simultaneously in Auvergne and in Picardie:  which leads us to believe that the bloody sadist had imitators.

“The argument is based on solid facts but it doesn’t completely convince us.  It doesn’t explain why, for example, when Mr Jean Chastel fires “with his gun loaded with two blessed bullets” on the Beast, the real one, according to the local peasants, who had all rushed to see it, and it didn’t move because it was dead, then why, we repeat, from this moment, did the murders stop, and why was the animal, who had, up until then, ravaged the country, never heard of again?

“Simple coincidence?  Perhaps.  If there still remains a question as to the nature of the animal.

“Perhaps the monster was everything at once:  a pack of wolves, impersonators, and above all, one or more sadistic madmen?  From this combination was born a fearsome Beast, a monster who has entered into legend and who continued to frighten the population retrospectively, many decades later.”

The January 1766 attacks were on little girls.  The monster had removed their hearts, ripped off their breasts and cut off their heads.

Other victims had been completely emptied of their blood, as if a vampire had sucked it out.  Some had had all of their facial skin removed.

Another “Beast” was killed on 19 June 1767 by Jean Chastel with two blessed bullets.

It was known that the Beast was in the Tenazeyre woods.  A hunt was organized by the Marquis d’Apcher.

Driven by the hunters, the Beast arrived at the place where Jean Chastel was waiting for it, at Sagne d’Auvert, near Saugues.  Chastel, who was reading the Holy Virgin litanies, calmly finished his prayers, then closed his book, put it in his pocket, removed his glasses and folded them away inside their case.

The Beast didn’t move.  It seemed to be waiting.  The hunter, who had recognised it, aimed at its shoulder and fired.  The Beast remained motionless.

The hounds of the Marquis d’Apcher, upon hearing the noise of the gun, arrived, attacked the animal, pulled it down and tore into it.  It was dead.

Here is how this particular Beast appeared to the villagers once it was dead:

“It was an animal the size of a calf or a donkey.  It had reddish fur, with, on its back, a black bar from its shoulders to its tail;  the head enormous and similar to that of a pig;  the mouth always open;  the eyes sparkling;  the ears short and straight, like horns;  the breast white and very big;  the hind legs very big and very long;  the front legs shorter and covered with long fur;  six claws on each paw.  Some said that the back legs had hooves, like those of a horse.  Pierre Blanc, who saw it up close, noticed that the underbelly appeared to be all buttoned.”

Its habits, its comportment, its physiology are as surprising as its anatomy.

On the same day, almost at the same time, its presence was noticed in places seven or eight leagues distant from each other.  The Beast attacked almost exclusively women and children.  As for its victims, it treated them in diverse ways.

Some were torn and devoured as if by a ferocious animal, like a hungry tiger or wolf, but they were the exception.  Mostly, the Beast abandoned its victims’ bodies, satisfied to mutilate them, to suck their blood and, after opening them up, to tear out the heart, the liver and the intestines.

It was like this that were found the dreadfully torn and hardly recognizable bodies of three boys under fifteen, belonging to the village of Chayla-l’Eveque, of a woman from Arzenc, of a little girl from Torts, of a shepherd from Chaudeyrac, of a twenty year old girl, found in grassland near Saint-Alban, and of many others.  An old woman from the village of Broussotes, Marguerite Oustalier, had all the skin removed from her face by the Beast, after it had killed her.

Sometimes, it did things differently.  When the body of Gabrielle Pelissier, who had just made her First Holy Communion, was found, the monster had so carefully arranged the decapitated head, the clothes and the hat, that, at first, it was believed that the child was just sleeping. 

The Beast also sometimes had a strangely human comportment.  It liked to come into the villages in the evening, place its front paws on the window-sills and look inside the kitchens.

Something else to be noted is the declaration of a peasant who affirms that he heard the animal “laugh and talk”.  He says that it sometimes sat on its backside and “made little gestures and grimaces”, with bursts of joy, “like a person”.

When the Beast was being pursued, it crossed the river in two or three bounds, but when it had the time, it could be seen walking on the water, without getting wet.

Several times, it played with lambs so as to attract the children who guarded them.  If that wasn’t enough, it made them suffer so that their cries of pain obliged the children to leave their hiding-places.

So, this extraordinary animal, both by its physiology and its anatomy, suddenly made its appearance in the middle of the French countryside, in the heart of the Massif Central.  An absolutely unique being, with nothing to identify it with any other living creatures around it, or having lived before it.

The human appearance of the strange animal led Professor Puech to emit an hypothesis which lacks neither logic nor ingeniosity.  He wrote in his very interesting work, which he communicated to the Academy of Sciences and Letters of Montpellier:

“That this legendary animal was seen, one hundred and fifty years ago, by the inhabitants of Haut-Lozere, does not surprise the psychologist and the doctor.  They know what overexcited imaginations can do, they know the role of suggestion and are familiar with this sort of delirium which can take hold of the collective mind, which we describe under the name of crowd madness.”

History furnishes us with numerous examples, it is true.  There is none more significative than the phenomenon designated as the Great Fear, and which, in 1789, panicked crowds in many places.  According to Dr Puech, it is the same folly which invested the inhabitants of Auvergne and Gevaudan in 1764.

The origin of this fear of the Beast is easy to find.  A shepherd girl returns home one day panicked, saying that she has been attacked by an unknown beast.  First of all, no great importance is attached to this.  But shortly after, in the woods, in the fields, in the sheds of isolated farms, the bodies of women and children are found, atrociously mutilated.

Too often, during the long, cold winters, the population has been victim to wolves made ferocious by hunger.  But never, in the memory of the elders, has a similar massacre been seen.

From there, imaginations start working.  In front of the church door, on Sunday, after Mass.  At the fairground, where people come to buy and sell animals.  In the evenings, in front of the fire while the snow falls outside.  People talk about these deaths which are multiplying every day.  They comment on the strange circumstances.  They search for explanations.

Then, into someone’s memory pops the story of the shepherd girl from Langogne.  No, it wasn’t fear which had troubled her head, as everyone had first thought.  She had really seen what she said she had, the poor girl, when she said that she had been attacked by an unknown beast.

Only an unique being, a monster, could commit such numerous and horrible misdeeds.  And the idea penetrates the simple, credulous mind of the inhabitant of Gevaudan, and no amount of reasoning will be able to dislodge it.  Fear will do the rest.

Gradually, the monster takes form, and the ghostly beast ends up being transformed into a real animal.  Each person adds a detail noticed during these rapid and terrifying visions.  Gradually, the monster takes form.  Finally, from bits and pieces, it becomes whole, as we have seen above, with an enormous head which looks like a pig, with short, straight ears, with sparkling eyes…

But, it can be objected, there are real facts.  There are mutilated children, like the little girl from Fontan, bitten on her cheeks and her arm.  Like the young man from Pouget who had the skin of his head and chest lacerated.  Like the young girl from the parish of Saint-Just with her ear and the end of her nose taken off.

Then there are all of these bodies strewn along the roadsides, and the mentions in the parish registers:  “I buried in the village cemetary, the body of… devoured by the beast who roams the countryside”.  Or this other one:  “Act of burial of the body of… partly eaten by the ferocious beast”.

It is necessary, before trying to identify the Beast, to make a distinction among all of these deaths.  They didn’t all have the same origin or the same author.

Fifth part tomorow.

The report on the expedition to kill the Gevaudan beast reads as follows:

“The year one thousand seven hundred and sixty-five, the nineteenth day of the present month of September, We, Francois Antoine (de Beauterne, Knight of the Royal and military Order of Saint Louis, King’s Arquebus Bearer, Lieutenant of His Majesty’s Hunts) having by his Orders gone to the two Generalities of Auvergne and Gevaudan in order to destroy the ferocious beast which was there devouring the Inhabitants, We being transported with Mr de la Coste, General Gamekeeper, Pelissier and Begnault and Dumoulin, Gamekeepers of the Royal Captainery of Saint-Germain, Messrs Lacour and Reinehard, Horseguards of His Serene Highness My Lord the Duke of Orleans, first Prince of the blood;  Mr Lesteur, Lamoncy and Bonnet, Gamekeepers of His Serene Highness My Lord the Duke of Penthievre, to the Royal Abbey of the Chazes in Auvergne, having been informed that the Wolves were there wreaking a lot of havoc, which made Us send on the eighteenth Messrs Pelissier and Lacour, Gamekeepers with their Bloodhounds and La Feuille, whipper-in of the Bloodhounds of the King’s Wolfhunters to scout the Woods of the Reserve of the Ladies of the Royal Abbey of the Chazes; and the next day the nineteenth of the said month, they sent to avert Us by Mr Bonnet, that they had seen a very big Wolf and that they had good information also in the said Wood of a She-wolf with fairly big Cubs, which made Us immediately leave to pass the night at the said place of the Chazes in Auvergne, distant from Besset by nearly three leagues, and the next day twentieth of the said month, the said three Bloodhound Whippers-in and the Hound Whipper-in named Berry having reported that they had turned the big Wolf, the She-wolf and the Cubs into the Pommieres Woods dependant of the said reserve, We transported ourself with all the Gamekeepers and forty shooters Inhabitants of the town of Langeac and from the nearby Parishes, where after being placed so as to surround the said Wood, the said Bloodhound Whippers-in and the Wolfhunter hounds having started to walk the said Wood, We, Francois Antoine (and above-mentioned names) being placed in a passage, there came to Us by a track at a distance of fifty paces, this big Wolf presenting its right side and turning its head to look at me and immediately I fired from behind with my Duck gun, charged with five lots of powder, thirty-five Wolf pellets and a calibre bullet of which the effort of the shot pushed me back two paces;  but the said Wolf fell immediately having received the bullet in its right eye, and all of the said pellets in the right side close to the shoulder, and as I was calling the slaughter, it got up again and came in my direction in turning and without giving me the time to recharge my said arm, I called for help to Mr Reinehard, placed near me, who found it stopped ten paces from me and fired at his rear with his carabine, which made it run away about twenty-five full paces where it fell completely dead.

“We, Francois Antoine (and the above-mentioned names) and we Jacques de la Font, with all the Gamekeepers above-mentioned declared, having examined this Wolf to have recognized that it was thirty-two inches high after death, five feet seven and a half inches long, that the thickness of its body was three feet and that the teeth, the two jaws and the paws of this animal appeared most extraordinary;  the said Wolf weighed 130 pounds.

“We declare by the present Report, signed by our hand, to have never seen any other Wolf which could compare with this animal, which is why We have judged that it could well be the cruel Beast, or devouring Wolf, which has so much wreaked havoc and so as to be able to let it be better known, We have had the said Wolf opened by Mr Boulanger, Expert Surgeon of the town of Saugues who has made his report in presence of Messrs Antoine Father and Son, Mr de la Font, all of the undersigned Gamekeepers, the two Bloodhound Whippers-in from the King’s Wolfhunters, Mr Torrent, priest of Ventuejol, Mr Jean-Joseph Vernet and his Brother of the town of Saugues, Mr Torrent, of Laveze, parish of Ventuejol, and Mr Mouton, of the parish of Greze, and on this, Mr Torrent, Priest of the parish of Ventuejol and Guillaume Gavier, Consul of the said Parish, firstly presented themselves to us, bringing Jean-Pierre Lourd, aged fifteen years, and Marie Trincard, aged eleven years, who both declared to us after having examined the said Wolf, that it was the same beast which had attacked them and wounded the said Marie Trincard, on 21 June last, as it is declared by the present Report made by Us, consequently and neither of them knowing how to write, Father Torrent and Mr Gavier, Consul, signed for them at the bottom of the present Report;  secondly, Mr Bertrand-Louis Dumont, Priest of the Parish of Paulhac and Mr Ducros, Consul of the said Parish, brought to Us Marie-Jeanne Valex and Therese Valex, her sister, who declared that they had been attacked on 11 August last by the said Beast, following this and as it is declared by the Report consequently made, these two sisters after having well examined the said Wolf have declared that it was the same Beast which had attacked them and have recognized the Bayonette cut shown to them and that the Beast had received on the right shoulder, to which interrogation she answered that she could not declare where she had wounded it;  also presented were Guillaume Bergounhoux and his Brother Jean Bergounhoux the eldest, aged seventeen and eighteen years, and his Younger brother of fifteen years who both declared to have been attacked by the said Beast, on 9 August last and aided by Pierre Mercier, Sworn Keeper of Baron du Besset, all of whom after also carefully examining the said Wolf, have declared to have well and totally recognized it as the same beast which had attacked them, as well as Marie-Jeanne Mercier, aged eleven years, also attacked at the same time and who was defended by Pierre Vidal, who has declared that the said Wolf is the same Beast which had attacked the said Marie-Jeanne Mercier, all of them not knowing how to write, the said Mr Dumont, Priest and the said Mr Ducros, have signed at the bottom of the present Report;  which examination made as well as time permitted.  We have judged that it was proper to send the said Wolf in a post vehicule by Mr Antoine de Beauterne, our son accompanied by Mr Lacoste, General Gamekeeper to Mr de Ballainvilliers, Intendant of the Province of Auvergne, to dispose of it as he will judge necessary.

“And having left Mr Lachenay, Keeper of My Lord the Duke of Penthievre, Prince of the Blood, at Besset, to inform us of what would happen in this canton, after the information given to him by Mr de la Font, who had been willing to do it, he must be included in the service of the King, as if he had been present on the hunt which took place at the Wood of the Reserve of the Ladies of the Royal Abbey of the Chazes in Auvergne;  as a supplement the Priest of Ventuejol presented to me Marie-Anne Camifolle, aged about twenty years, Jean Fontanier aged abour fifteen years and Jacques Ollier aged twelve years his Parishioners, from Combret, who said all unanimously that they recognized this Beast as the same as the one which appeared the 21 June last;  and have also declared that they do not know how to sign, and We affirm as true the present Report the days and years as above.

“Signed:

“Antoine de BEAUTERNE, LACOSTE, PELISSIER, RENAUD and MOULIN;  LAFONT, REINEHARD, LAFLEUR, LECTEUR, DUMONT, priest of Paulhac, TORRENT, priest of Ventuejol, LACOUR, BONNET, BERTONNIER, LAFEUILLE, MAUSSON, CLERNET, BIGON, LAMADE, SAUVETON, surgeon, BOULANGER, surgeon, TORRENT, BIGOT, consul, DUCROS,  consul, GAVIER.”

That Mr de Beauterne is a hunter, not a writer, seems rather obvious from this long and laborious report.

Tomorrow, we shall have a look at the autopsy reports, mercifully shorter, before continuing with the exploits of the Beast, who was still very much alive.

In the autumn of 1764, the inhabitants of the region of Gevaudan, in the southern part of the French province of Auvergne, between Margeride and Aubrac, were beginning to panic.  Frightfully mutilated bodies were being found all over the countryside.  It had started in July.

Decapitated, shredded, dismembered, the bodies seemed to have been attacked by a strong, wily, supernatural, bloodthirsty creature.  For more than two years, this “Gevaudan Beast” would terrorise the region, killing over one hundred people.  But did the beast really exist?

At the beginning of the twentieth century, Professor Puech of Montpellier looked into the story, which was still well-remembered in the region where it happened.  While on holiday, one summer, in a village of Lozere, he heard it mentioned frequently, accompanied by retrospective shudderings of horror.

Songs and images have passed down the story.  One engraving at the French National Library carries an explanatory text, which I have translated:

“It is written in a letter, dated 1 November 1764, and sent from Marvejols, in the province of Gevaudan, that for the last two months, it appears that a ferocious beast has been spreading consternation all over the countryside around Langogne and the Menoire forest.  It has already devoured about twenty people, above all children and particularly girls.  Hardly a day goes by without being marked by some new disasters.  The fear that it inspires is stopping the woodsmen from going into the forests, which is making wood rare and very expensive.

“It was only eight days ago that this frightening animal was actually seen.  It is a lot taller than a wolf:  its front is low and its paws are armed with claws.  It has reddish fur, a very big, long head ending in a greyhound muzzle, the ears are small and straight like horns; the breast wide and slightly grey; the back striped with black and an enormous mouth, armed with teeth so sharp that it has separated several heads from their bodies like a razor would.  It walks rather slowly and runs in bounds.  It is extremely agile and fast;  in a very short space of time, it is two or three leagues away.  It stands on its hind legs and throws itself on its prey, which it always attacks at the neck, from behind or on the side.  It is afraid of cattle, which make it flee.

“Alarm is universal in the canton;  public prayers have just been offered up;  four hundred peasants were assembled to give chase to this ferocious animal;  but it hasn’t yet been caught.”

The first appearance of the beast had been noted the preceding June.  A shepherd girl, who had been guarding her herd during the day in the countryside near Langogne, returned at night with her blouse all torn;  she said that she had been attacked by a monstrous animal, which had made her dogs run away in fright, and from which her cattle had luckily saved her.  It was generally believed to have been a wolf, and the girl’s apparent exaggeration was put down to her terror.

Several weeks passed with nothing happening, then suddenly, reports of its activity came from everywhere at once.  Horribly mutilated bodies, mainly women, little girls and young boys, were discovered in the fields.

The local peasants organized hunts.  Prodded by public opinion, the government sent a detachment of dragoons, which camped at, and around, Saint-Chely.

The peasants had their lords leading them, and the best hunters of the region joined in.  Wolf hunters from as far away as Normandy rushed to hunt the beast.  But it defied bullets and poisons, and appeared to be invulnerable.  Its victims were multiplying, while it remained elusive and seemed to be in several places at once.

One day, they thought that they had wounded it.   It ran away limping, but they couldn’t find it again.  Another time, at dusk, they had tracked it into a wood, where they fired on it from all sides.  They thought that it must have been mortally wounded, as it limped into a thicket, and were sure that they would find it the next day.  The search, executed at dawn by two hundred men, came up empty.

Terrified, no-one wanted to venture outside.  Field work was suspended.

As human efforts had been of no avail, people demanded God’s intervention.  The Bishop of Meude ordered that special prayers be said all over his diocese.  Nothing happened.

The situation was brought to the king’s attention.  Compassionate, and possibly a bit miffed that an animal had eluded nearly twenty thousand men who were out to get it, the king gave the order to his First Bearer of the Arquebus, Antoine de Beauterne, to leave immediately for Gevaudan, with his gamekeepers, his whippers-in and his bloodhounds, and to bring the animal’s body back to Paris, without fail.

It must be pointed out that the failure of the peasants was not due to their incompetence, but to their lack of means.  Guns, which were rare and expensive, belonged to the lord.  Most peasants had none.  On top of this, they were forbidden to kill animals themselves.  Wolves could only be killed by wolf hunters.  Therefore, it is easier to understand why the king sent his best troups.

After several scouting forays, the little troup managed to track down the fantastic beast and the First Bearer of the Arquebus gave it the coup de grace.  Some children, who had had contact with it, said that they recognized it.  It was stuffed at Clermont and sent to Fontainebleau.

In 1912, Dr Cabanes brought to light the report of the expedition.  We shall examine it tomorrow, because this is not the end of the story.

26

 

When the Year Thousand that comes after Year Thousand begins

You must be afraid for the child of man

Poison and despair will lie in wait for him

He will be desired only selfishly and not for his own sake or for the world

He will be tracked down for sexual pleasure and sometimes his body will be sold.

 

But even the one being protected by his family

Will be in danger of having a dead mind

He will live inside games and mirages

Which will guide him because there will be no more educators

No-one will have taught him to hope and how to act.

 

John returns here to the subject of children left to themselves by absentee parents.  With no education within a family framework, many will turn to drugs of one kind or another, including sex.

John shows us that the reason for our neglect of our children is that they have become some sort of “must have” acquisition, or an element of our own personal development, instead of being wanted for themselves or as a contribution to the world.

Considered from this selfish point of view, our children easily become simple objects of pleasure for sexual predators, who seek them out and train them for this role, while their parents are off doing other things for their own “personal development”.  Some parents even go so far as to sell their own children as sex objects.

John goes on to warn us that, even if parents are there for their children and protect them from outside dangers, they often dump them in front of the television, or give them video games to occupy them and keep them quiet.  From a very early age, children start living in virtual worlds of images and sounds, which are becoming more and more realistic and more and more violent.  Even spectator sports have become an excuse for violent confrontations among supporters of different teams.

Coupled with the total breakdown of our education system, this immersion in virtual worlds is almost the only guide to life to which our children have access.  This, plus the current social chaos, is all that they have to mould their values and social behaviour.

Twenty-seventh prophecy tomorrow.

13

 

When the Year Thousand that comes after Year Thousand begins

The child too will be sold

Some people will use him like a quintain

To get sexual pleasure from his new skin

Others will treat him like a servile animal.

 

They will forget the sacred weakness of the child

And his mystery

He will be a foal to be trained

Like a lamb to be bled, to be slaughtered

And man will be nothing more than savage cruelty.

 

It is obvious that this prophecy speaks of paedophilia.

According to the Oxford dictionary, a quintain is “(1) a post set up as a mark in tilting” and “(2) the medieval military exercise of tilting at such a mark”.  Therefore, John is saying that men are hurting children to give themselves sexual pleasure, in addition to the actual rape itself.

The word “mystery” in the second part of the prophecy probably refers to the sense given in the Oxford dictionary as “(8 a) a religious truth divinely revealed, esp. one beyond human reason”, particularly as John refers to the “sacred weakness of the child”.

People not fully equipped to survive alone in the world used to be considered sacred, and it was everyone’s duty to help and protect them.  This includes mentally and/or physically disabled people as well as the sick and/or elderly.  Children were especially sacred.  This is why John speaks so often of the way that we treat children today.  His tone is often one of shocked disbelief and outrage.

Fourteenth prophecy tomorrow.

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