February of 1763:
With the signing of the Treaty of Paris, the Seven Years War finally came to an end. As a result, France relinquished control over many holdings beyond her continental shores. Under the leadership of Louis XV, people began rebuilding from the ravages of war and for a time all was generally quiet across the land. While yet adjusting to life after conflict, it was during this period that, like a dark curse, a new and unexpected adversary appeared.
Summer 1764 saw the southern provinces come under siege by a creature so utterly evil that the hysteria wrought by its presence will, I am sure, be remembered long after I am gone. With stealth and cunning this terrible malaise arose to strike from within our borders, sending a wave of panic and fear spreading across the whole of the countryside. Some will say that it was a pack of wolves responsible for the devastation and I will not argue that a group of vicious animals played their part in the drama. However, over the next thirty-six months the attacks that occurred were so heinous that future historians will find it difficult to ascribe them to natural predation.
With the province of Gévaudan being at the heart of the activity, the attacks resulted in more than one hundred people brutally slain. That women and children should be made the primary target of the depravations is not extraordinary, but what is of note, is the frequency with which humans were singled out while in the proximity of livestock or other, more natural prey.
Of those falling before the onslaught, many were partially devoured and more than a ravenous hunger must be held responsible for the attacker to be driven to decapitate so many of its victims. With ample evidence that wolves were at fault, for my part, I do not agree that the grizzly behavior was that of our native breeds. In spite of what proof may be offered, I believe those who suffered ambush while being far from the wilds, or mountainous areas that might be normally inhabited by wolves, were actually the victims of a mysterious malice.
Attending as best I could to official reports and also at times being involved in hunts, I am convinced that only a portion of actual incidents were ever reported. By official reckoning, at least 113 citizens died from acts of depredation. Some will say that the number was more, while others will say it was less, but with 100 additional victims surviving their wounds, it is unlikely that anyone will ever know for certain just how many experienced the ferocity of those terrible fangs.
Because of my own experiences and involvement in the affair, it is my belief that it was not wolves alone that descended upon the Gévaudan that midsummer, but an insidious evil with a thirst for blood. By any accounting, it was a season of death and a season of wolves.
But before I continue, please first allow me to properly introduce myself. My name is Jean Chastel and I leave my story behind for those who would find it believable.