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The Town That Barked

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I came across this story and thought I'd share it:

Pierre De Roustguy, Sire de Lancre, was one of France's most ruthless witch hunters, boasting that he was responsible for burning 600 witches. Of all his cases, none was more bizarre than the outbreak of human barking or howling at Amou, a town in South West France, in 1613. 'It is a monstrous thing', he said, 'to be in church where more than 40 persons are simultaneously barking like dogs, making such a concert in the house of God, that others can't even prey.'

The fact that the local people had a name for the affliction, shows that it was not the first time it had happened. But never before had it afflicted the whole community - no less than 120 women were afflicted at the same time. It never occured to de Lancre that there might be a natural explanation, such as hysteria. For him this could only be the work of the Devil, and he went about comabting it with ferocity.

One of those afflicted was a well-to-do lady married to a captain, who said she had suffered the mal de layra - the name for the affliction - for two years, ever since two witches had bewitched her womb.

Brought before de Lancre, she was admiring the pictures hanging in his room, when his officers brought the witches into the building, and even before she had seen them, she started barking and howling.

de lancre realised that the barking was most vigorous when the victim was near the witches, he set men outside in the streets and listened for the barking, when ever anyone walked passed at the same time as the sounds, he had them arrested

Did the women believe they had been turned into dogs?

half a centry earier in 1551 at the convent of St. Brigitte, the nuns began to bleat like sheep, and this lasted for 10 years, the next at the convent of kintorp near Strasbourg the nuns began mewing like kittens, in these cases it was believed that the women also had been bewitched, and at least one of those they accused was burnt at the stake.

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