Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Trials: Jean Grenier, 1603

An ordinary judge from Chatellenie and the barons of Roche Chalais […] led an investigation on May 9th 1603. The accusation was based on the statements of only three witnesses, one of whom was the thirteen-year-old Marguerite Poirier. She claimed that she had had the habit of looking after her livestock in the company of the aforementioned lad, Jean Grenier, who swore to her numerous times that whenever he felt like it, he could shapeshift into a wolf, that he had caught and killed some dogs, ate a part of one and drank some blood, but he did not like it as much as that of small children and girls. He had also told her that it had been a while since he attacked a child whose body he had bitten into and had thrown the remains to another wolf that was wandering nearby, and a girl who he had devoured whole except for shoulders and back.

She added that one day, while she was looking after her livestock, some kind of wild beast attacked her, grabbed onto and tore off her skirt near her left hip. She, in turn, struck it on the  back with a stick, noting that the beast was larger, but shorter, than a wolf, had rust-coloured fur and a short tail. After the blow, the beast leaped away from the girl some ten or twelve steps, sat up on its hind legs like dogs often do, and gave her a furious look that made her run for her life. She had also noticed that the animal had a smaller head than that of a wolf.

Another witness was the ten-year-old Jeanne Gaboriout who reported that one day, while she was guarding her livestock along with other girls, Jean Grenier had approached her and had asked which of the shepherdesses was the prettiest. The girl asked him in turn why he wanted to know that.

“Because,” he answered, “I want to marry a shepherdess; and if it is you, then I want to marry you.”

She then asked him about his father.

“He’s a priest,” he replied.

During the conversation the girl told him he was very tan. He answered that he had looked like that since not long before. She then asked if he had become so tan due to heat or cold, to which he replied that it had been caused by the reddish wolf pelt he had been wearing. So the girl asked him where he had gotten such a pelt and he explained that it had been one Pierre Labourutt who had given it to him. The shepherdess wanted to know who that was, so Jean told her he was a man who kept an iron collar that brought suffering to him, that he kept various people in his house on burning chairs, others on burning beds, and others yet who burned – ones stretched out as if on a roast, others in a large oven. The house itself was said to have had rooms that were huge and dark.

Jean Grenier said that when he put on the wolf’s skin he turned into a wolf, or any other kind of animal which he wanted to become, and that while shapeshifted like this into a wolf he had killed a few dogs and had sucked out their blood which, however, did not taste good, and added that small children and girls were much tastier. He said he would run in the form of a wolf during every setting of the moon, on Mondays, Fridays and Saturdays, and only one hour during the day, near evening and in the morning. He would roam the vicinity with the other nine like him, some of whom he had named, always on the same days and at the same hours. This information became the confirmation of his arrest. He was captured, interrogated and during questioning he admitted guilt to more crimes than the ones reported by witnesses.

He said that he had met a young man by the name of Pierre du Tilhaire on the main road leading from Coutras to Monpon, who told him of a man from the forests of Saint Antoine that wished to speak with him. The young man persuaded Jean to go see him, so they went there together and eventually came across a lone, tall man clothed in black on a black horse, standing in the middle of the forest. They bid good morning to him, as it was dawning, and he, having dismounted his horse, kissed them both with unusually cold lips. Then he mounted up again and they soon lost sight of him. Riding off, however, he managed to persuade them to promise him that they would come to him whenever he sent for them.

The boy was then questioned as to how long it had been since he had become a servant of this master, if he had marked them in any special way, how many times they had answered his call and what had later happened to them. Jean replied that it could have been three years from their first meeting – during the time of questioning he was thirteen or fourteen years old, so back then he could have been ten or eleven – and that they had been marked with the use of iron that the man had held in his hand, in the shape of a small, round stamp on their left buttocks. He added that when they wanted to speak with their master, they went into the forest to find him, and it happened three times. One such time when they arrived there, their master allowed them to brush the hide of his horse with a comb, promised them money and gave them a glass of wine which they drank and then went away.

He confirmed that the entirety of Marguerite Poirier’s statement was true. He confessed to all the acts of rape and other crimes he was accused of with the exception of drinking the blood of a white dog he had killed. Asked about the children he had killed and devoured while in the form of a wolf, he answered that one time, while he was walking from Coutras to Saint Anlaye, having passed the villages of Double, he entered one of the abandoned houses and found there a one-year-old baby lying in a cradle. He grabbed it with his fangs by the throat, dragged it out of the house and away from the garden fence and ate as much of it as he needed to sate his hunger, leaving the rest to another wolf roaming nearby.

Jean also said that in the vicinity of the presbytery of Saint Antoine du Fizon he had snuck up to a girl herding sheep, who was dressed in a black robe, killed her and began eating her; after he was full, like the other times, he left the rest for a nearby wolf. What is worth noting is his statement that he had taken off the girl’s clothes and had not torn it off, which is an interesting fact as it points to the fact that contradictory to average wolves which tore their victims to pieces with their claws werewolves bit them to death and, like humans, were able to undress girls and women they would then devour, without tearing up their clothes.

Jean Grenier said that when he wanted to run, he would put on a wolf pelt that he had been given by the Lord of the Forest. In addition to that, he would rub an ointment into his skin, which he kept in a jar and which he had also gotten from the man. Before that, he would take off his clothes, which he hid usually among the bushes. He explained that he would run when the moon would set, one or two hours a day, and a few times during the night.

After a while, a second investigation was carried out to find out if, during the time that the accused had pointed to have been the time when he killed the children, anyone had heard about someone being murdered in the village Jean had mentioned in his statement. Fathers of children killed by werewolves were questioned and their accounts compared with each other. Finally, it was concluded that the statements of the above witnesses and of the accused matched.

Asked if he had ever roamed the vicinity with his father and whether or not they both wore the wolf skins and committed some of the crimes together, Jean answered that his father accompanied him a few times. Once, two years earlier in May, they met a girl dressed in white who was herding geese in the vicinity of the village of Grillaut. They captured her, dragged her among the grain fields and there devoured. Later, however, Jean would go on his escapades alone, without his father. Additionally, he said that the Lord who had gifted the pelt to him, forbid him from murdering with the use of his left hand’s claw because it was thicker than the rest, and that during the time when he would take on the form of the wolf his master would never lose sight of him and followed every event until he would become a human again.

Pierre Grenier, Jean’s father, was arrested, questioned and confronted with his son. Jean changed a lot in his statement and it was visible that the long incarceration and poverty had made him a bit dull. Nevertheless, after he was allowed to rest, they were confronted again and the son confirmed all the incriminating statements against his father.

What remains to be found out is whether this transformation, or transmutation, of a man into an animal can come to pass in reality. In case of it being real, what punishment awaits those who become werewolves, and those who admit having served the mentioned Lord of the Forest (who is none other than the devil himself) and committing, in the form of a wolf and under the disguise of the pelt they had been given, countless acts of infanticide and other crimes?

[…] The court of law, having taken into account the age and the mental limitations of the boy, who was a witless idiot […] reached a decision and passed its sentence: that there would be no appeal to the sentence, and that on the basis of the events shown during the trial it sentences Jean Grenier to life-long confinement and service at the local monastery. When it comes to the above mentioned Pierre Grenier, his father, and Pierre called Tilhaire, the mentioned court of law has decreed that within a month’s time a new, thorough investigation concerning the two will be launched.

After Grenier had been locked up at the monastery, people numerously reported the sightings of a strange  creature that resembled a dog, which bit to death people and animals in the vicinity, but was never caught. Jean Grenier died at the above mentioned monastery in 1610.

On the basis of: P. De Lancre, Tableu de l’Incostance de Mauvais Anges et Demons, Paris 1612, p. 211n

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