After being charged with the murder of a constable, Romasanta fled to live in a small village and soon, before long, his number of victims rose.
Serial Killer with Lycanthropy?
The first ‘documented’ serial killer in Spain was a lovely gentleman named Manuel Blanco Romasanta. A great name that rolls off the tongue – unfortunately for his victims, Manuel had some nicknames - the Werewolf of Allariz was one, or less commonly as the Tallow Man because he liked to fatten up his victims as they then made the best kind of soap.
He was born on 18 November, 1809 in Regueiro, Spain. It is believed he had a relatively privileged upbringing, due to his ability to read and write, which was something only the wealthy could do back then. He stopped growing as an early teen, and was quite short, being somewhere between 4 foot 6 and 4 foot 11. He became a tailor and married, settling into a normal life… but then his wife died, and for reasons unknown, he decided to take on the life as a travelling salesman. He travelled all over Spain and Portugal, selling his wares.
He hid in plain sight in the small village of Rebordechao, under his assumed name, and became quite friendly with the women of the village. A little too friendly. Over the years, several women and children who had hired him disappeared. These disappearances took a while to be noticed, because Manuel would make up correspondence between the missing people and their families, advising that they had moved and were settling in to their destination, etc.
Eventually rumours around the village spread that Manuel was, in fact, killing the missing people, and making soap with the human fat. A rumour which was quite accurate. A charge was laid against him in the city of Escalona. He was arrested and brought to trial, for the murder of the following people:
• Manuela Garcia, age 47, and her daughter Petra, 15
• Benita Garcia Blanco, aged 34, and her son Francisco, 10
• Antonia land, 37 years old, and her daughter Peregrina
• Josefa Garcia and her son Jose Pazos, 21 years old.
• María Dolores, 12 years old.
In his words, he stated:
"The first time I transformed, was in the mountains of Couso. I came across two ferocious-looking wolves. I suddenly fell to the floor, and began to feel convulsions, I rolled over three times, and a few seconds later I myself was a wolf. I was out marauding with the other two for five days, until I returned to my own body, the one you see before you today, Your Honour. The other two wolves came with me, who I thought were also wolves, changed into human form. They were from Valencia. One was called Antonio and the other Don Genaro. They too were cursed... we attacked and ate a number of people because we were hungry." — Manuel Blanco Romasanta
The prosecution asked Manuel to prove his Lycanthropy by turning into a wolf during the trial. He replied saying that the curse was for 13 years, and as luck would have it, the 13 years was up the previous week.
He was acquitted of four of the murders of which he was accused, and to which he confessed. Forensic evidence found that these victims DID die in real wolf attacks – something rare in itself, but there had been a bad famine at the time. He was found guilty of the other nine charges, and was sentenced to death by garrotte. Manuel appeared to have a long-distance fan though. A French hypnotist known as Mr Phillips wrote to the Minister of Justice, telling him that Manuel was suffering from a ‘monomania’ known as ‘lycanthropy’, and that he was not responsible for his actions. He claimed to have successfully treated this condition in the past, and asked that the execution be delayed so he could study Manuel.
This led the Minister for Justice to write to Queen Isabella II, asking that the execution be delayed, and the Queen commuting the death sentence to Life Imprisonment instead. By royal order, dated 13 May 1854, Manuel was transferred to a prison in Celanova, where he died only a few months later – possibly from illness, or from being shot by a guard who wanted him to transform, or the latest possibility being a newspaper article that was found, which stated he died of stomach cancer.