A Brief History
On December 23, 1972, the survivors of an airliner crash in the Andes Mountains were finally rescued after 73 days. Rescuers soon discovered the grisly evidence that the survivors had lived only because they had eaten those who had died.
Throughout history, there have been instances where humans have eaten other humans, sometimes out of sheer desperation to survive, other times just because they wanted to. Here 10 more such incidents are listed. (No, Hannibal Lecter does not count, even if they do call him “Hannibal the Cannibal!”) In case you feel cheated out of a couple famous cannibals, consider the musical groups, Fine Young Cannibals, Cannibal and the Headhunters and Cannibal Corpse.
10. Cro-Magnon Man.
About 60,000 years ago, the early form of modern man migrated from Africa to Europe and Asia where he found more primitive “cave men” already there, the Neanderthals. Although genetic tests have just recently revealed that modern humans did interbreed with Neanderthals, scientists have also found evidence that Cro-Magnons also preyed upon and ate them. It is rumored a Cro-Magnon Man named Zork claimed Neanderthal Man tasted like chicken. (Just seeing if you are paying attention!)
9. Ed Gein.
Ed Gein was the inspiration for several cultural icons of murder and cannibalism, including Norman Bates of Psycho, Buffalo Bob of Silence of the Lambs, Bloodyface of American Horror Story (season 2) and of course the character Eddie Gluskin of the video game Outlast. Born in Wisconsin in 1906, he may have only killed a couple of people, but he was also a grave robber who would dig up corpses and create keepsakes from the skin and bones of the dead. Also known as “The Plainfield Ghoul” and “The Mad Butcher,” Fish served a life sentence in a mental health facility where he died in 1984. It is unknown whether he actually ate any human body parts, but he was fascinated by reading about cannibals and other macabre subjects. An incredible list of household objects Gein made out of body parts can be found in the Wikipedia article on him. Perhaps goofiest of all, Gein made a human body suit out of skin so that he “could become his mother.” He also kept human faces to wear as masks. Trick or treat indeed!
8. Arwin Meiwes, “The Rotenburg Cannibal.”
This German man made international news when word got out that he had killed and eaten a voluntary victim whom he had found online. This truly is a case of two sickos finding each other. First, they severed the victim’s penis and attempted to eat it together, then Meiwes killed the victim in a specially prepared slaughter room, the details of which will be spared in this article as they are too gruesome. He filmed the entire episode and ate from the body for the next 10 months. Fortunately, he was eventually caught after he had placed a new ad on the internet looking for a new victim.
7. Albert Fish.
Also known as “The Brooklyn Vampire,” “The Moon Maniac,” “The Werewolf of Wysteria” and, of course, “The Gray Man,” Albert Fish was a child rapist, serial killer and cannibal. Born in 1870, Fish may have killed as many as 100 people, but only 3 murders committed by him could be proved. He was electrocuted in Sing Sing prison in 1936. The Fish family had a history of mental illness (big surprise), and as a young man, Fish had also engaged in drinking urine and eating feces. But wait, there is more! He was known to beat himself with a nail-studded board. (He deserved it.) When x-rayed by prison medical staff, Fish was found to have 29 needles stuck in his pelvic area.
6. The Raft of the Medusa.
In 1816, when the Medusa, a French frigate, sank off the coast of Africa, many passengers and crew climbed into the ship’s boats, but there was not room for all, so 147 unfortunate survivors were placed on a hurriedly constructed raft that was then towed behind the boats. The raft barely stayed afloat, and since the people aboard it had no water or food, things began to get nasty. In fear of the angry and desperate people on the raft, those on the boats cut the raft loose. Of course, the starving people resorted to cannibalism in order to survive, and only 15 half-mad people survived to be rescued.
5. Alexander Pearce.
Alexander Pearce was an escapee from an Australian prison in the early 19th century. This peach of a guy ate his fellow escapees as they traversed the rough terrain of Tasmania on their trek to (his) freedom. The 8 men on the lam quickly found themselves starving in the wilderness and drew straws to pick one of them to kill and eat. When the party got down to 3, one of them got bitten by a snake, which made it easy to pick him as the next, pre-tenderized meal. When there were only Pearce and one other convict left, things got somewhat uncomfortable until Pearce finally managed to get the better of his buddy and become the sole survivor. Captured a few months later after an encounter with sheep rustlers, authorities did not believe his confession. Pearce went back to jail and again escaped, this time with one other “meal”, ummm fellow convict… Yes, he killed and ate that guy, too, this time being caught with body parts in his pockets. With irrefutable proof of his cannibalism, Pearce was hanged by law authorities.
4. Egyptian Mummies.
From the Middle Ages til about 200 years ago, mummies were believed to have health benefits, so they were ground up into powder which was then sold as medicine. Demand was so high that the market could not provide enough excavated Egyptian mummies, so some crafty businessmen began preserving the bodies of executed prisoners or killed slaves and offered powder made from them instead.
3. Jeffrey Dahmer.
This murderous weirdo first killed while still a boy in Ohio. He then took his gruesome act to Milwaukee where he drugged homosexual boys and young men and murdered them, sometimes eating them and storing body parts in his fridge. Other times he tried to make them sex slave zombies by drilling holes in their heads and pouring in various chemicals! Sentenced to life in prison in 1992, he did not last long as he was murdered by another prisoner in 1994. Even convicts can only stand so much!
2. Alferd Packer.
A prospector who got trapped in the Colorado Rocky Mountains in the winter of 1873-1874 with his 5 “friends,” Alferd Packer survived by eating his companions, leaving only him. Eluding authorities for 9 years after the horrible incident, he was finally tried and convicted of murder but won the chance for a retrial and was convicted of manslaughter instead. He was given a sentence of 40 years, which at the time was the longest jail sentence in American history. He was paroled in 1901 and died of natural causes in 1907, allegedly a vegetarian by that time!
1. The Donner Party.
Eager to get to California to sample the rich life promised there, this party of several families got trapped in the Rocky Mountains by heavy storms during the winter of 1846-1847. With not enough food and no luck hunting game, the starving people first ate leather and then those who had died already. At least they did not kill anyone! Even cannibals can have certain rules of decorum.
Cannibal Kid to Cannibal Mom, “What’s for dinner?” Mom’s reply, “Bein’s.” What kind of Beans?” asked the boy. “Human bein’s,” replied Mom!
Cannibal Kid to Cannibal Mom, “I don’t like Uncle George.” Mom, “Shut up and keep eating!”
Question for students (and subscribers): Is cannibalism acceptable in cases of extreme survival? Please let us know in the comments section below this article.
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For more information, please see…
Constantine, Peter. A History of Cannibalism: From Ancient Cultures to Survival Stories and Modern Psychopaths. Chartwell Books, Inc., 2009.