With Thanksgiving upon us, most people are dreaming of big turkey (or tofurkey) feasts. Most people; not all. For even in wealthy countries amidst plenty of safe food options, there are still people who crave human flesh. Cannibalism has existed since the dawn of mankind, usually for survival, religious, or ritualistic purposes. It is generally believed that all but the smallest, most secluded native tribes have long since given up cannibalism. Now those that remain do it out of psychopathy.
As you prepare your turkey and stuffing and cranberry sauce, here is something else for you to chew on: five real-life cannibals who did it purely for enjoyment.
Inarguably the most famous cannibal in modern history, Jeffrey Dahmer, "The Milwaukee Cannibal," admitted to seventeen murders, although prosecutors were only able to link him to fifteen. This was still more than enough to get him fifteen life sentences - the equivalent of 957 years in prison.
Born in 1960, the oldest of two boys, Dahmer is one of those people who was "born bad." He was raised in a loving, middle-class family. It was around age six that Dahmer began to show signs of introversion that only got worse as he grew older, including alcoholism that began in high school. He committed his first murder at age 18, a hitchhiker that he killed while still living with his father. Dahmer failed out of college, was kicked out of the Army, and sent to live with his grandmother before killing again, in 1987. It wasn't until 1990, when he moved into his own apartment, that his murders became frenzied, killing 12 men in 15 months. By the time he was finally arrested, Dahmer was killing at a pace of almost one man a week.
Dahmer encompassed essentially every despicable, heinous psychopathy imaginable: rape, murder, child molestation, necrophilia, Satanism, and cannibalism. When Dahmer was arrested, a severed head was discovered in his fridge, and two more in his freezer. Skulls with the flesh boiled off lined shelves along with genitalia preserved in formaldehyde. Hundreds of photos were scattered around Dahmer's apartment, showing every step of his process of murder, sex, and disembodiment. Dahmer admitted that the victims he liked the best, he ate, believing his victims could live again through him. Investigators eventually determined that he only ate the flesh of three of his victims. He seasoned a bicep with salt, pepper, meat tenderizer, and steak sauce. Though he claimed the bicep tasted like "beef," he frequently experimented with different seasonings and cooking styles to "make the meat taste better." He kept human meat "patties" in his freezer the way most people keep burgers. He tried human blood but didn't like the taste.
Jeffrey Dahmer spent three years in prison before he was beaten to death by a fellow inmate in 1994. Dahmer's brain was preserved for study.
In 2001, a German man named Armin Meiwes posted a personal ad on a cannibalism website, looking for a volunteer to be eaten. He claims to have gotten over 200 responses, but most dropped out when the realized Meiwes was serious. The one who didn't back out was Bernd Jurgen Brandes. They met at Meiwes's house, and Brandes suggested that Meiwes bite his penis off. He was unsuccessful, and Meiwes cut it off with a knife. It was too chewy to eat raw, so Meiwes fried it in a pan with garlic, wine, salt, pepper, and Brandes's own fat. By then it was too burned to eat, and given to the dog. Meiwes fed booze and pills to Brandes until he passed out. He stabbed Brandes to death, bled him dry, then cut him up into steaks for easy storage in the freezer. He even tried to grind up Brandes's bones to use as flour. The entire process was caught on a video set up by both men. It is said that Meiwes ate up for 44lbs of human flesh.
Meiwes was arrested when a student saw him post a new ad, looking for a new meal. Because Brandes was a willing participant, Meiwes was convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to eight years in prison in 2004. A year later, prosecutors were allowed to re-prosecute Meiwes, claiming that between the booze and the pills, Brandes was not in a frame of mind to give informed consent. He was convicted of murder in 2006 and sentenced to life in prison, where he sits today.
Often referred to as "The Gray Man" or "The Boogey Man," Albert Fish was most active as a killer in his late 50s. Slight of frame and with a gentle disposition, no one would ever suspect him of being a child rapist and murderer. Though he claims to have victimized over 100 children, only four murder victims were confirmed, but he was only tried and convicted of one.
Born in 1870, Fish had a long history of mental illness in his family, including his mother, multiple siblings, and uncle. His father died when Fish was five, and his mother sent him to an orphanage until he was 12. While there, he and the other boys were subjected to severe beatings and humiliation, and that is where Fish's sado-masochistic tendencies developed. He was said to have been involved in several homosexual relationships before settling down and marrying a woman. When the youngest of their six children was three, she left the entire family. Though Fish's children claim he never harmed them, they were witness to his bizarre behavior, which included severe self-flagellation and inserting needles into his pelvic region. In addition, he often engaged in coprophagy, religious delusions, burning himself, and sending obscene letters to women who place personal ads. He was incarcerated and hospitalized for a handful of minor offenses over the years.
It was in 1928 that he abducted and killed young Grace Budd, but he wasn't arrested until 1933. It was only after his arrest that the full horror of his crimes came to light. He admitted to eating portions of Grace and another boy, Billy Gaffney, who was abducted at age four. With Grace, he cut up strips of her flesh and cooked it in a stew with potatoes and cabbage. He drank Billy's blood directly from the dead boy's body. He also used Billy's ears, nose, and portions of his face and belly in a stew with onions, carrots, turnips, celery, salt, and pepper. He made a roast out of the boy's buttock - complete with gravy - and Billy's penis. His testicles were too chewy and Fish threw them away.
Despite an insanity defense, it took less than an hour for a jury to find Fish "sane" and guilty of Grace Budd's murder. One juror admitted he "thought Fish was insane, but deserved to die anyway." Fish was sentenced to die by electric chair and he did, in 1936. Witnesses say the masochist smiled as electrodes were attached to his head.
Robert Maudsley may not have been a cannibal, but his case is thought to have inspired (in part) one of celluloid's most famous villains.
One of twelve children living just outside Liverpool, Maudsley lived happily in an orphanage until age eight, when his parents reclaimed him. He was beaten and raped regularly until social services took him away. He was a prostitute and drug addict and made several suicide attempts throughout his teens. In 1974 Maudsley garroted a man who solicited him for sex and showed him pictures of him abusing children. Maudsley was convicted and sent to a hospital for the criminally insane. It was there that things got weird. In 1977, he and another inmate abducted a third inmate (a pedophile) and tortured him in a locked room for nine hours. When security finally got in there, the hostage was dead. Initial reports claimed that the victim's "skull had been cracked open like a boiled egg, with part of the brain missing and a spoon hanging out of the cranium." However, autopsy reports later disproved that the brain was eaten: "the skull is intact and the brain shows no gross evidence of injury."
Either way, Maudsley's reputation was set, and he was dubbed "Hannibal the Cannibal" by the British press. For the inmate's murder he was convicted of manslaughter and sent to a prison. It wasn't long before he killed two other inmates brutally, both of which he freely admitted to. It was decided that he was too dangerous to live in a normal cell, so a special two-cell unit in the basement of the prison was built with acrylic walls. Maudsley's cell is considered to be the model for the cell used to contain Hannibal Lecter in Silence of the Lambs. He has remained in solitary confinement here for 30 years.
Czech mother Klara Mauerova only got nine years in prison for the torture of her two sons in 2008. Mauerova, who belonged to the Grail Movement Cult, kept 8-year-old Ondrej and 10-year-old Jakub captive in cages or handcuffed to tables while the two were routinely beaten, burned, cut, and raped, and were often left in pools of urine for days. Ondrej was partially skinned alive by relatives who ate his meat - then forced the boy to eat his own raw flesh. The boys did not die, and testified against their mother and five other defendants - including Klara's sister Katerina, and a 34-year-old woman who the courts initially believed to be 13-years-old and adopted her to Klara.
The abuse was discovered by a neighbor who installed a baby video monitor in her house, the same brand Klara had installed so she could "gloat over her victims' suffering from the comfort of her kitchen." The signals got crossed and instead of seeing her newborn sleeping, the neighbor saw a young boy chained up and beaten.