It happened today in history; on September 15, 1440, the Baron Gilles de Rais, Marshal of France and a renowned companion-in-arms of Joan of Arc was arrested along with several servants. This case became the first and possibly most notorious serial child murder controversy in history. His arrest led to the discovery of the ritualistic torture, murder, and dismemberment of possibly hundreds of children.
An extravagant aristocratic spendthrift, Gilles was drawn into the occult to try to make gold to pay off his debts. Under the guidance of two fallen priests, Eustache Blanchet and François Prelati, the desperate lord soon resorted to demonic practices. At least 40 children, boys and girls, maybe as many as 600, but more likely somewhere between 80 and 200, were not only kidnapped and sodomized and tortured before or during their ritualistic murders at his parties. Apparently, however, it didn’t work: no demons appeared despite his sacrifices.
If that’s what indeed happened. Many have questioned the accounts of the Inquisition, claiming political motives. Of course, since one of those denying real crimes was Aleister Crowley, one may wonder what the motive of the debunker was. The baron’s story inspired the fairy tale of “Bluebeard”, the serial wife murderer.
In any event, the Inquisition might have gotten it right for once, for Gilles de Rais confessed without torture. He was executed by hanging a few days before Hallowe’en in 1440, but allowed to confess to a priest beforehand. His body was burnt and given to several noblewomen for burial.
Whatever the truth — and apparently a lot of children’s bodies were indeed discovered — this very first case of “satanic panic” has many of the elements found hundreds of years later including:
- the involvement of high government officials
- clerical involvement
- satanism, black magic, child abuse, sodomy and murder
- government cover-up
- continued denial in the face of evidence
So remember Gilles de Rais the next time someone says, “Oh such things could never happen.” History says differently.