Cannibalism is a taboo line that many dare not to even think of crossing, even in hypothetical situations of extreme desperation or survival. Within it are plenty of moral, ethical, and downright sanitary dilemmas. Of course, that isn’t to say that it hasn’t happened, and even happened in ways that exceed our collective wildest imaginations. Below are 10 examples of cannibalism that would be beyond belief if they hadn’t been so well documented.
10 Rudy Eugene
We’ve all heard of stories of “Florida Man,” but Rudy Eugene is proof that you cannot fathom the depths of depravity capable in a drug-fueled rage. On a beautiful sunny afternoon on May 26, 2012, in Miami, Florida, Rudy Eugene, 31 years old, crossed paths with homeless Ronald Poppo on the MacArthur Freeway. Eugene’s car had broken down on his way to a beach party, but he continued on foot, shedding all of his clothes along the way. First red flag.
After a short, apparently polite, greeting, Eugene lunged at Poppo, beating him into unconsciousness and removing his pants. He then proceeded to bite viciously at Poppo’s face, chewing off parts in the process. One of those parts was his left eye. Eugene was unresponsive to officers when they arrived on the scene, save an animalistic growl. He was then shot and killed. While postmortem toxicology reports were expected to turn up bath salts in his system, nothing definitive was found, save marijuana.
9 Fore People, Papua New Guinea
It’s easy (and common) to foist the idea of cannibalism on the “less civilized” peoples isolated from modern civilization and balk at their customs, but that’s not what we’re here for. Ick factor aside, did you know the possible danger of consuming human flesh? The Fore people of Papua New Guinea didn’t. In the late 1950s, members of the Fore society were stricken with Kuru, a terminal wasting disease, at an alarming rate. Researchers discovered that a transmissible spongiform encephalopathy was to blame, akin to Mad Cow Disease. Prions (misfolded proteins) cause neighboring proteins to misfold (in a way currently not understood by scientists), creating plaques that turn your brain into Swiss cheese. This happens when an infected cow’s meat is ground up and served to unsuspecting burger lovers.
But the Fore People? It turned out they practice funerary cannibalism, where eating your loved one is a sign of mourning and respect; women and the young were most likely to consume the brains of the deceased.
8 The Milwaukee Monster
Jeffrey Dahmer, aka The Milwaukee Monster, is a well-known serial killer active in the late ’80s and early ’90s who preyed on some of society’s most vulnerable: gay sex workers. He would often lure these men (ranging from ages 14-31) to his home on promises of payment for nude photos. Then he would spike their drink, strangle them, engage in acts of necrophilia, and then mutilate their bodies. He would “savor” those he was most attracted to by cooking up their flesh (Dahmer once mused that human tastes like filet minion). He then used their bleached bones as decoration in his apartment.
But did you know that the brevity with which he approached his crimes is what eventually would get him killed? In prison, Dahmer would often arrange his food into the shape of severed limbs with the final touch of a squirt of ketchup “blood” in order to antagonize his fellow inmates. This is what pushed inmate Christopher Scarver to bludgeon Dahmer to death in 1994, only a few years after his 16 consecutive life terms sentence.
7 Jamestown Starving Time
In history class as kids, we are often taught about the glorious coming-together of the pilgrims and the Indigenous people of America in what we now celebrate as Thanksgiving. Skimming over the actual genocide of their neighbors, everything wasn’t always hunky-dory for America’s first European settlers. In the winter of 1609-1610, due to a dry rainy season stunting crop growth, restricted access to clean water, delay in supplies delivery, and just too many mouths to feed, the people began to starve.
When horse, dog, cat, rat, or even shoe leather wasn’t available for meat, the few remaining settlers settled for humans. Scientific analysis of unearthed remains revealed that one 14-year-old girl was murdered and sectioned apart to be eaten, deduced from four shallow chop marks to her skull. All in all, the population of Jamestown went from roughly 500 to 61 over the course of this infamous winter.
6 Leonarda Cianciulli
If you’re any bit of a supplicant to the increasingly trendy mass fascination of “True Crime” (which, judging by your interest in this article, that’s quite likely), then you know that historically, female serial killers are rare. So here’s one for you: Leonarda Cianciulli. Leonarda was born in idyllic Southern Italy and was plagued with the fears that none of her children would survive into adulthood. This was due in part to fortune tellers, paranoia, and most reasonably, the available healthcare at the time. By 1938 some of her dread was warranted as only four children out of a total of 17 pregnancies had survived. When her eldest child wanted to join the army in preparation for WWII, well, that just wouldn’t do. Leonarda’s most logical solution to ensure his safety was with not one, not two, but three total human sacrifices.
The victims were three women from her community who trusted Leonarda, and we’ll let Leonarda reflect on how she mishandled that trust: “She ended up in the pot, like the other two…her flesh was fat and white, when it had melted I added a bottle of cologne, and after a long time on the boil, I was able to make some most acceptable creamy soap. I gave bars to neighbors and acquaintances.” As for the leftover blood: “I waited until it had coagulated, dried it in the oven, ground it and mixed it with flour, sugar, chocolate, milk, and eggs, as well as a bit of margarine, kneading all the ingredients together. I made lots of crunchy tea cakes and served them to the ladies who came to visit, though Giuseppe and I also ate them.”
5 North Korean Black Market
Even in 2021, North Korea remains an insular totalitarian state under the rule of their Glorious (late) Leader Kim Il-Song, stewarded by his progeny and their progeny, dedicated to complete rejection of any outside influence. While we may find their attempts to appear up-to-date, such as Kim Jong-Un’s love of Dennis Rodman and the fake props of actually-uninhabited buildings in capital Pyongyang, funny, what isn’t is the condition a majority of the North Korean people live in. What little we know is thanks to testimony by defectors who survived their escape into China and South Korea: the majority of people, excluding the elite and government officials, subsist off of very little to eat, now known as the “Hidden Famine.”
Enter the Black Market. In its darkest corners, you can find some conventional and other strange-looking meats. It’s also in these areas that children disappear. A specific account details the disappearance of two siblings last seen near a noodle shop… The owner would reveal that she offered the children a place near the fire and a bit of broth to warm themselves up. When they fell asleep, she murdered them, butchered them, then later served them up to eat.
4 The Man Who Ate His Own Foot
This story comes from Reddit user IncrediblyShinyShart and yes, before you ask, there are multiple interviews AND pictures to support its validity. Having suffered a debilitating foot injury in a motorcycle crash, this user agreed with the doctor’s decision to amputate. Now, apparently, a running gag in his friend group was eating human meat, so he thought, “I’ll just ask if I can bring my foot home.” Harmless, right? Now, back at home, foot in hand, after some casual goofing with friends, the group decided to salvage what foot meat they could, marinate it overnight, and pan-fry it up the next day alongside some veggies for tacos. Foot Tacos.
3 Armin Meines
In the last entry, we asked the question: what if you could cannibalize yourself? In the case of Armin Meines, now known as the Rotenburg Cannibal or Der Metzgermeister (The Master Butcher), he wondered, “What if you could cannibalize someone else, but consensually?” You see, Meines fantasized about the truest form of intimacy: eating another person. They would therefore exist inside you, indefinitely. This desire possibly stems from perceived insecurity in familial bonds in his childhood, but to Meines, it became one of his greatest sexual desires. And he found a consensual partner in Bernd Jürgen Armando Brandes on the website The Cannibal Cafe. (Fair warning, this next part is gruesome.)
Together, on March 9, 2001, Brandes downed sleeping pills and cough syrup, and Meines cut off his penis, fried it in a pan with salt, pepper, wine, garlic, and Brandes’s fat, but much to Brandes’s dismay upon trying it, found it was overcooked. Meines was then moved to a tub to bleed out (while Brandes read a Star Trek book), stabbed in the neck, hung on a meat hook, and dismembered. This was all videotaped. Forty-four pounds of Meines was enjoyed by Brandes over the next ten months and was only caught when his search for his next partner online was alerted to authorities.
2 Joel Guy Jr.
This one technically doesn’t involve cannibalism per se, but the gruesome murder scene authorities would walk into on November 26, 2016, is enough to make anyone’s stomach turn. Joel Guy Jr. was unhappy to learn that after 28 years of not having a job, being entirely supported by his parents, that they were planning to retire soon, thus cutting him off. He planned to murder Joel and Lisa guy, burn the house down and somehow pin it all on his father in a tragic murder-suicide and rake in that sweet sweet life insurance money (valued at $500,000).
Instead, authorities were called in to perform a welfare check and discovered the following scene: Joel Sr. had been stabbed over 40 times, dismembered, mostly dissolving in a vat of decomposition stew except for his hands, which were found on the floor. Lisa received over 30 stab wounds and got mostly the same treatment, except her head was found in a pot on the stove, likely simmering for days. Yikes.
1 Issei Sagawa
Issei Sagawa, a Japanese-born student, studying in Paris in 1981, exacted a plan to lure classmate Renée Hartevelt to his apartment under the guise of dinner and poetry translation, killed her via a rifle shot from behind, then proceeded to mutilate, rape, and eat her corpse. He photographed her at each of these stages.
He was caught trying to dump her remains but was found legally insane in France. He was deported, and through legal loopholes, is now a free man. He’s widely known in Japan and has written books testifying to the twisted reasoning behind his crimes. At 4’9″, he felt inferior and weak and wanted to absorb Hartevelt’s beauty and strength. It just freaking sucks, doesn’t it?