Cannibalism is an act as old as the human race itself, but it's retained its repulsive status across almost every culture. The thought that our bodies could be viewed as mere food by our fellow man is so incomprehensible, even seeing it reenacted on film is enough to make my skin crawl. Take this NSFW clip from The Green Inferno, Eli Roth's upcoming entry into the anthropophagus genre, which clearly will not shy away from moments of unbridled terror.
Nowadays, it's easy to think that gruesome acts of cannibalism are relegated to the big screen, where they can be safely tucked away in the abject parts of your imagination. But, throughout history and right up to modern day, there have always been individuals who have an unimaginable taste for flesh, and they go to great lengths to feed it.
Warning: this post contains graphic commentary about one of the most inhuman acts known to man. This is not for the faint of heart.
1. Sawney Bean
In a legend that sounds like it's straight out of Game of Thrones, Alexander "Sawney" Bean rejected the laborious work of his blue collar family and moved to a coastal cave in 15th- or 16th-century Scotland. Bringing along a woman who was his vicious equal, the immoral pair would ambush local villagers to rob and murder them. They dragged the bodies back to their lairs where they were dismembered and consumed. The couple even pickled some of the leftovers, but that didn't stop the neglected parts from washing up on nearby shores.
The most distasteful part of this story involves not the taking of lives but the creation of them. Sawney and his wife produced a brood that would live their savage lifestyle: eight sons, six daughters, eighteen grandsons, and fourteen granddaughters. As it was just the family kept to themselves, these were mostly children of incest, and the clan would go out together to ambush unlucky travelers. Eventually, the Beans were discovered and put to death (but not before the men had their genitalia cut off while the women watched).
2. Albert Fish
When his mother placed him in an orphanage in 1875, Albert Fish began receiving sadistic abuse at the hands of his caretakers. He began to find masochistic pleasure in the pain from the beatings, which began a taste for some unconventional habits. When he turned 20, he started raping young boys and became obsessed with sexual mutilation after seeing a bisection of a penis.
After escalating stabbings and torture led him to become increasingly deranged, he captured many children, including a 10-year-old girl named Grace Budd and claimed her murdered and ate her over the course of nine days. Once arrested, he wrote letters to his attorney describing the most barbaric treatment, like this one referring to 12-year-old Billy Gaffney,
I came home with my meat. I had the front of his body I liked best. His monkey and pee wees and a nice little fat behind to roast in the oven and eat. I made a stew out of his ears – nose – pieces of his face and belly. I put onions, carrots, turnips, celery, salt and pepper. It was good.
When it ultimately came to a trial, though the jurors all thought Fish was insane, they found him sane and guilty so that he would be swiftly executed by electric chair.
3. Nikolai Dzhumagaliev
Born in the Soviet Union in 1952, Nikolai Dzhumagaliev became known as "Metal Fang" for his white metal teeth and his tendency to devour his victims. He would painstakingly plan out his murders to allow him enough time to retrieve human meat to consume. Describing his first kill during the investigation, he goes into grisly detail about cooking a young woman he murdered after leaving Church:
I cut the corpse's breast into strips, removed the ovaries, separated the pelvis and hips; I then folded these pieces into a backpack and carried them home. I melted the fat to fry with, and some parts I pickled. Once I put the parts through a meat grinder and made dumplings. I saved the meat for myself; I never served it to anyone else.
Nikolai claimed he was ridding the world of prostitutes and misandry. Somehow, he didn't see any problem with practicing necrophilia on his mutilated corpses, sometimes even penetrating the stab wounds. Eventually, the cannibal was committed to an insane asylum, and, though he was recaptured after escaping in 1989, his current whereabouts remain scarily fuzzy.
4. The Mauerova Family
So far, the murderers on this list have steered clear of killing or devouring their own family members, but that's all about to change with Klara Mauerova. As part of a crazed religious cult, Klara tortured her sons, 8-year-old Ondrej and 10-year-old Jakub, and kept the youngest in cage standing in pools of his own urine. She watched via a baby monitor as relatives would skin him alive and consume the parts they picked off. They even made him eat his own flesh in an act of pure evil cruelty.
The sick treatment was only discovered because a neighbor installed a baby monitor that picked up the signal from the room where the poor boys were being severely abused. The traumatized boys survived, and Klara was convicted to 9 years in prison.
5. Issei Sagawa
While taking classes at the Sorbonne Academy in Paris in 1981, Issei Sagawa planned to kill and eat classmate René Hartevelt, selecting her for the healthy and beauty he felt he lacked. She accepted an invitation to study together and began reading poetry with his back to him. He shot her in the neck with a rifle, raped her corpse, and tried to bite into her raw flesh to absorb her energy.
Unable to make a laceration, he bought a butcher knife to dismember the body. He ate her body for two days, writing in his own accounts titled In the Fog:
It had no smell or taste, and melted in my mouth like raw tuna. Finally I was eating a beautiful white woman, and thought nothing was so delicious!
Though he was immediately arrested by French police and sent to a Paris asylum, family connections got him off and he remains free in Tokyo, Japan to this day.
6. Armin Meiwes
In a terrifying act of deranged confidence, German Armin Meiwes posted an ad on the website The Cannibal Cafe seeking "a well-built 18- to 30-year-old to be slaughtered and then consumed." After Bernd Jürgen Armando Brandes responded, the two made a video on March 9, 2001. In it, Meiwes' amputates Brades's penis at the victim's own request, and they both attempt to eat it raw. When Brades said it was too chewy, his killer fried his dismembered penis with salt, pepper, wine, and garlic.
After plying Brades with alcohol, pain killers, sleeping pills, and a bottle of snappes, Miewes gave him one last kiss and killed him in his Slaughter Room. He hung the lifeless body on a meat hook and ripped chunks from it, all while filming himself in a two-hour tape. For his own sexual enjoyment, he devoured almost 20 kg of flesh over 10 months until he was arrested and ultimately convicted to life imprisonment (after an initial manslaughter conviction was overturned). He claims he is now a vegetarian.
For those who can't get enough cannabalistic cruelty, be sure to check out The Green Inferno which lands in theaters on September 25th!
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