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In 1612, a judge in Bordeaux, France called Pierre de Lancre wrote a book about bad angels and demons, Tableau de l’Inconstance des Mauvais Anges et Demons. Within it can be found the extraordinary case of Jean Grenier, a boy of around thirteen years of age. Grenier was tried and convicted for the crime of lycanthropy. In other words, he was found guilty of being a wolfman.
A girl by the name of Marguerite Poirier was the first to bring him to the attention of her parents. She stated that Jean Grenier had repeatedly frightened her and other girls by threatening to eat them.
Grenier was described as having thickly matted red hair falling over his shoulders, pale eyes, and large hands with long, black nails pointed like a bird’s talons. His most peculiar characteristics, however, were his large canine teeth that protruded from his overhanging, lower jaw.
It is claimed that Grenier had told Marguerite and others that he had sold his soul to the devil, and in return was given the ability to transform into a wolf. The teenage boy admitted to attacking dogs and little girls in order to feast on their flesh. Disturbingly, the young girls were his preference. Their flesh, he said, was a “supreme delicacy.” Jeanne Gaboriant, aged eighteen, testified that Grenier had specifically described two instances where he had consumed a meal of human meat, one of which he had shared with a fellow wolf. 1
At first the parents disregarded their daughters’ stories as youthful fantasy. However, this changed when Marguerite Poirier was attacked by Grenier one day, and was only able to fight him off after a vicious struggle. After this, the case was taken to the authorities. This caused a general fear to spread in the area, for it had been reported that several young girls had recently vanished mysteriously.
Grenier was promptly arrested and brought before the parliament of Bordeaux. His case and testimony were recorded in full.
“The charge of Marguerite Poirier is correct,” the thirteen year old boy is recorded as having said. “My intention was to have killed and devoured her.”
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Grenier denied none of the charges and elaborated fully on his crimes. He described meeting a man in the forest “who signed me with his nail” and proceed to give him a “salve and a wolf-skin”. He claimed that it was with these items that he was able to transform into a wolf and roam the country.
The details of Grenier’s crimes were horrific. He testified to several instances where he had devoured the young. In one horrific instance, he even admitted to having eaten a newborn. He explained that he had committed these heinous acts of cannibalism at the command of his master, the so-called “Lord of the Forest”.
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The different areas where Grenier had done his dark deeds were identified, and it was discovered that the times where he stated they happened did indeed coincide with parents reporting their children missing. As hideous as his claims were, Grenier did seem to be telling the truth. Poirier even confronted the boy at the court, insisting that she witnessed him transform into a wolf before he attacked her.
By this point in history, French courts had moved away from regarding lycanthropy as a criminal offense, and instead saw it as a sign of insanity. Thus, Grenier was consigned to a monastery to be watched over by monks for the rest of his life.
Seven years later, the judge visited Grenier. He reported that he found him to be very shy. His teeth, however, were still protruding and his nails were still very long. It was then that Grenier related the whole story to the judge, as it was when he first gave his testimony to the courts years before. The judge recorded everything faithfully.
In the years since his trial, Grenier claimed that “Lord of the Forest” had visited him twice, promising him that he would soon be free again to spread terror across the country as a wolf. This, thankfully, was not to be. Shortly after the judge’s visit, Grenier died. His killing spree was over for good. 2
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