Southern France, 1978. It was late in February when a young woman named Claudette Souchon left home riding her favorite horse. She was leading a second, spare horse and her faithful dog was along for the journey. Her intent was to spend two days touring her family’s farmlands in Camargue.
Three days later, Claudette had not returned so her concerned mother called on neighbors, who immediately formed a search party. The group, some thirty members strong, located Claudette’s horse the next day. According to reports, the animal had been “savagely ripped open.” There was no sign of the young woman.
While continuing their search the following day, the search team discovered Claudette’s spare horse. It was alive, but clearly traumatized, and barely able to walk.
Camargue is a marshy region between the Mediterranean Sea and the two arms of the Rhone River Delta. It’s western Europe’s largest river delta and a third of it is composed of lakes and marshlands. Over the years, portions of it have been drained by the region’s farmers to create rice paddies and salt pans.
After finding the second horse in its frightened state, the team contact the authorities who took over the search.
A week after she had left her home, police found some of Claudette’s clothing, scattered on the ground, in a burned out glade. The location of the glade was a hundred miles from the woman’s departure point. The mystery had deepened.
Two days later, a woman phoned the police station to report that she had seen a “strange girl” outside near the town of Rodez. Upon investigation, authorities discovered that it was the missing Claudette Souchon. She was sitting on the ground, covered in mud. Her dog was by her side, but the animal was so exhausted that it could barely move. Claudette herself was unable to utter a word and appeared “numb with shock.” Although there were no signs of assault, police stated that the woman was immobile and that she “…had been turned into something approaching a zombie.”
The police believed that Claudette had been abducted. However, after a thorough examination, Doctors could find no signs of attack. They were in fact unable to explain Claudette’s condition and she was placed in a private ward. Since she remained mute, authorities could glean no further information from her.
Rodez, the town where Claudette was found, is in the south of France northeast of Toulouse. Of note is that Rodez is 438 km (about 272 miles) from Claudette’s departure point in Camargue.
London’s Sunday Express reported on the case in March of 1978 and included a statement from Commissioner Jean Dinard, police chief for the region. His remarks clearly show how baffled authorities were by the incident:
“We have no idea what happened to her or her horse…but something mysterious went on out there. The wounds on the dead horse were horrific. But it was not attacked by an animal…there are no claw or bite marks. And we do not have an explanation for the burned-out glade where we found some of her clothing.”
What exactly happened to Claudette Souchon in the desolate region of Camargue and how did she travel 272 miles in the condition she was in? What attacked the horse, and terrified the dog and second horse? And what is the mystery of the burned-out glade?
There’s no record of Claudette Souchon ever speaking out about the bizarre incident. In fact, she seems to have simply slipped away from any media attention, perhaps because of whatever trauma she experienced.
To this day, the mystery remains unsolved.