What's for dinner? Or, should I ask, who's for dinner?
Cannibalism. The act of eating one of your own species. Humans aren't the only ones who do it. Many members of the animal kingdom do it as well. Some do it because they're hungry, some because their just dicks. (the male will often eat the offspring if the female doesn't run the male off, or hide the young.)
Humans, like it or not, have practiced, and sometimes still do, cannibalism. It used to be fairly common actually. In prehistoric society, eating your defeated opponent granted you his spiritual powers. (I touched on this subject in an earlier Oddities post).
Ad civilizations progressed, it was seen as a less acceptable practice. It was shunned by society, and those who practiced it were routinely executed, or jailed. But, the social stigma and the punishments haven't completely wiped out the practice.
Look at people like Jeffrey Dahmer. He ate a lot of people. But he was crazy, so there is that. And, what about the guy who ate the face off a homeless man? But he was on 'Bath Salts', so there was that. How about the Donner Party? But, they were stranded in the mountains, starving, and reports are conflicting about the cannibalism. (Some say they only ate people who died naturally, and some experts now think there was no cannibalism.) Then we have the South American Soccer team who crashed in the Andes. But, they were starving as well, and only ate already dead people.
But, cannibalism still takes place. You hear stories about it happening in tribes in the remote jungles of Africa or the Amazon, mostly. Sometimes with South Pacific islanders, but less frequently.
No, these days, cannibalism is mostly the act of a deranged mind. Mental illness, or drugs.
It makes for a very popular subject in books and movies, though. There's something about eating another human that creeps us out. Hollywood has done many movies about it. Movies like 'Hannibal', or 'Cannibal Ferox', or 'Slave of the Cannibal God', or 'Cannibal Holocaust I & II', and 'Wrong Turn'.
But did you know that one movie about cannibals that Hollywood made was based on actual events? No, not "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre' or even 'Hannibal'. They were both based on Ed Gein. And he wore his victims skin, but didn't eat them.
I'm referring to the movie, 'The Hills Have Eyes'.
I'm sure most of you have seen it, so I won't go into the details of the movie. But, it's based on the story of Alexander Bean.
Alexander, known as Sawney, was born in the 15th century in Scotland. As a youth, he tried to follow his fathers trade of hedge trimming, but found honest labor to be against his nature. This caused problems, as lazy people in the 15th century were considered a burdon and were 'disposed' of. (generally they were thrown in Debtors Prison for not paying their debts.)
Sawney decided to leave. He had hooked up with a woman who shared his attitude towards work, and off they went.
They settled in a cave on the coast near the town of Girvan. They had to live in a cave to remain hidden. Lazy people were shunned, so a cave was perfect. Besides, building a house required work, and Sawney and his wife weren't having any of that. The cave had the added security feature of, the entrance was covered by the full tide.
The happy couple had eight sons and six daughters who all stayed in the cave with them. Then came the grand children. Eighteen grandsons and fourteen granddaughters. As can be expected, there was a lot of incest involved.
For twenty five years, the family was un noticed.
But, that many people need to be fed. When it was a small group, they could gather food without creating too much of a stir. As the group grew, more food was needed. And people started to notice.
You see, regular hunting was too difficult. You had to track the animals and then kill them. That was hard. It was much easier to lie in wait by a road and kill a traveller as they passed. So, that's what Sawney did.
they would butcher the victim for fresh meat, and they would pickle parts of them for later consumption. The waste they threw out the mouth of the cave, into the ocean. These remains would sometimes wash up on shore.
The disappearances were noticed in the beginning, but this being the Dark Ages, people disappeared all the time. When more and more people started disappearing, people took note. Searches were made, but nothing was found. Since the only traces ever found were a few bones washed up on the beaches, speculation about the culprit was wild.
After twenty five years, though, something went wrong.
Sawney and a small group were out 'hunting' when they saw a couple returning from a local fair. A man and woman were riding double on horseback, and it looked like an easy target. Unbeknownst to the ambushers, the man was very skilled at close combat. And, he was heavily armed with a sword and pistols.
The ambushers attacked, but the man was able to hold them off for a time. Eventually though, one of the attackers pulled the woman off the horse and she was mauled to death, and the man was gravely wounded.
Before the group could cart off the womans body, a second, larger, group of people returning from the fair came by. Sawney and his group had to flee.
Upon hearing the mans story, the local sheriff was summoned. He listened to the story, and being a clever man, put two and two together. He had found the cause of all the mysterious disappearances.
He sent word to the king, (King James II of Scotland), and the king sent out soldiers equiped with blood hounds.
Sawney and his group were tracked to their cave, and they were all captured. Taken to Glasgow, the men were executed by having their genitals, hands and feet cut off, and then allowed to bleed to death. The women and children were made to watch, and then were all burned. (hey, it was how things were done.)
Six hundred years later, some screenplay writer remembered the story and wrote 'The Hills Have Eyes'.
I should note that the story of Sawney Bean has as much evidence to support it as Robin Hood does. That is, none.
But, like Robin Hood, it's believed that the story is based on actual events, and over time it has been exaggerated.
While Sawney and his family are said to have killed and eaten over one thousand people, the actual fact may be that it was only one person eating one or two people.
The story of Sawney Bean may have it's origins with Christie Cleek.
Cleek was actually Andrew Christie, a butcher from Perth in the mid fourteenth century. During a time of famine, (a historian of the time, Hector Boece, noted there were "floods, morrain and plagues of myce and ratonis" in Scotland in 1340.)
Christie set out with a small group of townsfolk to scavenge for food. One of their companions finally succumbed to starvation, so Christie put his professional skills to use and butchered up a hearty meal.
The group found the taste appealing enough to start waylaying riders along the road. The men would stop the riders, and Christie would pull the rider off the horse with a hook on a long pole, or a cleke, as it was known. (it's from cleke that he got the name Cleek.)
After killing and eating 30 riders and their horses, the group was set upon by a heavily armed group led by the local sheriff. Only Cleek got away. It was said he reentered society with an assumed name and lived a happy life as a married man and wealthy merchant in the city of Dumfries. For centuries the name Christiecleek was used to silence misbehaving children. What the mid evil Scots called Christiecleek, today parents call the 'Bugbear', or 'Boogy Man'.
Stay tuned kiddies, for tomorrow, I have another frightening Oddities post for you. And by frightening, I mean, what ever I decide will be my subject. It may be scary, it may be silly. It may be inappropriate, it may be troll bait.
But the one thing you know for sure that it will be is:
Published at 9:00 am EST.