Peasants, children and buxom cheese-peddling damsels in 18th century France learned a pretty stark lesson over the course of three years starting in 1764 – chiefly, that the typical French response of unilateral surrender in the face of aggression was spectacularly useless when faced with a ravenous man-eating fuckbeast from the depths of Hell. Estimates vary, but the Beast of Gevaudan is generally credited with a good couple of hundred attacks, with upwards of one hundred of those attacks ending in human kills.
It’s likely the Beast was more than one animal, spread as the attacks were over quite a large area. But the witness accounts of the creatures were remarkably consistent – they were fanged, red-furred monsters with massive tails, bringing the stench of sulphur and old ass with them whenever they attacked. Naturally the whole demonic smell element (particularly when coupled with the Beast’s tendency to tear women and children to bits) put the royal shits up French peasants who saw the attacks as some kind of punishment from God.
A huge amount of money was pissed up the wall in the pursuit of the Beast. Everyone from the terrified locals to King Louis XV got involved, with the king drafting in royal huntsmen to clear the woods of Gevaudan. A whole lot of wolves ended up on the shitty end of this deal but no matter how many the huntsmen killed, the attacks continued to escalate. Only when Jean Chastel, a local hunter, claimed to have shot and killed one of the beasts as it approached him while he prayed did the attacks cease.
Several theories about the origin of the Beast exist, ranging from werewolves to hyenas to unknown wolf-dog crossbreeds. Chastel himself fell under suspicion, owning as he did a giant red mastiff that some now think may have sired the Beast by humping a local wolf.
Today the Beast continues to grip the French imagination. It’s even featured in the Vincent Cassell flick The Brotherhood of the Wolf, an awesome movie that also happens to be the one and only piece of French cinema that involves more than black and white shots of short-haired women with their tits out smoking cigarettes. In the movie, the Beast is an African lion that a cult of mad bastards has dressed up in armour. I shit you not.
It’s easy to see how 100-odd peasants dying horribly can foster terrified and exaggerated speculation about the animals involved. A more recent case didn’t involve a cryptid like the Beast of Gevaudan but warrants inclusion here simply for how mindfuckingly badass it is.
In 1898 the British weren’t very nice to you if you happened to be brown and nearby while the British needed something doing. One such thing the British wanted was a railway bridge over the Tsavo River in Kenya, a project that not only predated health and safety at work rules but actively didn’t give a shit how many of the local Hindu workers ended up dying as a result. This, coupled with the slave caravans en route to Zanzibar regularly crossing the river nearby, meant the whole region was awash with dead people. Or in the eyes of two local lions, ‘convenient snacks’.
By the time the workers realised their friends’ bodies were disappearing it was already too late – the Tsavo man-eaters had firmly established their preference for delicious, colonial-oppression-tenderised man meat. Pretty soon the two lions were regularly tearing open tents at night and dragging screaming workers off into the bush, earning them the utterly badass nicknames of The Ghost and The Darkness. Campfires, lookouts and enormous thorn fences couldn’t keep them out. The British overseers, apparently entirely nonplussed provided the murderous beasts weren’t spilling the brandy or interrupting afternoon tea, pretty much ignored the situation until 135 fucking people were dead. On top of all that, scientists since have calculated how many humans the lions would actually have had to eat to survive over the length of the attacks at a mere 35, meaning that most of the time they were just tearing people to chunks for fun. At this point workers were understandably fleeing the area, which finally did get the Brit’s attention.
Lieutenant Colonel John Henry Patterson, pissed off that nine months of screaming night time festivities had tested his stiff upper lip, had finally had enough and decided to do something about it. Setting traps and hiding up trees with a big fuck-off gun over the course of several nights, he eventually killed both beasts. Lion number two didn’t go down easy, absorbing nine shots before finally dying while gnawing on a fallen branch, still trying to get at Patterson. In a weird genetic quirk, both of the male lions were pale and maneless and close to ten feet long.
Showing ultimate respect to his feline adversaries, Patterson had both of them made into rugs and spent the next 25 years walking all over their faces. The Tsavo Man-Eaters were eventually sold to the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago, where they were stuffed and remain on display to this day.