When he presided at witchcraft trials, Henri Boguet, an eminent judge of Saint-Claude in the Jura Mountains, was known for his cruelty, especially toward children. He had no doubt that Satan gifted witches with the ability to change shape into a variety of animal forms, especially the wolf, so that they might devour humans, and the cat, so they might better prowl by night. The craze of witch-hunting may have been first formulated by the clergy, but by 1600 such jurists as Boguet, Jean Bodin, and Pierre de Lancre had eagerly assumed the mantles of determined inquisitors.
In his book Discours des Sorciers (1610), Boguet recounted his official investigation of a family of werewolves and his observation of them while they were in prison in 1584. According to his testimony, the members of the Gandillon family walked on all fours and howled like wolves. Their eyes turned red and gleaming; their hair sprouted; their teeth became long and sharp; their fingernails turned horny and clawlike. In another case recounted in his book, Boguet told of eight-year-old Louise Maillat, who in the summer of 1598 was possessed by five demons, who identified themselves as Wolf, Cat, Dog, Jolly, and Griffon. In addition, the little girl was accused of shapeshifting into the form of a wolf.
Boguet devoted a chapter in his Discours des Sorciers to the carnal connection of demons with witches and sorcerers and expressed his conviction that the devil could become either a man or a woman to deceive people into his fold. Under his interrogations, Pierre and his son George, of the Gandillon family of werewolves, also confessed to having sexual liaisons with the devil. Boguet was also fascinated by the accounts that witches gave under torture concerning the festivals of the Black Sabbats and condemned them as mocking the high Christian festivals. In his records, Boguet noted that such Sabbats most often occurred on Thursday nights at the stroke of midnight and lasted until cock-crow. He also managed to wring confessions out of witches that they did, indeed, fly to such Sabbats astride sticks and brooms. He also got witches to confess that the Sabbats began always with the adoration of Satan, who appeared sometimes in the shape of a tall, dark man and at other times in the form of a goat.
The eminent jurisconsult, judge of the province of Burgundy and president of the Tribunal of St. Claude, was dreaded by all those who might one day find themselves standing before his judgment. He was fanatical, cruel, and implacable in his sessions of interrogation, and his Discours des Sorciers ran into 11 editions and became for a time the authoritative text for French bailiwicks. Boguet pronounced or ratified about 600 death sentences against witches. And while this learned man's wisdom was relied upon to determine the remarkable powers of witches and sorcerers, the level of his scientific acumen in other matters might be evaluated by his understanding that rotten sticks eventually turned into snakes.