true-crime

Slender Man Made Me Do It

Slender Man Made Me Do It

Slender Man was only meant to be a story, but sometimes reality and stories get blurry.

The unfortunate, real-life event that “Before She Was Found” was based on.

The Beast of Gévaudan

In a sleepy little town once known as Gévaudan*, between the years of 1764 and 1767, a series of chilling murders took place. Bodies were found in terrible conditions, with heads chewed off, and throats ripped out, all left in a bloody mess. Approximately one hundred people fell victim to this same murderer: the Beast of Gévaudan.

Photo courtesy of Viergacht via Pixabay

Photo courtesy of Viergacht via Pixabay

The exact origin of the legend of werewolves is hard to pin down. Many believe that it’s likely to be the Epic of Gilgamesh, which is an epic poem from ancient Mesopotamia. It’s believed to be, in addition to the first werewolf story, the oldest surviving work of literature.

But the ancient Greeks had werewolf stories as well, such as the Legend of Lycaon, and of course, though the origin is hard to pin down, we all know the classic, Little Red Riding Hood.

The Beast of Gévaudan was something different though. It was a real life werewolf story, come to life straight off the pages. Or so it seemed.

The first official victim to be claimed by the Beast was a young girl named Jeanne Boulet. She was not the first to be attacked—there was another, unnamed, young girl before her, who was protected by the herd of cows she was tending— but she was the first to die. Boulet was 14 years old, and she was only the first of many that would soon come after her, almost all of them women and children.

Photo courtesy of pixundfertig via Pixabay

Photo courtesy of pixundfertig via Pixabay

Over the next few years, the number of victims steadily rose, and the Beast’s body count garnered national attention. At the time, France was just fresh out of the Seven Years War, and having suffered severe losses, they were looking for a way to redeem themselves in the newspapers, and in the eyes of the world. At the same time, François Morénas was an editor of a newspaper entitled Courrier D’Avignon, and it had profited quite well off of the coverage of the Seven Years War. After the war, circulation of his newspaper began to fade. While France was looking for a new cause, so was Morénas.

In fact, Morénas is often credited in history as the main source of coverage on the Beast of Gévaudan, and his newspaper was what really got the story circulating. Drawings were being done of the Beast, based on first hand accounts. It was often described as a combination of a wolf and a dog, but that it was about as big as a cow. It was described as having reddish coloured fur, with black streaks in it, and a very large mouth with oversized teeth.

The Beast of Gévaudan was more than just a story to be covered, though, and something needed to be done. More and more people were encountering this creature, and very few were living to tell the tale. That being said, the reason that drawings and descriptions of the Beast exist is because some people were lucky enough to survive their encounters.

One such person was Marie-Jeanne Valet. Once the problem the Beast posed became more nationally known, hunting parties started being formed. At first it was simply people within Gévaudan, the first being Jean-Baptiste Duhamel. He was an infantry captain who’d suffered a particularly humiliating loss in the Seven Years War, and in an effort to redeem himself, gathered an army of approximately 30,000 men to face the Beast. They were, however, much like in the war, unsuccessful.

King Louis XV then stepped in, and replaced Duhamel with a hunting party of his own choosing, which was headed by Jean-Charles D’Enneval, a famous wolf hunter from Paris. He was also unsuccessful though, and newspapers at the time speculated that it was in large part due to his refusal to work with the locals to solve the problem.

Statue of Marie-Jeanne Valet fighting the Beast; Photo courtesy of the Wikimedia Commons

Statue of Marie-Jeanne Valet fighting the Beast; Photo courtesy of the Wikimedia Commons

This is where Marie-Jeanne Valet comes in. Much like the men that came before her, she was unsuccessful at slaying the beast, but she made it a step further than any of her male counterparts. She left her home and was heading towards a farm close by, when she turned around to find the Beast breathing down her neck. With some quick thinking, she immediately plunged a homemade spear she’d been carrying, into the Beast. Reportedly, it put a paw to where she’d struck it, cried out, and tumbled into the nearby river, allowing Valet to get away.

But this encounter immortalized Valet’s name in history, and she was henceforth known as “The Maiden of Gévaudan”. There are even pop culture references to her that make her out to be the slayer of the Beast, and in 1995, a statue of her fighting the Beast was erected in Auvers, in Southern France.

As people began to form armies and attempt to take down the Beast, a deeply unsettling fact that only served to drive their fights more, became apparent. Being that Gévaudan had lots of farmland, many people that encountered the Beast did so while tending to various animals, such as sheep or cows. However, one detail that all Beast encounters that also involved farm animals had in common was that the Beast paid no attention to the animals, and very clearly targeted the humans.

Artist’s rendering of the Beast based on eye-witness accounts; Drawing done by A.F. of Alençon

Artist’s rendering of the Beast based on eye-witness accounts; Drawing done by A.F. of Alençon

The problem many of these people that tried and failed to take down the Beast were encountering, was that bullets didn’t seem to affect it the same way they would an ordinary wolf or dog. Various armies that had formed had showered the Beast with bullets, and while many did find purchase, none ever succeeded in bringing the Beast’s death. This was where many of the legends and speculations about the Beast not being a normal wolf originated. Many began to theorize that it was something a touch more supernatural.

Nothing was ever proven, however, and the Beast was eventually killed in 1767 at Mont Mouchet, by Jean Chastel, a local farmer and inn-keeper. He melted down a religious amulet to make silver bullets, and that was what finally took the wolf down. Silver bullets, as I’m sure many are aware, are the well-known way legends suggest using to take down a werewolf, and perhaps this Beast of Gévaudan lent a bit to the origin of that belief. Regardless, whatever Chastel did, it worked, because after that, no one else was killed, and the Beast was never seen again.

Like with Marie-Jeanne Valet, monuments have been erected to honour Chastel, that can still be seen around France today.

It’s possible that the Beast was just a particularly large wolf, with a particularly large kill count, and that the story just grew way out of proportion because the people of France were looking for a win and a story in the post-war time they lived in. It’s also possible, I suppose, that the Beast was a real life werewolf we all grew up hearing legends about. Like I said, nothing was ever proven, and the problem was taken care of either way.

The answer will just have to remain up to your imagination.


*Gévaudan is now modern day Lozère in Southern France.


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Maggie Kendall

Maggie Kendall spent the first fifteen years of her life furiously avoiding all things horror, but then her friend forced her to watch Paranormal Activity, and there’s been no turning back. She still checks the bathroom mirror for Bloody Mary before getting in the shower.

A One-Star Yelp Review At Best

This post was first published on SPINE Online, November 16th, 2018.


Historically, an inn has been seen as symbol of good will and hospitality. Lured in by the promise of a hot fire crackling away and hearty food, people flocked to these establishments for an opportunity to find rest and comfort. The Bender’s family Inn, however, operated an establishment of murderous intent, slitting the throats of visitors and burying the bodies in the nearby apple orchard.

1871 saw an unusual family settle down on the outskirts of Cherryvale, Illinois, right on a road that connected to two major cities in the area. The Benders were a clever family of four, taking advantage of the location and dressing their home up to entice potential visitors into staying for a night or two.

Photo courtesy of Arno Smit via Unsplash.com

Photo courtesy of Arno Smit via Unsplash.com

The Benders helped to spice the local gossip mill, with the two men of the family both named John and the two women of the family both named Kate. Everyone had an opinion of the group, arguing if they were a family unit or two married couples. There was even a compelling argument that the women could have been witches involved in dark rituals steeped in sin and treachery. (Tragic that no one pegged the group for a bunch of murderers.)

The glory of living in the wild west was that this was the land of both opportunity and reinvention. It was also the perfect place to set up an elaborate business in killing unsuspecting visitors.

The one-star inn was small at best, located next to a flourishing apple orchard. Visitors might have been tempted by the rich smell of apple blossoms that hung from the trees in white clusters, making the inn seem harmless. Inside the inn the room had been cleverly arranged, with a front section hosting space for dining also serving as a general store. A canvas curtain divided the space, hiding the sleeping quarters behind it.

A chair was positioned directly against the curtain. It was referred to by the Benders as the best seat in the inn and they would encourage visitors to seat themselves upon it. Perhaps the visitors who took that seat were being kind and pretended that the odd stains upon the curtain were not there. They might have also been distracted by the younger Kate, who would often entertain them as they sat.

Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Both of the Johns would swap positions, taking turns standing behind the curtain with a hammer waiting for the chance to strike down hard the moment the guest relaxed and let their head brush against the curtain. Once the two Johns had made their move, Kate would attack, slitting their throats with a knife.

Bodies were handled with skill and dragged into a cellar. The family would wait for nightfall to bury their victims in the orchard. The elder John would often plow the soft earth of the orchard to disguise the shape of the freshly dug earth. Most bodies had been brutalized in their murder except the body of a young girl, found beneath her dead father. A fear spread quickly that she had been buried alive.

Perhaps if the internet had existed in the 1870s, reviews could have been given. Potential visitors would have been advised of the startling behaviors of their hosts or the curious sounds of moaning from beneath the floorboards.

While no one ever discovered if the Benders were biologically related, or pagan worshippers, it was quite clear that the entire family were terrible hospitality workers.

If your heart is truly set on staying at a murderous location, however, check out this link for some ‘safer’ suggestions.


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Rachel Small

Rachel Small is not a small person and might be the present day reincarnation of Lizzie Borden. She crawled to life one night after midnight in the basement of a bookstore.

Lizzie Borden Took an Axe

“Lizzie Borden took an axe and gave her mother forty whacks, and when she saw what she had done, she gave her father forty-one.”

Many are familiar with the old rhyme about a very real set of murders that took place back in 1892. That year, on August 4th in Fall River, Massachusetts, Andrew and Abby Borden were found murdered in their home. They had been hacked to death with an axe so many times their bodies were barely recognizable. History’s favourite suspect for the murders is their daughter, Lizzie Borden

However, Lizzie was never proven guilty, and these murders remain unsolved to this day.

Lizzie Borden was the daughter of Andrew Borden and the step-daughter of Abby Borden. She was the one to discover Andrew’s body, and set off the subsequent chain of events that were later immortalized in history.

Photo courtesy of Payette Media House via Adobe Stock

Photo courtesy of Payette Media House via Adobe Stock

Contrary to what the rhyme would suggest, it wasn’t forty strikes or an axe to each of the two murder victims, but instead, twenty-nine altogether. Nonetheless, these murders were particularly brutal. Those that saw the bodies described them as completely unrecognizable, and were quite sickening. Andrew Borden in particular had a number of blows to the face, one of which had gouged out his left eye.

The detail that really confused law enforcement, though, was the lack of blood anywhere but on the bodies, and the lack of any signs of a struggle within the homes. Andrew was found lying on the sofa, and Abby was found on the floor of her bedroom, but everything surrounding them and around the rest of the house was completely untouched.

Before Lizzie was accused, the main suspicion had fallen upon a labourer who worked for Andrew Borden. The labourer was supposedly by the house earlier that day to ask for the wages he’d earned, only to be sent away with nothing by Andrew Borden himself. It was also believed, due to certain medical evidence found on Abby’s body, that she’d been attacked by a tall male.

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Despite such evidence, however, the suspicion did eventually fall on Lizzie. There were many reasons for this, including the fact that some people said that she had never gotten along with her step-mother, as well as the fact that police believed the murders had to have been committed by someone in the Borden house, and the only people home that day were Lizzie and the Bordens’ maid, Bridget “Maggie” Sullivan. There was also suspicion that Lizzie didn’t have a positive relationship with her father at all, and that many of the details she’d provided in her defence just didn’t add up.

Lizzie said she was in the barn on the property, looking for equipment for an upcoming fishing trip, at the time of her father’s murder. She insisted she was in there for about fifteen minutes, but according to further investigation into the details of that day, the barn was far too hot for someone to want to be in there for more than just a few minutes. In addition, there were no footprints in the dust where Lizzie said she’d been looking.

Another piece of evidence brought to the attention of police was a blue dress. Bridget Sullivan said that Lizzie had been wearing it on the morning of the murders, and a friend of the Bordens’ later testified in court that she’d seen Lizzie burning it. When questioned about this, Lizzie said she’d been burning it because it had old paint on it.

Nevertheless, none of the evidence found was enough to lock Lizzie away, and law enforcement concluded that she wasn’t capable of the murders anyway as she’d never done an unkind thing in her life. She was eventually cleared of the crime, and the murders were never solved.

Photo courtesy of it’s me neosiam via Pexels.com

Photo courtesy of it’s me neosiam via Pexels.com

The continued interest in the Borden murders after all this time goes beyond a simple unsolved crime, however. 92 Second Street, where the Borden house is located, is still open. In fact, now it’s the Lizzie Borden Bed & Breakfast/ Museum. As horrific as the murders were, their setting has now been turned into a place for tourists, which you too can visit, should you have the courage. And the tours that go through here don’t stop at historical facts about the Borden family or the crimes. Paranormal tours are hosted at the location as well, for anyone hoping to catch a glimpse of the spirits said to still be hanging around in the house. In fact, the Borden house is actually home to significant paranormal tourism and opportunities, because anyone who joins the tour is invited to bring a Ouija board, or use one that’s provided, and are taught how to contact the spirit world.

I personally wouldn’t start off contacting the spirit world in the setting of such horrifying crimes, but there are certainly braver souls out there than me. And should you find yourself interested, feel free to follow the above link, and sign yourself up.


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Maggie Kendall

Maggie Kendall spent the first fifteen years of her life furiously avoiding all things horror, but then her friend forced her to watch Paranormal Activity, and there’s been no turning back. She still checks the bathroom mirror for Bloody Mary before getting in the shower.

Olivia Gatwood is the Life of the Party

Both Olivia Gatwood and New American Best Friend were a gift given to humanity. Her first book of poetry was published in 2017 and was an expertly crafted collection of work. In particular, Gatwood focuses on the elements of being a woman and living in modern America. In particular, her series of odes are particularly breathtaking in their raw honesty and presentation.

Cover image from  Random House

Cover image from Random House

We did not deserve Gatwood when she slammed her way into popularity with her viral videos like “Ode to My Bitch Face” and “Ode to the Women on Long Island”, and we certainly did not deserve her new collection, Life of the Party. This collection expands on what her earlier work started, and further projects her voice into covering topics like violence and victimhood. Gatwood excels in writing about womanhood and sexuality, and has a huge audience desperately waiting for her next collection to be released.

As an educator in sexual assault prevention, her work has been showcased in publications like Poetry City U.S.A and Winter Tangerine. Gatwood’s recordings have garnered thousands upon thousands of views, and her voice easily carries not just words artfully strung together, but manages to convey entire stories that expand far past the pages of her writing.

Life of the Party is deeply inspired by true crime, and Gatwood presents her own perspective on very real situations. America has recently been cracked open and had its dark underbelly forcefully exposed by a multitude of women in the past few years, and her voice further aids to the progress being made. Our obsession and romanization of murdered women is often fixated on by the cold reality that we currently live in. There is danger in being a woman, and especially a woman of color.

The appearances of murdered women on movies and television shows is a constant theme. They act as an object to dwell on, and they also serve to support male leads and their lives moving forward. Dead bodies and the act of murdering has become a romanticized dark area in pop culture, which influences how we perceive violent acts. Staggering numbers of teenagers today admire serial killers and their activities, transforming them into heroic figures while ignoring the bodies behind their statistics.

Books based on true crime have become popular. They analyze crime scenes and present information to the general public, making information accessible. However, often books distance themselves from the identities of the murdered women and victims, and these books slowly lose sensitivity. Like a moth to a flame, we gravitate and devour these books.

When I’ll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara was published posthumously in 2018, we were obsessed. There is something so heartbreakingly compelling about reading the stories of victims and their families living in the aftermath. McNamara had compiled her research and built the foundation of the book with her outlines, previously written articles and a few fully fleshed out chapters. Efforts by ghostwriters ensured that the book was published and McNamara’s voice continued, telling the history of the Golden State Killer.

The book rose into popularity throughout bookstores across North America and was the 2018 winner of the Goodreads Choice Awards. McNamara managed to restore the voices of the victims inside their own narratives.  This artful act of compassion and respectful journalism managed to fixate an entire audience of readers who firmly then turned their attentions to the legal actions against Joseph James DeAngelo, the Golden State Killer, that unravelled throughout that year. Because of McNamara’s efforts, we were able to remember the victims behind DeAngelo’s actions properly. Nothing was glamorized, and McNamara directed out attention to the staggering reality of cold case files as well as both the effective and ineffective abilities that DNA has on solving the ‘unsolvable’.

Photo courtesy of  Olivia Gatwood  via Twitter

Photo courtesy of Olivia Gatwood via Twitter

The connection between Gatwood’s electric poetry and McNamara’s carefully researched writing is obvious. These women are fixated on restoring narratives and weaving a complex story. Without women like these two, we would not experience such carefully pieced together work, and we as a whole would all suffer. When women die, they either become invisible and voiceless, or they are dragged out on display. We need women willing to restore voices and narratives, but also to provide compassionate storytelling.

There’s a reason women carry their keys in their hands and don’t go jogging at night. We also avoid discussing the complex differences between murdered white women and murdered women of color. We dislike engaging in discussions on the missing and murdered Indigenous women in Canada, but we are certainly fascinated with Robert Pickton and his activities. Pop culture builds an image of strangers murdering women, but statistically, women are more likely to be abused by men that they had an already existing relationship with. We need to look beyond media representation and look at the bigger picture, and who is truly impacted.

The conversation around murdered women is heavily limited and censored. Thankfully, we have writers and educators willing to lend their own voice and provide a platform for new thinking.

We are certainly marking down the days to the release of Life of the Party, and you should be too.


Random House will be releasing Gatwood’s Life of the Party August 27th, 2019. You can get your hands on the paperback for $17.00. Until the summer, though, you can catch more of her thoughts @oliviagatwood as well on the podcast that she co-hosts, called Say More.


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Rachel Small

Rachel Small is not a small person and might be the present day reincarnation of Lizzie Borden. She crawled to life one night after midnight in the basement of a bookstore.

Rehmeyer's Hollow

Braucherei is a combination of religion and folk magic, and was seen as a kind of “faith healing” and a form of witchcraft. Many German immigrants settling in Pennsylvania between the late 1600s and 1800s were practitioners of braucherei. They followed the guidelines of the Bible and the Long Lost Friend—a book of spells, rituals, and remedies. Each practitioner had their own copy, and users of the book were called braucher, or powwowers (“pow-wow” being another name for the Long Lost Friend). Many of them had settled in York County, Pennsylvania, where even those who didn’t practice braucherei themselves held a strong belief in its power.

Photo courtesy of Olivia Notter via Flickr.

Photo courtesy of Olivia Notter via Flickr.

John Blymire was born into a family of respected powwowers in 1896. However, he became extremely ill as a boy and suffered rapid weight loss. His family, unable to cure him, believed that he had been hexed. They sought out Nelson Rehmeyer, a well-known powwower who frequently used his practice to help others in need. After examining the boy, Rehmeyer gave his family these instructions: boil an egg in John’s urine, poke three holes in the shell and place it on an anthill for the ants to consume.

Skeptics, feel free to comment, but in the Blymires’ eyes, this prescription seemed to have cured the boy of all illness. John quickly gained back all of the weight he had lost and was healthier than before. Inspired by his healing, John began to learn the art of powwowing himself.

When he became an adult, he moved to York, where he married a young woman named Lily. Their marriage didn’t last though; all of the symptoms from his childhood illness came back, and John believed that he had once again been hexed. Thanks to the words of a dark powwower named Andrew C. Lenhart—that his hex had been caused by someone he was close to—John began to suspect Lily was his hexer. His suspicion was amplified when he realized that he had lost his power to heal, and Lily divorced him for his accusations.

Desperate for a cure, John sought out the witch Nellie Noll, who told him the face of his hexer would appear on his palm if he looked at a $1 bill. Rehmeyer’s face appeared, and while initially torn about the outcome, John did not question it: his faith had never failed him before.

Photo Courtesy of Randy Roberts via Flickr

Photo Courtesy of Randy Roberts via Flickr

Noll offered him two solutions: he could either steal a lock of Rehmeyer’s hair, and bury it 6-feet under the ground, or steal his copy of the Long Lost Friend and burn it. John chose to go after the book.

Knowing he would not be able to convince Rehmeyer to hand over his book, John enlisted the help of teenagers John Curry and Wilbur Hess. Together, they broke into Rehmeyer’s house in the middle of the night. Instead of simply stealing it, however, they tied Rehmeyer to a kitchen chair and beat him, hoping he would surrender the Long Lost Friend. He didn’t.

Just as none of them thought to just take a clipping of his hair and leave, none of them had thought to disguise themselves or even be quiet in their assault. And since Rehmeyer knew who his assailants were, they couldn’t just leave. They strangled him to death and set the house ablaze after retrieving Rehmeyer’s Long Lost Friend. All of this unnecessary violence didn’t reward John: nothing got better for him.

Photo courtesy of Sherrie via Flickr

Photo courtesy of Sherrie via Flickr

It turned out that the fire failed to burn Rehmeyer’s house down, and the three men were quickly connected to the crime. They were put on trial and sentenced to prison. And John’s hex still consumed him. When he finished his sentence and was released from jail, he died. Tale of the “York County Hex Murder” spread like wildfire. Thanks to the negative exposure from Rehmeyer’s death, powwowing lost followers and faded away as a practice (at least in North America).

Nowadays, people have often sighted smoke rising from the abandoned house, and claim that Nelson’s spirit haunts the place. But was Rehmeyer actually responsible for hexing John? Nellie Noll was well-known herself as the Marietta River Witch, so many speculate that John’s hex was a trick created by Noll to eliminate her competition.

If you want to hear more about John Blymire’s tragic tale, I highly recommend you check out Lore’s telling in their episode “Desperate Measures”. Click this link to be transported post-haste!


Michelle Bonga

Michelle is a wandering soul. She doesn’t know what she’s doing with her life. She hopes she’s doing something right. She is a great person to talk to; doesn’t talk much herself. If you’re nice, she’ll haunt you forever. Or until she’s bored.

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