ROMASANTA - THE WEREWOLF HUNT (2004)

 Also known as Werewolf Hunter - Legend of Romasanta

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Atmospheric scares based on a true story. Gruesome cadavers are found in a Spanish town and the seductive yet sinister vendor Romasanta is implicated in the killings, but he has his own tale to tell.

An uproar is caused when some mutilated cadavers are discovered giving way to the legend of the "Werewolf of Allariz". A travelling vendor rolls through the forest in his old wagon. A woman from every village on his route faithfully awaits him. He's attractive, intelligent, charming.... But he's also the monster feared by all. His most recent prey, Barbara will soon become the one who hunts him down. The film is based on the true-life story of Manuel Blanco Romasanta the travelling vendor, who confessed to the murders of thirteen people, using their body fat to make soap. Romasanta was tried in Allariz in 1852 and avoided capital punishment by proclaiming he was a werewolf. Barbara was the lone survivor of four sisters.

Manuel Blanco Romasanta, who confessed to thirteen murders in the mid-nineteenth century, is regarded as Spain's first documented criminal psychopath and the first known serial killer. He told the court which tried him that he was afflicted with a terrible curse which turned him into a wolf, and is even referred to as such in the court proceedings which still exsist in the Kingdom of Galicia Historical Archives: Causa 1788, del hombre-loco, Case 1788, of the wolf-man.

His story has been told in two films: El Bosque del Lobo, 1971 and the 2004 film, Romasanta: La Caza de la Bestia (The Werewolf Hunt).

He was born in the small village of Regueiro, Orense province, in Spain's most north-westerly region, Galicia, on 18th November 1809 and was, by all accounts, quite well-to-do for his class. He knew how to read and write, and travelled by mule, both of which were uncommon at the time.

He started off as a tailor, but left his home to become a travelling salesman when he was widowed at the age of 24, and travelled widely through Galicia, Portugal and Castile.

The first case against him came on his travels outside Galicia, for the murder of Vicente Fernandez, the constable of Len, who was charged with recovering a debt of 600 reales Romasanta owed to a Ponferrada suppliers where he bought the merchandise for his mobile shop. Fernandez was found dead and Romasanta was judged by default (for failing to appear). He was sentenced to 10 years in 1844.

He had by now returned to the mountains of Orense and used the village of Rebordechao, in Vilar de Barrio, as his base while he continued his trade as a pedlar. A number of woman connected with Romasanta began to disappear, seven woman, and two children who travelled with their mothers, who had taken up his offer to act as their guide to reach the city in search of work. He even brought back news for their families of their new lives in the city. None were ever seen again. He made the mistake of selling his victims clothes in the area and there were rumours that he sold human fat.

He was finally captured in Nombela, Toledo, and brought to trail in Allariz, Orense, in Sptember 1852, in a court case which lasted seven months and covered more than two thousand pages of case summary. He confessed to nine murders, and blamed a curse which turned him into a wolf. The case summary quotes him saying.

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 myse lf 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 in to 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.

The court acquitted Manuel Blanco Romasanta of four of the murders he confessed to, on forensic evidence that the victims died in wolf attacks. He was found guilty of the other nine, and was sentenced to death by garrotte in April 1853. But the tale of the Hombre lobo de Alliriz was to continue for some time to come: his case was passed on to the Territorial Court in Coruna, who reduced the term to life imprisonment in their ruling that November. A prosecution appeal against this second sentence set a new hearing for March 1854, which upheld the original verdict from the court in Allariz: death by garrotte.

But even that was not the end of it. Manuel Blanco Romasanta was saved by an appeal to Queen Isabel II from a French doctor, a hypnologist who is named in the case summary as Mr Philips, who wanted to study the Wolfman of Allariz. The Queen issued a ruling on 13th May 1854, witholding her permission for the death sentence to be carried out on the basis of his appeal, but no investigations ever took place.There is no official record of the last stage in the life of the Wolfman of Alliriz. It is known that the Queen ordered him transferred to the prison in Celanova to serve his sentence. The prison itself no longer exists, and there are no documentary evidence that he was ever in Celanova, or any firm evidence of his death or burial.

There are three versions of the end of this strange story: the locals in Celanova say he died shortly after arriving at the prison from a strange illness; another rumour says he died after being shot by an officer who wanted to see him change into a wolf; and the most unlikely though who knows? That he escaped from the prison and continued to roam the woods as the Hombre Lobo de Allariz.

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