Mr. Raggs, and the legend behind our mascot

Mr. Raggs, the Werewolf of Gloucester, has been our mascot since 2000.

He is our Steampunk reimagining inspired by the werewolf panic that gripped Gloucestershire in the mid 1700's. Full story below.

The Werewolf of Gloucester

A little-known history.

By

Rev. Dr Matas Corvus.

 

The Beast of Gloucester is the historical name associated with a man-eating monster, animal or animals which terrorised the ancient city of Gloucester between 1764 and 1767. According to contemporary eyewitnesses, the attacks, which covered an area spanning 56 by 50 miles, were said to have been committed by one or more beasts with formidable teeth and immense tails. Most descriptions from the period identify the beast as a lion, striped hyena, wolf, dog, or wolf-dog hybrid. Only later romantic assertions connected the events with the European werewolf hysteria.

Victims were often killed by having their throats torn out. The King of England, George III, took a personal interest in the events and used a considerable amount of money and manpower to hunt the animals responsible, including the resources of several nobles, soldiers, royal huntsmen, and civilians. The number of victims differs according to the source. A 1987 study estimated 161 attacks, resulting in 50 deaths and 49 injuries; 38 of the killed victims were partly eaten. Other sources claim the animal, or animals killed between 60 and 100 adults and children and injured more than 30. The beast was reported killed several times before the attacks finally stopped.

Description

Descriptions of the time vary, and reports may have been greatly exaggerated due to public hysteria, but the beast was generally described as a wolf-like man-like canine with a tall, lean frame capable of taking great strides. It was said to be the size of a calf, a cow, or, in some cases, a horse. It was witnessed walking and running on both two and four legs. In several reports, it was claimed to have spoken or called to potential victims. It had an elongated head similar to that of a greyhound, with a flattened snout, pointed ears, and a wide mouth sitting atop a broad chest. The beast’s tail was also said to have been notably longer than a wolf’s, with a tuft at the end. The beast’s fur was described as dark grey, tawny or russet in colour, but its back was streaked with black, and a white heart-shaped pattern was noted on its underbelly.

History

An 18th-century print showing Mary Jean Valet (also known as “The Maid of Gloucester”) defending herself from the beast.

Beginnings

The Beast of Gloucester committed its first recorded attack in the early summer of 1764. A young woman named Mary Jean Valet, who was tending cattle in the fields near the town of Newent in Gloucester, saw a beast “like a wolf, yet not a wolf” come at her. However, the bulls in the herd charged the beast, keeping it at bay. They then drove it off after it attacked a second time. Shortly afterwards, the first official victim of the beast was recorded: 14-year-old Jane Bollet was killed near the village of Highnam.

Throughout the remainder of 1764, more attacks were reported across the region. Very soon, terror gripped the populace because the beast was repeatedly preying on lone men, women, and children as they tended livestock in the forests and fields around Gloucester. Reports note that the beast seemed only to target the victim’s head or neck regions.

By late December 1764, rumours had begun circulating that there might be a pair of animals behind the killings. This was because there had been such a high number of attacks in such a short space of time and because many of the attacks appeared to have occurred or were reported nearly simultaneously. Some contemporary accounts suggest the creature was seen with another such animal, while others report that the beast was accompanied by its young.

On January 12, 1765, Jack Porter and seven friends were attacked by the beast while fishing for elvers on Alney Island, near Gloucester. After several attacks, they drove it away by staying grouped together. The encounter eventually came to the attention of King George, who awarded 30 Shillings to Porter and another 35 Shillings to be shared among his companions. The King also rewarded Porter with an education at the nation’s expense. He then decreed that the English state would help find and kill the beast.

 Royal intervention

An 18th-century engraving of John Raggs slaying the wolf.

Colonel John Pomeroy of the 123rd Regiment of Foot and his troops were soon sent to Gloucester. Although highly zealous in his efforts, non-cooperation on the part of the local farmers stalled Pomeroy’s efforts. On several occasions, he almost shot the beast but was hampered by the incompetence of his men.

When the King agreed to send two professional wolf-hunters, Charles Enneval and his son, Colonel Pomeroy was forced to stand down and return to his temporary headquarters in Stroud. Cooperating with Enneval was impossible as the two differed too much in their strategies; Colonel Pomeroy organised large, wide-ranging wolf hunting parties, while Enneval and his son believed the beast could only be shot using stealthy techniques. Father and son Enneval arrived in Gloucester on February 17, 1765, bringing eight bloodhounds trained in wolf-hunting. Over the next four months, the pair hunted for wolves, believing that one or more of these animals was the beast. However, when the attacks continued, the Ennevals were replaced in June 1765 by Oliver Lyall Rictus-Vargr, Lieutenant of the King’s Hunt, who arrived in Gloucester on June 22.

On September 20 or 21, Lyall killed a large grey wolf like animal measuring 38 in height, 6 ft 7 in long and weighing 180 lb. The beast, which was named ‘The Wolf of Llanthony’ after the nearby Llanthony Priory (*1), was said to have been quite large for a wolf. Lyall officially stated:

We declare by the present report signed from our hand, we never saw a big wolf that could be compared to this one. Hence, we believe this could be the fearsome beast that caused so much damage.”

The animal was further identified as the culprit by attack survivors, who recognised the scars on its body inflicted by victims defending themselves. The wolf was stuffed and sent to London. Lyall, who had been injured in the hunt, seemed to take a more personal interest in the pursuit and stayed in Gloucestershire to chase down the female partner of the beast and her two grown pups. Lyall succeeded in killing the female wolf and a pup, which seemed already larger than its mother. The other pup was shot and hit and was believed to have died while retreating between the rocks. Lyall returned to London and received a large sum of money (over 9,000 Guineas) as well as fame, titles, and awards and retired into anonymity.

However, on December 2, two boys aged 6 and 12 were attacked near Stroud, suggesting that the beast was still alive. The beast tried to capture the youngest, but it was successfully fought off by the older boy. Soon after, successful attacks followed, and some of the shepherds witnessed that the beast showed no fear around cattle. A dozen more deaths are reported to have followed attacks around the city of Gloucester.

Final attacks

The creature’s killing that eventually marked the end of the attacks is credited to a local hunter named John Raggs, who shot it in Lassington Woods (2*) near Highnam during a hunt organised by William Craven, Baron Berkeley on June 19, 1767. In 1889, Abbot Porcher told the edifying oral tradition that the pious hero Mr Raggs shot the creature after reciting his prayers, but the historical accounts do not report any such thing. The story about the large-calibre bullets, home-made with Virgin Mary’s silver medals, is a literary invention by the romantic writer Henry Porritt.

The body was then taken to Berkeley Castle, where it was stuffed by Dr Boulanger, a local surgeon. Dr Boulanger’s post-mortem report was transcribed by a notary Peter Marin and is known as the “Marin Report” on the beast. Upon being opened, the animal’s stomach was shown to contain the remains of its last victim. Most of the report was withheld upon the King’s request, and unsubstantiated fanciful rumours spread that this was because the body changed back into a human corpse.

 Hypotheses

According to modern scholars, public hysteria at the time of the attacks contributed to widespread myths that a werewolf roamed Gloucester, but deaths attributed to a beast were more likely the work of a number of wolves or packs of wolves. In 2001, the naturalist Michael Louis proposed that a red-coloured mastiff belonging to John Castel sired the beast, and its resistance to bullets may have been due to it wearing the armoured hide of a young boar, thus also accounting for its unusual colour.

 

The wolf shot by John Raggs on September 21, 1765, was displayed at Hampton Court.

Attacks by wolves were a severe problem during the era, throughout Europe, with tens of thousands of deaths attributed to wolves in the 18th century alone. In the spring of 1765, in the midst of the Gloucester hysteria, an unrelated series of attacks occurred near the Welsh village of Aberdare when an individual wolf killed at least four people over two days before being tracked and killed by a man armed with a pitchfork. In Shipton, North Yorkshire, in 1766, it was reported that the

moor in there abouts were infested for up wards of a year and a half past, by a wild furious but anonymous animal which destroyed a great number of sheep and lambs, and not withstanding it has been shot several times, it still roves triumphant.”

Such incidents were fairly typical in rural parts of Western and Central Europe.

The surviving parts of the Marin Report describes the creature terrorising Gloucester as a wolf of enormous proportions

This animal which seemed to us to be a wolf; But extraordinary and Very different by its figure and its proportions Of any wolves that we see in this country. This is what we have certified by more than three hundred people from all around who came to see him:”

Despite the widely held interpretation based on most of the historical research that the beast was a wolf or other wild canid, several alternative theories have been proposed, such as a lion, a hyena, or, indeed, a werewolf.

Postscript

Though lauded by Henry Parrot, John Raggs was a man of ambiguous origins. Although reputed as a local gentleman huntsman, no records of him, or the family name, exist in the parish of Highnam, Newent or Gloucester, for that matter, before the incident when he slew the beast.

Due to his renown and a large reward from the King, he went on to become a celebrated ‘wolf hunter’ across Britain and Europe. Until in 1780, he was implicated in a number of murderous attacks in the Auvergne area of France, arrested and accused of being a werewolf. Unfortunately, he escaped before his trial and was never heard of again.

Popular Conjecture

Because of the coincidence of Oliver Lyall Rictus-Vargr's disappearance from public life and the uncertain origins of John Raggs, it has been conjectured by more fanciful minds that ‘John Raggs’ was a pseudonym for Lyall, who had returned to hunt down the last of the creatures that had injured and thus infected him. There is no proof that the two men were the same, and, of course, werewolves are a totally mythical creation of excited minds.

 

(1*Llanthony Secunda Priory)

(2* Lassington Woods has also been the sight of other strange events and disappearances since this incident)

 

See also;

https://www.history.com/news/werewolf-trials-europe-witches

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