The legend of the werewolf has evolved over centuries, but its genesis is the wolf. Only a couple of hundred years ago, wolves were plentiful in Europe and posed a real danger to the people who lived there. In the rural area of Gévaudan, France, wolves attacked and killed people sporadically for almost 100 years (1674 to 1767), causing the citizenry to live in terror lest they, too, be eaten by a wolf. Over a hundred people were killed and eaten before the horror finally ended (however, many more wolves were killed).
In some places, the terrifying and uncontrollable attacks were explained by accusing people of making deals with the devil in return for being turned into an animal themselves -although why anyone would want to do that is never fully explored. Atlas Obscura has a rundown of the history of wolf attacks and werewolves. Curiously, the same area of France where the Beast of Gévaudan once killed citizens left and right now has a wolf sanctuary where wolves can roam free and protected.
The post is part of their 31 Days of Halloween series, which wraps up today with a post recapping each story. You can also browses articles from previous Halloweens at Atlas Obscura.