I've become ridiculously hooked on “Lost”. As far as I'm concerned it has everything I look for in a television show. Guns, monsters, stuff that blatantly doesn't make sense, good actors who look witheringly off in to the distance every so often, a bonkers French woman who for some unknown reason has a Yugoslavian accent, it's just fantastic in each and every way. Sadly, after a playground spat between two of Britain's rival cable companies, I ended up missing the entirety of the 4th season as I simply couldn't recieve the channel it was broadcast on. But thanks to the magic of DVD I am currently catching up as best I can and enjoying every second of it.
One of the things I especially love about Lost is that every episode starts with a 20 second montage of scenes from previous episodes proceeded by a voice over stating “Previously on Lost”. And the reason I love that is because it's one of the things that make television a truly unique art form. You really wouldn't be able to get away with it in any other medium. For example, could you honestly see yourself buying a ticket for Return of the Jedi, settling down in your cinema seat, hearing the trumpets of 20th Century Fox before Mark Hamill's voice pops up with:
“Previously on Star Wars.”
“Luke, I am your Father.”
I don't know, it wouldn't really work would it?
Sad thing is though, for this post I could really do with a “Previously on I Saw Elvis In The Woods”. Because, much like the passengers of Oceanic Flight 815 are still stuck on an Island, we're still stuck on the subject of Werewolves. Partly because they're damned interesting, and partly because I ended up doing so much research for the last post and used, er, none of it. Problem is, if I had a “Previously on...” then I wouldn't have to bother with an introduction and skip straight to the bits worth talking about. Now however I have to think of way to introduce the subject all over again.
Ah hell with it.
Previously on I Saw Elvis In The Woods, we talked about my receding hair line and a big animal that terrorised Southern-Central France that may or not have been a Werewolf.
So, moving on.
The thing about the Beast of Gevaudan is that it wasn't alone in terms of European “Big Bad Wolf” encounters in the middle ages. The province of Périgord was accosted by a pack of ravenous wolves in February 1766. The city of Sarlat itself had only just recovered from a lone wolf that had injured 17 people in June the very same year before The Beast of Gevaudan came calling. Even Paris had trouble with wolves in the winter of 1450 when a hungry pack breached the city walls, killing approximately 40 people before an angry mob stoned the poor canines to death.
But if you're looking for the possible existence of a Werewolf then nothing can hold a candle the story of Peter Stubbe, aka Peter Stumpp.
Stubbe was born in the village of Epprath near the town of Bedburg, Cologne, Germany. The exact date of his birth is unknown, the records probably destroyed during one of the many wars that swept through Germany over the following centuries. What we do know is that by 1580 Stubbe was a widower, a father of two, a wealthy land owner and farmer, and an influential part of the rural community. It was around this time that Stubbe started a relationship with a distant relative called Katharina Trump.
Then, on the eve of Halloween, 1589 Peter Stubbe was executed.
There's only one source that divulges the details of this event. A German pamphlet entitled “A True Discourse. Declaring the Damnable Life and Death of One Stubbe Peeter, a Most Wicked Sorcerer.” (Gee Note: And who wouldn't want to read that? It's amazing that more books don't take that approach. For example, “Tuesday with Morrie” would probably sell a bucket load more if it was called “Tuesday with Morrie.... and a vicious Warlock.”). There are only two known copies of this in existence, both English language translations of the original German version. The text reads like this.
Those whome the Lord dooth leaue to followe the Imagination of their own hartes, dispising his proffered grace, in the end through the hardnes of hart and contempt of his fatherly mercy, they enter the right path to perdicion and destruction of body and soule for euer.
Translation : Look guys, God's a pretty laid back dude. Just don't get on his bad side OK? Just saying, the cat's got a pretty mean temper ya dig?
Anyway according to the pamphlet Stubbe confessed to murder of 16 people, of which included two pregnant women and his own son. He would often eat the body parts of his victims and even in some cases, as apparently happened with his son, devoured their brains. His motive however wasn't some repressed sexual desire, or the insatiable lust for power.
Nay good people, according to the confession Stubbe made while he was on a torture rack, the real culprit was the Devil. Stubbe claimed that he had dabbled in black magic at a formative age, and at some point had raised the Dark Lord from the depths of Hell. The Devil, like any good house guest brought with him some gifts, a succubus that Stubbe had intercourse with, and a belt (Gee Note: “Oh really, you shouldn't have. A bottle of wine would've been fine).
Now you would think that out of the two, the most interesting of these two presents would be the succubus (Gee Note: I'd also like to point out that at no point have I had a guest around my house who's brought with them something I could have sex with. Am I, in fact, just inviting the wrong people around for elevenses?). But you'd be wrong. Because the belt wasn't any old belt. Oh hell no, this was a magic belt. One that when worn would turn you in to a ferocious, slavering, animal. One that, when worn by the illustrious Mr. Stubbe, turned him in to a ravenous......
Nah, not really. The Devil's Magic Girdle (Gee Note: That would be one heck of a band name. Ladies and gentlemen please welcome on stage The Devil's Magic Girdle. Seriously the tickets would sell themselves) turned Peter from a mild mannered farmer in to a ravenous wolf.
Now bare in mind that, as previously mentioned, Stubbe confessed to this while on a torture rack. And if I'm honest, if every joint in my body was being slowly wrenched out of their sockets simultaneously, then I'd probably swear on the bones of Zombie Jesus that the comic book character Magneto was entirely based on me and my strange yet alluring powers over metal if you told me to. But apparently this was proof enough of his guilt to his accusers who, also believing he had been involved in an incestuous relationship with his own daughter Sybil, executed Stubbe by bludgeoning him to death on a breaking wheel. His head was then severed from his body and, as a warning to others, it was placed on top of a pole along with the carcass of a wolf (Gee Note: “Ok so you're saying that if the Devil calls, I should get someone to tell him I'm out pitchfork shopping or something right? Yeah, I think I've got it).
Now, what makes this all the more interesting is that Stubbe was a Protestant. Which even until very recently would have got you in to trouble in certain parts of Britain, let alone 16th century Germany. Especially considering that during the time of the crimes, an internal war between Catholics and Protestants had raged in the province of Cologne. At the time of the trial, the Catholics had recently grasped power in the region. And due to the lack of evidence outside of said pamphlet and the fact that both Sybil Stubbe and Katharina Trump were executed along side Peter Stubbe for, er, no real apparent reason that I can see, this trial takes on a whole new meaning. Could it be that the new Catholic regime, attempting to stamp authority on the Protestant population much in the same way the Protestant regime had done years earlier, used the influential Peter Stubbe as an example of where the Protestant faith can lead to?
The fact that there were high ranking members of the local aristocracy in attendance despite this being, bizarrely enough, a fairly run of the mill trial for the time certainly doesn't help dispel that notion. And even though Stubbe stuck valiantly to the Werewolf version of events, and despite what must have been excruciating pain, the trial judges took an unprecidented step and proclaimed that Stubbe had been suffering from a mental illness. Now an extremely cynical person may suggest that the reason for this was to make sure no one was in doubt as to who to blame for these atrocities. This wasn't the work of the Devil good people. It was the work of the protestant Peter Stubbe.
So there we have it. Either Stubbe genuinely went to his grave thinking he was a Werewolf, or he was an innocent victim of a Catholic conspiracy.
And trust me, if there was a television programme with a plot line like that on the air, I'd tune in every week.