The Original American Cannibal

The following is an article from Uncle John's Supremely Satisfying Bathroom Reader

A DUBIOUS DISTINCTION Alferd G. Packer holds a unique spot in American jurisprudence. He is the only U.S. citizen ever charged, tried, and convicted for the crime of murder and cannibalism. Born in rural Colorado in 1847, Packer drifted into the Utah Territory, supporting himself as a small-time con artist, claiming to be an experienced "mountain man." In the fall of 1873, he persuaded 20 greenhorns in Salt Lake City to grubstake an expedition to the headwaters of hate Gunnison River in Colorado Territory. He swore that the stream was full of gold and promised to lead them to it if they would finance the operation.

GOLD FEVER With Packer leading, they plunged into San Juan Mountains and promptly got lost. The party was near starvation when they stumbled into the winter quarters of the friendly Ute tribe. The Indians nursed them back to health, but the leader, Chief Ouray, advised them to turn back. Winter snows had blocked all trails. Ten of the party listened and returned to Utah. The other 10, still believing Packer's tales of gold-filled creeks, stayed with him. Ouray gave them supplies and advised them to follow the river upstream for safety, but Packer ignored this counsel and plunged back into the mountains. The party split up again. Five turned back and made their way to the Los Pinos Indian Agency. Fired up with gold fever, the others continued on with their con man guide. Days later, exhausted, half frozen, and out of food, they found refuge in a deserted cabin. Most of them were now ready to give up and go back to Salt Lake City.

The exception was Alferd Packer. He was broke, and returning to Salt Lake City would cost him his grubstake. When the others fell asleep, Packer shot four of them in the head. The fifth woke and tried to defend himself, but Packer cracked his skull with his rifle. Then, he robbed them ... He also used them for food. When his strength returned, he packed enough "human jerky" to get back to the Los Pinos Agency. Several miles from the agency, he emptied his pack to conceal his crime. He was welcomed by General Adams, commander of the agency, but shocked everyone by asking for whiskey instead of food. When he flashed a huge bankroll, they started asking questions.

WELL, YOU SEE, OFFICER ... Packer's explanations were vague and contradictory. First, he claimed he was attacked by the natives, then he claimed that some of his party had gone mad and attacked him. On April 4, 1874, two of Chief Ouray's braves found the human remains Packer had discarded. General Adams locked him up and dispatched a lawman named Lauter to the cabin to investigate. But while Lauter was away, Packer managed to escape. He made his way back to Utah and lived quietly for 10 years as "John Schwartze," until a member of the original party recognized him.

Packer was arrested on March 12, 1884 and returned to Lake City, Colorado, for trial. Packer claimed innocence but as the evidence against him mounted, he finally confessed. Apparently, he reveled in the attention his trial gave him and even lectured on the merits of human flesh. The best "human jerky," he said, was the meat on the chest ribs. The judge was not impressed. "Alferd G. Packer, you no good sonofabitch, there wasn't but seven Democrats in Hinsdale County, and you done et five of 'em," he thundered. "You're gonna hang by the neck until dead!"

SAVED BY A TECHNICALITY His lawyer appealed the decision, citing a legal loophole. The crime was committed in 1873, in the territory of Colorado. The trial began in 1884, in the new state of Colorado. The state constitution, adopted in 1876, did not address such a heinous crime, so the charge was reduced to manslaughter and Packer was sentenced to 40 years in prison. He was a model prisoner and was paroled after 16 years. Freed in 1901, he found work as a wrangler on a ranch near Denver. On April 21, 1907, Alferd G. Packer, horse wrangler and cannibal, died quietly in his sleep.

The article above is reprinted with permission from Uncle John's Supremely Satisfying Bathroom Reader. Since 1988, the Bathroom Reader Institute had published a series of popular books containing irresistible bits of trivia and obscure yet fascinating facts. If you like Neatorama, you'll love the Bathroom Reader Institute's books - go ahead and check 'em out!
ADDITIONAL NOTES Alferd Packer achieved somewhat of a cult status in pop culture. In 1968, students at the University of colorado at Boulder named their cafeteria the Alferd G. Packer Memorial Grill, with the slogan "Have a friend for lunch!" In 1977, Agriculture Secretary Robert Bergland wanted to get rid of cafeteria employees for bad service but was told he couldn't fire them. So he did the next best thing: he named the cafeteria after the enterprising Packer, saying "Alferd Packer exemplifies the spirit and care that this agriculture department cafeteria provides" and that the cafeteria will "serve all mankind." He even got a plaque for it. When the press found out, they had a field day and the cafeteria personnel were replaced. (Source)

I thought it was the Donner Party that was the inspiration.

In Australai we have the Tasmanian convicts escape stroy that has a lot of blokes getting whittled down to one by meanss of Cannibalism

The Band "Weddings Parties Anything" did a great song about it called "A Tale They Won't Believe" which as well as being a great tune tells the story in grisly detail.
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Sorry to rain on this parade, but Al Packer was never convicted of cannibalism. Cannibalism has never been a crime in most states. He was convicted of murder. He was accused of cannibalism and it was pretty much proven that he was a cannibal, but it wasn't a crime. He didn't get arrested for eating people. He got arrested for killing them in order to eat them.
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My favorite part of this story is what the judge purportedly told him before he left court: "Packer, you depraved Republican son of a bitch, there were only five Democrats in Hinsdale County, and you ate them all!"
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To Woogie:

I've been begging people to watch Ravenous since I saw it in the theatre back in - what was it 1998 or so? Anyway, I agree, "criminally underrated." One of my alltime favorite movies!
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I think that even back then they could get him for desecrating a corpse, or "defiling the dead" or somesuch. But cannibalism itself is not generally illegal. And "Cannibal! The Musical" is the best film version of the Al Packer story. Much funnier than Ravenous.
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I read an interview with a woman who, as a young girl, grew up next to Alferd Packer after he was convicted. She said that he was truly a kind man, making little wood carvings for her and other kids. She felt he got a bad rap.
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No one said Cannibal! The Musical isn't as funny as Ravenous. They are completely different movies. All that was said was that Ravenous is WAY underrated as a movie. Period.
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I never meant to imply that Ravenous isn't also a fine piece of cinema. Whether you prefer one or the other is largely personal taste. Ravenous is better directed and has much better acting. But for my taste, you can't beat a choreographed dance number to the song "Hang the Bastard" in Cannibal! The Musical.
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I live within walking distance of his grave. People like to visit it and leave a trinket. Coins, personal items, spent bullet casings. It's really kind of creepy :)
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Now, @hooper; isn't it the Dems who are eating each other in this glorious primary season? Can't wait for the convention. It's gonna be a blood bath!

@Ali S.: "Humans. It’s the next best meat you can have."

I heard they were a little on the fatty side, especially the Americans. :)
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