Back to death… If you grew up in the US, you had to learn about the Donner party; a group of settlers that got stuck in the Rockies during the winter and ending up eating each other to survive. To be fair, they started with the livestock (mostly horses), then moved onto the already deceased, we’re not sure if they actually had to kill each other to survive, but does it matter? Cannibalism is taboo, except in extreme situations, and this was one of them. Now, if they killed each other for food, that makes it worse, but if they just ate the dead, it was forgivable. (I don’t make these rules)
Here’s some less famous cases of cannibalism (and how they relate to my books):
- Germany 1920s – Now, remember, Germany in the 1920s was pretty much awful, it was cheaper to burn Deutschmarks than use them to buy firewood. Unfortunately, Deutschmarks might heat your home, but they don’t fill your belly. Or your neighbors belly. An enterprising butcher found a solution; he began killing transients (there were a lot of them) and grinding them into sausage to sell to the people in his hometown. In some ways, he did his clients a favor, by providing cheap meat and his clients were pretty sure the sausage was made out of rats, horses, dogs, and cats, so they didn’t ask any questions. Only after one of the intended victims got away did the truth come out. There isn’t much record of how the townspeople who had been buying the sausages felt about this. The butcher was tried for multiple murder and violating Germany food purity laws. This case has long been one of interest to me; a serial killer in theory doing it for the greater good. It inspired the story about the neighborhood “hog roast” that turned out to be a “human roast” on the spit.
- Vincent Li – Tim McLean got on the wrong bus. The young man was traveling across Canada when another passenger got up, walked over to him, and began stabbing him. Vincent Li didn’t know Tim McLean, but that didn’t stop him from killing him, beheading him, and then chewing on his head while disgusted and terrified Greyhound passengers fled the bus. He also cut off chunks of the victim’s body and ate them while he paced the bus. Li was found not competent to stand trial. However, it is his story that first introduced me to the concept of the Wendigo and this incident inspired Gabriel’s experience in Canada while visiting his grandparents.
- Armin Meiwes – Meiwes placed an internet ad searching for a volunteer to be murdered and eaten. Bernd Brandes answered the ad. Meiwes stabbed him in the throat and then began consuming pieces of him for several weeks before found out by German authorities. Originally, Meiwes was convicted only of manslaughter, since Brandes had volunteered. A retrial a few years later found him guilt of first degree murder. This act inspired Cannibal Dreams, but I’m not the only artist to be inspired by it; Rammstein’s song Mein Teil was allegedly inspired by the case as well.
- Tanzanian Albinos – Being an albino in Tanzania is dangerous. Eating the flesh of an albino is thought to bring good luck and more than 20 have been killed since 2007 by witch doctors for their flesh. The problem is prevalent enough that the Tanzanian president issued a statement condemning the practice. I have known about this for a while and it has not directly inspired anything in a book yet, but I’m sure it will in the future.
- Katherine Price – In 2000, Katherine Price killed and cooked her boyfriend, John. She was caught as she was preparing his body as a meal for his children. It was this incident that inspired the killer in Summoned Dreams with the crockpot of human rump roast.
- USSR – However, cannibalism reached an all time high in the Soviet Union, particularly during the 1930s and 1940s. The Soviet Union was a nation in poverty and despair. And it wasn’t just the Russians eating other Russians. Their POW camps were overflowing after the Battle of Stalingrad because the Germans surrendered, but there wasn’t enough food to feed the Soviet citizens let alone a bunch of German POWs. They were rationed heavily and most of the survivors had to turn to cannibalism to survive. Just a decade before, famine hit Ukraine with such force that many of its citizens (then Soviets) also had to resort to cannibalism to survive. There are actually propaganda posters leftover from the Ukraine famine warning Soviet citizens not to eat their own children. It hasn’t happened yet, but I will find a way to put this in a book…
- Papua New Guinea – At least one tribe is still practicing cannibalism. Human flesh is referred to as long pig. They even had a market for it at one time. However, since the practice is now condemned and criminal, it is done in secret.
Cannibalism is alive and well. Most people describe it as pork, however, a few eaters have said it tastes like veal. I have no desire to find out.