Thursday, October 15, 2020

The Lunenburg, Nova Scotia Werewolf

An interesting account from colonial Nova Scotia involving a man who supposedly transformed into a werewolf and eventually killed his baby daughter. He was convicted of murder, and later committed suicide in jail.

The following account was sent to me by a colleague in Nova Scotia:

This account was written by author Theodore Hennigar and published in the 'Progress Enterprise' on April 12, 1963.

The account begins in December 1755 when a French girl named Nanette managed to escape into the woods after British troops had invaded and destroyed the village where she lived in the Cornwallis Valley, now the Annapolis Valley, Nova Scotia.

After a period of wandering, she came upon a Mi'kmaq settlement where she was taken in, cared for and treated as one of their own.

Days later, Nanette appeared with a female Mi'kmaq elder at a small German settlement on the outskirts of present-day Lunenburg where they encountered an old woman who took an immediate liking to the young girl, expressing a desire to adopt her.

An agreement was struck and, after Nanette was traded for a crimson handkerchief, she again was back in a white family where she grew into "a charming young woman with a beautiful face, manner, amiable disposition and a magnetic power of making friends among both young and old."

While those qualities attracted a variety of suitors, Nanette's affections fell to one Hans Gerhardt, "a finely built German lad of the community who had a particular temper."

The two married, and for a time enjoyed an idyllic marriage in which they were "extremely devoted to each other."

Soon they were blessed with a baby daughter, an event which, rather than enhancing their affections for each other, had a strangely opposite effect.

"It seemed Hans was incapable of understanding the love of Nanette for her daughter," Mr. Hennigar wrote. "He became jealous and moody, falling into violent fits of temper over nothing, feeding his peculiar mind with fuel for the fires of self-pity which raged within."

Occupied with her newborn child, Nanette did not realize for some time that something was amiss with her husband. When she finally did, she took it for granted that he had become ill, perhaps from working too hard on their farm.

Hans then began to display even more erratic behaviour, and began sleeping in the kitchen, apart from his wife, saying he was being disturbed by the baby as he tried to rest.

He also took to wandering from their home at night, a practice that became more and more regular and one which he would not discuss with his wife when she questioned him of his activities.

It was at that time that strange tales of a mysterious nightly presence, manlike, but able to run swiftly on all fours, began circulating in the community.

Farmers started finding their lambs "lying dead in the morning with their throats torn from ear to ear, and the blood gone from their bodies."

At first bears were suspected as the culprit, but it was reasoned that that could not be the case since the meat of the animals was not taken nor was it consumed.

Hans joined the hunters who were trying to find whatever beast was killing the lambs, but no culprit could be uncovered.

That summer, with the blueberries in full ripeness, Hans left the family home one afternoon with a basket to harvest the fruit. After rocking the baby asleep, Nanette left the child at home and joined her husband in the fields.

His basket full, he returned to the house to empty it.

Soon realizing that her husband had been gone a long time and thinking that something might have happened to the baby, Nanette raced home where she discovered that both daughter and husband were missing.

A search party was hastily arranged, and those men entered the woods where they came upon a "gurgling brook, [and] Hans Gerhardt crouching low over the water.

"At their approach, he sprang up with a snarling cry and turned upon them with animal fury," Mr. Hennigar wrote. "The strong men soon subdued him, however, and tied him up. There were blood stains on his arms, and a wet spot on his blue linen blouse.

"'Mon Dieu! He has killed her,' shrieked Nanette, and Hans tried to spring at her, but the men had done a good job of tying him and his struggle was in vain."

Hans was taken to Lunenburg, jailed, and sentenced to die for his alleged crime, but that eventuality never took place.

When his cell was opened the next morning, he lay dead on the floor, the veins of his arms ripped open by his own teeth which caused him to bleed to death.

He was buried in a nameless grave on Gallows Hill.

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