It’s 1767. The people of Québec have only recently emerged from the horrors of war. The British conquered the French colony just a few years earlier with the Battle of the Plains of Abraham. But now, there’s a new terror stalking through the streets of New France. The Gazette de Québec reports that a werewolf is on the loose in the colony.
This was far from the first “loup-garou” to terrorize Québec: there’d been sightings of werewolves in New France since the 1600s. The creatures must have come over from France, sailing across the Atlantic on the ships with the first French settlers — or, at very least, the stories about them did. France had been fighting a werewolf epidemic since the late 1400s. Suspects were regularly tried, convicted and burned at the stake. When French settlers left Europe for Canada, they brought those fears with them to life on the edges of their empire.
But in some ways, the Québecois werewolves that terrorized the early Canadian settlers were different from the Hollywood beasts we’re familiar with today. These werewolves were doomed to transform not just with the full moon, but every single night — sometimes for as many as 101 nights in a row. Most transformed into wolves, but others were doomed to a fate a little less cool: turning into dogs, cats, owls, cows, oxen… there were even some werepigs.
The loup-garou of 1767 had been stalking through the colony for years. The Gazette’s first report had been published the previous summer. That June, the werewolf had been spotted outside the stone walls of Quebec City. It was in disguise as a beggar, to better stalk its prey. The most recent sighting suggested the creature was heading in the direction of Montreal. The newspaper warned its readers to be careful. “It is recommended to the Public to be as cautious of him as it would be of a ravenous Wolf.”
The Gazette openly worried that the loup-garou might even be as dangerous as the infamous Beast of Gévaudan. For the last three years, the French countryside had been terrorized by an actual, real-life wolf — or more likely a pack of wolves — that tore out the throats of farmers and villagers. The Beast is thought to have killed more than a hundred people in southern France. Eventually, royal troops were sent to the region to track down the wolf and kill it. Some people would later claim the Beast of Gévaudan was finally brought down by a hunter who shot the animal with a silver bullet.
And the werewolf of Quebec City wouldn’t be easy to kill, either...
According to the Gazette, the people of New France fought back in the fall of 1767. They organized a campaign of attacks against the beast. And that October, they won a major victory: they set their dogs upon the werewolf over and over again, seriously injuring the “monster.” On November 3, the newspaper reported that “he received such a furious Blow… that it was thought they were entirely delivered from this fatal Animal… as it soon Time after retired to its Hole, to the great Satisfaction of the Public.”
It seemed as if the terror was finally over.
But their victory against the werewolf was short lived. Just a few weeks later, the monster was back. And now, it was angry. In early December, the Gazette reported, “This Beast is not entirely destroyed, but begins again to show itself more furious than ever and makes terrible [havoc] wherever he goes.” The paper gave a chilling warning: “Beware then of the Wiles of this malicious Beast, and take good Care of falling into its Claws.”
But then, the trail goes mysteriously cold. That, it seems, is the last of the Gazette’s reports about the werewolf of Quebec City. He disappears without a trace.
So perhaps the story was nothing but rumours. Or the werewolf was merely an ordinary animal that was eventually killed without fanfare. Or maybe you’d prefer to imagine the loup-garou is still alive out there somewhere, stalking through the countryside and cities of Québec.
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Image: the Beast of Gévaudan via Wikimedia Commons.