In 1572 something began killing the children of Dôle in eastern France. A 10-year-old girl was strangled and partially devoured in October; another girl succumbed after a similar attack a few weeks later, and more victims followed. The province decided there was a werewolf abroad, and one evening some workers spotted a creature carrying a child’s body through the failing light.
It wasn’t a wolf. It was Gilles Garnier, a local hermit and, as it turned out, a cannibalistic serial murderer who hunted children to feed his new wife. Garnier said that a specter had given him a magic ointment that would let him assume a wolf’s shape in order to hunt more easily.
Who’s to say he was wrong? After confessing to four murders, Garnier was convicted of “crimes of lycanthropy and witchcraft” and burned at the stake.