In this day and age of ever advancing technology and our never ending domination of the wild places of the world, it is easy for humankind to be lulled into the sense that we are the masters of our domain, the lords of all we survey, and the ultimate top of the food chain. However, this often proves to be a false sense of security. Indeed at the fringes of where our kind sits at the precipice of wild lands, we are at times just as much the hunted as the hunter. Things prowl out there in the wilderness, and they are not above taking a human life, for what are we to them but an easy meal? After all, without all of our advanced technology how can we really compete against creatures which have spent millions of years evolving with the sole intention of killing?
Often animal attacks can be explained as a roving leopard, lion, tiger, bear, or some such known predator species. At other times, the source of death is not so clear cut. At times, strange creatures for which we have no immediate identification can step forth from the brush to take our lives on a whim. These are the phantom talons that the natural world extends to us. Here are the inexplicable clawed, fanged things beyond our grasp that creep forth from the darkness to maim and kill almost invisibly, cloaked in a nearly supernatural aura. These are the unclassified man-eating beasts that have skirted the boundaries of our known world and lurched forth from our nightmares to viciously drive home the fact with blood, teeth, and breathtaking, unstoppable force that not only are we not at the top of the food chain, but that we might not even know what the top of the food chain is.
Perhaps the most well-known case of a mystery beast on the rampage occurred in the former province of Gévaudan, in south-central France between between the years of 1764 and 1767, in which some huge, fierce unknown animal described as wolf-like in appearance but as big as a calf, with formidable fangs and a long tail, terrorized the region leaving a trail of blood and viciously mauled dead bodies in its wake. The horrific killing spree of this enigmatic beast can be traced back to the summer of 1764, when a young woman was attacked by it while out alone tending her cattle near the murky Mercoire forest. Allegedly, the animal intently charged her, only to be thwarted by the massive bulls in her heard, which charged it in a rage. This would herald the beginning of the forthcoming attacks, and the first death attributed to the monster would be a 14-year-old girl by the name of Janne Boulet, whose throat was mercilessly torn out by some sort of wild animal near the village of Les Hubacs.
In the ensuing months, the enigmatic mystery creature would go on to repeatedly attack and kill innocent men, women, and children who were out tending cattle in the rural areas and forests near Gévaudan, typically brutally maiming and savaging the neck or face of the victims. A wave of spreading panic was not far behind, as the terrified populace tried to figure out what sort of foul creature had come to bring the shadow of death with it. Indeed, there were so many attacks in such a short span of time that there was much speculation that there was likely more than one of the beasts stalking the countryside in tandem. Talk among the frightened, superstitious locals made much mention of supernatural creatures and demons running amok, and there were a fair number of people who believed that this was a supernatural, phantom beast which could not be killed by any normal means they possessed.
As the death toll mounted, the situation was brought to the attention of Louis XV when a man by the name of Jacques Portefaix was attacked by the bloodthirsty animal while with a group of seven of his friends. Although the group managed to drive the beast away in the end, it apparently persistently came at the group several times before giving up. It was this harrowing account that caused Louis XV to proclaim that the strange beast, or beasts as it may have been, was to be hunted down and killed without hesitation. This was the time of the hunt, when hunters, nobles, soldiers, civilians, pretty much every capable person in the area went about scouring the forests looking for the murderous, mysterious creature that seemed to be toying with them.
Two professional wolf hunters named Jean Charles Marc Antoine Vaumesle d’Enneval, and his son Jean-François, were brought in to combat the mysterious threat. The pair hunted down the creature for 4 months with specially trained wolf hunting dogs, but the rampant attacks continued right under their noses. This lack of results forced the king to replace them with another hunter, a François Antoine, who managed to kill an unusually large wolf on September 20, 1765. This specimen was widely touted as being the beast behind all of the attacks, and was even stuffed and displayed in Versailles, and Antoine was hailed as a hero who had stopped the carnage, yet there were nearly another dozen savage attacks by the beast in the days after its supposed death. The true end to the seemingly never-ending killings would not stop until June 19, 1767, when a hunter by the name of Jean Chastel shot and killed a wolf with the presence of human remains in its stomach, convincing most that this was the real and genuine true Beast of Gévaudan. Interestingly, in later years it would come to light that this hunter had allegedly used a blessed silver bullet to kill the creature.
In the end, over 100 deaths and numerous injuries were blamed on the Beast of Gévaudan, with most of the corpses severely maimed and partially eaten. Many theories have been proposed over the years for just what the Beast of Gévaudan was, including that it was one or a whole pack of man eating wolves, some sort of new species of malignant predator, or even an armored mastiff fitted with hides. The most rational explanation is that this was the work of one or more of the many savage wolves that plagued the region during the 18th century, but the true culprit remains unknown.
While perhaps the most notorious, the Beast of Gévaudan is certainly not the only mystery animal to lurk in the wilderness beyond our eyesight and leap from the shadows to kill in various places throughout the world, and these sorts of gruesome attacks have continued right up into modern times. Another rather infamous case revolves around an unknown animal that in March of 2003 reportedly killed at least 3 people and injured 16 others in a mountainous area of Malawi, Africa, called the Dowa district, located around 100 km from the capital of Lilongwe. The secretive creature, which would go on to be known as “The Malawi Terror Beast,” was described as being a very large dog-like animal with somewhat hyena-like features, which was known to prowl the remote area and suddenly pounce out of the brush to ravage lone residents walking alone.
Most of the attacks were marked by the unidentified creature’s tendency to crush the skulls of its victims and devour their internal organs and private parts. Those who did survive the attacks came away from the encounter a little worse for wear, with horrific disfigurements including missing ears, eyes, noses, hands, and even legs, all of which had been savagely ripped out by the mysterious beast. This pattern of so viciously maiming and disfiguring victims made the attacks particularly frightening, sowing profound panic throughout the area to the point where around 4,000 people abandoned their homes to seek refuge in secured town halls patrolled by armed guards. This sudden influx of people fleeing their homes caused concerns among authorities over how they could feed and house so many, and led to a concerted effort to hunt down whatever sort of animal was responsible.
Although police, security officers, game keepers, and paramilitary forces were deployed to the stricken area in an effort to track the mystery animal, they were ultimately unable to find whatever it was. The official report wrote up the whole incident up as a rabid hyena on the loose, but surviving witnesses that had seen the creature up close disagreed, saying it was much larger than a hyena and had had longer hind legs. Some authorities also expressed doubt over whether an insane, rabid hyena could have possibly caused such a spree of killings while remaining elusive, uncaptured, and on the loose. Whatever it was, the Malawi Terror Beasts’s killing spree ended as abruptly as it had begun, leaving terror and bafflement behind, and it remains unclear just what sort of animal was responsible, where it came from, or where it went. Some of the superstitious villagers believe that it was supernatural in nature, and perhaps the vengeful spirit of a man eating hyena that had been killed in August of the previous year after killing 5 and maiming 20 in another area before being shot by police.
Africa certainly has no shortage of such cases. In 2005, some kind of bizarre, unknown animal held the areas surrounding the rural village of Yogomaia, in the Koinadugu district of Sierra Leone, Africa, in the grip of terror. The creature was reported as killing its unfortunate victims by breaking their necks, after which it would feast on their entrails, and it was also said to be extremely nimble-footed and fast. Over a mere one month period, the animal was responsible for the gory death of around four people in the area, which was enough to convince many of the frightened farmers of the rural region to abandon their humble homes. Allegedly, a detachment of police and military personnel were sent to the area to doggedly track the animal, but other than some unusual droppings from some sort of predator there was no further evidence of what could possibly be behind the attacks, and it could not even be ascertained if there was one animal or more behind the deadly attacks. The identity of the mysterious killer beast remains a complete mystery to this day.
In 2012, prowling terror similarly came to Indonesia, when a plantation worker and an elderly farmer were attacked on two separate occasions by some sort of unidentified, very angry animal. Farmer Aris Kuna (75), was out in his garden at around noon when he was rushed by a mysterious unknown animal, and the plantation worker was attacked by a similar creature while out working on his oil palm reservation. In both cases, the animal in question was described as being something like a cross between a ‘bear and wild boar,’ around 2 feet long, very pissed off, and the animal was reported as emitting a bizarre sound like a “hen followed by a wild boar sound” before attacking. It was also said that the mystery beast had a long mane and wicked, sharp claws, as well as an unbearable, unidentifiable stench. In both attacks, the creature was said to have reared up on its hind legs before feeociously moving in for the kill. One tracker by the name of Paul Hnrnp, 41, who bravely tried to look for the animal out in the wilderness, said that its stench was overpowering, claiming that it could be smelled in the area long before it was seen.
The mystery animal in this case was actually finally killed when it attacked a plantation worker and was struck down by a sickle. When the carcass was brought to the village for analysis, no one could figure out what species it could possibly be. People who had spent their entire lives with the wildlife of the area were stumped, and the creature still remains unidentified. One experienced local said of the body:
It’s a rare species. None of the villagers could identify it when we saw the body and pictures of it. Some even took to the Internet to find out but to no avail. Could it be one of those already considered extinct? In all my life venturing into the jungle, hunting and such, I’ve never come across this species.
Staying in southeast Asia, there was yet another region held in panic by a murderous mysterious monster in the rural districts of Si Ma Cai and Muong Khuong, in Vietnam. In 2011, villagers of the northwestern province of Lao Cai, Vietnam, complained of seeing an unknown species of dog-like creatures prowling through the area, which was described as having long, slender bodies marked with white spots or stripes, as well as ominous, slanting red eyes. The area was also plagued by inexplicable howls and roars heard by frightened villagers echoing through the night, as well as strange, very large footprints that were seemingly canine in nature. The mystery animal or animals were reported as indiscriminately attacking pets, livestock, and fearlessly lunging at anyone foolish enough to try and intervene, with over 15 reports of people being ferociously bitten by the strange creatures. In some cases, the heads of the over 20 dogs that were attacked had been horrifically torn completely off their bodies. It has not been ascertained just what sort of animal could have been responsible for the killing spree, although there are theories that it was perhaps a roving pack of feral dogs.
In 2012, three villages in the Parikshitgarh range, near the Meerut forest in India were also living under a cloud of constant fear and panic as some sort of mystery predator stalked the night. Nearly 20,000 local residents were held under siege by some sort of wild animal that was responsible for the deaths of at least three women. The first attack occurred on August 27, 2012, when a 46-year old resident of Narangpur village was found dead in a field near her home missing her hands, legs, and her face and hair torn apart by whatever the vicious animal was. At first, it was suspected that this was a murder, and that the damage from wild animals happened post mortem, but on September 2 another similar attack happened in the village of Agwanpur. Yet another attack in the same area occurred soon after, when the mauled, half-eaten body of another woman was found unceremoniously strewn about in the wilderness near the Hastinapur Wildlife Sanctuary. Another 55-year old woman was also attacked in nearby Neemka village while out cutting grass, but was able to survive the ordeal when the creature was scared off by the noise of other approaching villagers. The woman was seriously injured in the attack and admitted for medical care.
All of the attacks occurred near the wildlife sanctuary, a remote area marked by numerous cane fields and orchards. Authorities were unable to figure out just what sort of animal could have possibly been responsible. Witnesses claimed that the creature was similar in appearance to a leopard, but Divisional Forest Officer Lalit Kumar Verma stated that this was unlikely considering that there were no telltale pug marks of a big cat found anywhere in the vicinity of the attacks. This has made the top theory that the attacks were carried out by feral dogs or even a hyena, but it remains unknown just what sort of animal was terrorizing these villages and it has since gone into hiding.
Moving over to Malaysia, as recently as 2015 there was news of some sort of mystery creature that attacked Malaysian workers at an oil palm plantation. The workers claimed that they were charged and viciously attacked by a vicious, hairless monstrosity that was described as being something like a snarling cross between a dog and a monkey. The workers were reportedly able to drive the creature away by striking out at it with any weapons at hand, with one of the hits knocking the thing out, after which it awoke a short while later and was chased back into the thick wilderness. In this case, one of the startled workers was able to take video footage of the creature during and shortly after the attack, which has given some evidence from which to work out the culprit’s identity.
Analysis of the video footage, which clearly shows the workers mercilessly beating the unidentified creature, has led some environmentalists to come to the conclusion that it is most likely a Malaysian sun bear that either has some sort of skin disease to make it hairless or has been subjected to mistreatment. In the footage, the animal seems far from menacing, and indeed appears to be the main victim of the whole incident, cowering under the barrage of strikes from the villagers and spurring doubt that the animal had really attacked the workers at all, generating outrage over what some groups are calling animal cruelty, something which those involved with the “attack” have denied. With the generally poor quality of the footage, it is likely to remain unclear whether this was a case of frightened workers lashing out at a harmless, diseased sun bear, or a genuine mystery animal attack.
While in this particular case there is video evidence and a good educated guess as to what the culprit was, the same cannot be said about a horrific attack which occurred in the U.S. state of Missouri in 2015, in which an 85-year old cyclist was brutally killed by some sort of wild animal. Werner Vogt was riding his bicycle through a heavily forested area in Anchor Hill Ranch, southwest of Rogersville in northeastern Christian County, when he was apparently charged and attacked by some sort of large, angry beast. The severely mauled and injured man was rushed to the nearest hospital, where he remained conscious at first and was questioned by authorities, who showed him pictures of several large breeds of dog in an effort to figure out what had attacked him but Vogt rejected all of them. According to Christian County Sheriff Brad Cole, it was a decidedly baffling moment, and he said of the situation thus:
Just as we do with a photo lineup to identify a suspect to a witness, that's what we kind of did with these dogs. We provided several pictures of large breed dogs and he couldn't identify any of those as being anything that attacked him.
For around a month, the severely wounded Mr. Vogt remained in intensive care as police tried to figure out just what sort of creature could have possibly attacked him, and remained vigilant of other similar attacks, of which there were none. Although the main culprit was suspected as being some sort of feral dogs, the severity of the wounds inflicted, which did not match with a typical wild dog attack, seemed to suggest otherwise. The Sheriff further elaborated on this, saying:
The extent of the injuries that Mr. Vogt had, they -- they honestly were horrific. They're bad -- not something I would expect to see from a dog attack.
Mr. Vogt eventually died from these injuries, and photos were sent to wildlife experts for analysis. After carefully looking at photos of the injuries and pictures of the crime scene, it was still unclear as to what sort of malicious beast could have attacked Mr. Vogt. His violent death and the creature behind it remain a frustrating conundrum for which there are no forthcoming explanations. Fortunately, no other attacks of this nature have been reported from the area since, meaning that whatever it was has either had its thirst for blood slated, or is just biding its time to strike again.
It is clear that although we like to maintain our illusion of supremacy over the natural world around us, it is not a force to be easily tamed or understood for that matter. As much as we like to think that we control the forces and the creatures that lie out there in the wilds skirting our cities, they nevertheless lie in wait, biding their time for us to let our guard down if even for a moment. What sorts of predatory beasts stalk the night out there, slinking, stalking, and lumbering through the dark wilds? Can these animals ever truly be tamed, or will there always be those who must cower in the black of night from the fanged, clawed messengers of death that still seem to very much prowl the earth? There may come a time when we have wiped out all of the animals that pose a threat to us, and there may come an age when there are no more such threats that remain unknown to us. Until then, these bizarre cases of rampaging mystery monsters serve to show us two things; that we are far from through with comprehending all of the things that hide in the night of our wild places, and that we are merely tenuously allowed to maintain our role as the Earth's dominators by far deadlier creatures that have been here far longer than us.