THE ORIGINS OF THE SILVER BULLET
In ancient times silver was revered as a magical element offering protection from evil and good luck to its owner. Perhaps most famously, the silver bullet was claimed to be the only sure way to kill a werewolf.
What is most surprising is that the legend has its basis in fact, not fiction.
Between 1764 and 1767 in the province GÃ©vaudan in South Central France, over one hundred people were killed, mutilated and partially eaten by a ferocious wolf-like beast. Unlike many stories concerning 'monsters' and the supernatural, circulating during this time, the tale of the beast of GÃ©vaudan has sufficient documented evidence, available to historians today, proving beyond doubt, that the killings actually took place.
The people of GÃ©vaudan were terrified of this evil presence stalking their land, rumours circulated that it was not an animal at all but a wolf-like demon with a taste for human flesh. The onset of night was a time for locking doors and windows and praying that, whatever abominable thing was out there, it would pass by and they would live to see another dawn. Despite several attempts to hunt the creature by locals, and even following the personal intervention of King Louis XV, who dispatched a platoon of heavily armed soldiers, the attacks continued.
In October, 1765 it is said that two hunters encountered the huge wolf-like creature and shot it from close range. The beast fell only to get up again almost immediately. They fired a second time and, again, the beast fell only to rise again. Despite the wounds the beast headed for the safe cover of the forest. As it made its way the hunters fired twice more. Each time the beast fell, each time he rose again. The hunters followed the blood trail. Convinced they had inflicted mortal wounds they expected to be led to the creature's lifeless body but instead they found… absolutely nothing.
The attacks continued and the fear and the panic grew. One hundred people had been killed and mutilated. Even the most rational person now believed that the creature hunting them was not an animal at all; it was an incarnation of pure evil.
The bloodshed finally ended, on the night of June 19th in 1767, when, as legend has it, Jean Chastel, a local hunter, came face to face with the huge wolf-like animal deep in the forest, while never losing eye contact or even blinking, Chastel quietly uttered a prayer, raised his weapon and shot the beast through the heart with a silver bullet he had made himself for this very purpose.
The creature fell, killed instantly.
While it was impossible to say for sure that the creature shot by Chastel was the mysterious beast responsible for the carnage, what is certain is that the no further sightings were made and no more attacks took place.
The nightmare of GÃ©vaudan was over.
To this day, debate continues as to exactly what happened in GÃ©vaudan nearly two hundred and fifty years ago, some sceptics believe that the details may have been embellished by 19th century writers keen to turn a mystery into a good story. However, what is beyond doubt is that over one hundred people were savaged over a three year period leaving an entire community in abject terror.
It was a terror that may have been ended by a silver bullet.