Myths and legends are a dime a dozen in this wild land of ours. Everything from onion witches to a monkey man have struck fear in our hearts, or at least an amount of intrigue. Passed down in words, older generations tales of horror are usually convoluted, and with little to no evidence. But one particular horror story from the ’80s in Karnataka still remains unsolved.
Beginning in 1983, a small town in Karnataka called Pavagada witnessed a series of gruesome deaths.
Over 11 people lost their lives in a span of two years; most of them children. While, Pavagada might have seen the beginning of the massacre, similar instances were reported in Pavagada, Raichur, Vijayapura and Yadgir. Sometimes, just hours apart from each other.
Snatching children right beside their families in the dead of night, the killer(s) had dealt grotesque damage to the victims.
Only days apart, the killings began on April 29, 1983, when a five-year-old girl in the Pavagada taluk was taken away from her house sometime past midnight. A few days later, a three-year-old girl from the town went missing. Both scenes of the crime showed paw prints, but no drag marks. Within a few weeks 5 other girls had lost their lives and in some cases with only a limb, or a skull, or bits of clothing to be identified by.
The murders were immediately attributed to man-eating wolves, and a mass hunt began.
In Raichur, 6 wolves were reported to have been hunted in a few days, after 7 people were murdered. Simultaneous hunts – including those for hyenas – caused a dip in the population of the canines and the attacks seemed to subside. Only till another attack happened 2 months later. This time officials were left puzzled.
With skulls being left behind, forest officials were speculative of whether these were really hyenas or wolves.
Certain locals even blamed black magic and tantrik activities as the reason, considering the fact that sacrifices were a common fear. And among the children who were murdered most of them seemed to be only girls.
Dog trackers who traced scents from the bodies in a bid to find the killer were led to a cave.
With the July 26 attack on three-year-old Venkatsubbamma in Pavagada, locals managed to find only a skull a few hundred feet outside of town, and paw prints around. A dog squad was called in to trace a scent, which led up to a nearby cave but nothing was found.
While the government blames the wolves for the killings – leading to mass independent poaching – locals have created an urban legend around the killings. Some claim it’s a werewolf, some blame tantriks and others believe in man-eaters.