Season 1, Episode 5: “The Beast Within”
Directed by Darnell Martin
Written by David Coggeshall
5th century. A man, Patricius, walked by himself on a lonesome road spreading the gospel. Pagans weren’t particularly “receptive to the teachings of Christ.” They had their god: the wolf. So nobody in Ossory cared. They even attacked Patricius. But suddenly one of the pagans changed from a man to a beast. The “unnatural metamorphosis” spread around the village. However, when all the men became beasts they didn’t kill Patricius, they killed their leader. The Irishman ran off, spreading word of what he saw. This is the man we now know as Saint Patrick.
During the 15th and 16th centuries, Europe thought itself plagued by the werewolf in certain places. Late 1500s in Bedburg, Germany, townsfolk were vanishing, never seen again. Everyone feared the worst, going on about their days however they could so as not to think about the threat always lurking. Jens Hetfelderz (Clark Moore) and his daughter Greta (Callie Brook McClincy) lived in fear awaiting the day they might encounter the mythological creature. Soon enough, the daughter was attacked, though escaped and lived.
“Clinical lycanthropy” is a rare psychiatric disorder. It makes sufferers believe they’ve turned into an animal: howling, clawing, et cetera. There’s also the folklore of men who turn into wolves, attacking the unsuspecting. Werewolves, in many tales, didn’t have tails, identifying them as such a beast.
And of course, Red Riding Hood herself, the story everyone knows. Certainly as we go back further and further, the story gets more gruesome than the sanitised version we’ve all heard or told to children.
When Greta (Cassady McClincy) grew a little older, the town was still feeling the wrath of the fabled werewolves. One town leader Peter Stubbe (Adam Goldberg), tried to keep people vigilant, as he worried for the safety of everyone around him. Believing the werewolf a “creation and servant of the Devil.”
That night, Greta’s friend Celeste (Chloé Aktas) comes upon an injured man calling from the woods, her lover Nils (Colton Medlin) running to check on him. But she finds only terror after he doesn’t come back: Nils is impaled, and she’s slashed across the chest by a hairy claw. The girl’s screams alert the villagers.
In Gévaudan, a French province, during 1764 and 1767 killings occurred that were inexplicable. Women and children had their heads crushed, they were decapitated. Descriptions said it was a large wolf, a “dog–dragon hybrid,” and other things. Naturally the Church said it was God’s punishment, just like the Republicans tell you today when a hurricane hits. You can read more about the hunt for the beast here.
Bedburg all came together, trying to keep their strength as a community in the face of grim deaths, especially of people so young. Jens was intent on killing the beast, and Stubbe only wants the families to take care of one another, to survive. The father worries deeply about his daughter, so Stubbe extends an invitation to let the girl stay with him while the beast is hunted.
Only problem was that Stubbe was the beast himself. Now with the girl all alone. He brought her to the cellar, where he kept the skulls of victims, where he cooked and ate a bit of human meat, boiled heads. All that stuff, and pre-Dahmer by a long shot. Lucky for Greta, her father showed up in time to fend off the wolfman. The village figured out his awful secret.
New York. Summer of ’77. The .44 Caliber Killer was out gunning people down in the streets. Killing relentlessly, mainly women in parked cars with brown hair. Yes, the “Son of Sam.” The one we know now as David Berkowitz. He wrote to police, taunting, threatening, crazy as hell. People were terrified of the monster stalking them. Great inclusion of a clip involving a night of a full moon, when people saw the killer, and were able to identify him. A demon living in his neighbour Sam’s dog commanded him to kill, he said.
In late October, 1589, the townsfolk watched the torture of Stubbe in the town square. They ask for his confession. He tells of a deal with the Devil as a boy. He was given the power of the wolf. He fed on animals, then later men, even his own son. Operating much as a modern day serial killer, approaching as a “kind man” and luring people in, many of them women. Like a werewolf Ted Bundy. Stubbe was sentenced to death – tied on a wheel, flayed a little, his arms were broken, his legs, and after all that he was decapitated. His head was fixed on a pike.
Skip to Paris in 1937. Eugen Weidmann, a German in France, was arrested for murder. He was accused of killing six people. He was plastered across the newspaper, his trial known around the world. They sentenced him to be killed via guillotine, out in public. This was a way to supposedly deter criminals (see: Michel Foucault’s “Discipline and Punish” for an amazing historical look at public execution, et cetera). So, people turned out in front of the prison to watch, everyone eager to watch a man get his head lopped off. It’s said women dipped handkerchiefs in the blood as “mementos.” Guillotine executions happened in France until 1977, but inside the prison instead of outside. People have viewed the execution over 1,000,000 times in the last decade online; yes, there’s an old recording.
Still, no matter how many they kill, people still kill, people are continually sentenced to death. Because the beast is within man himself (and I say man because women rarely do horrible shit like men).
Another of my favourite episodes in this series. A great Season 1, with a bunch of amazing stories. Truly a special series.
“Unboxed” is the finale, coming next.