The Middle Ages is a time known for werewolves, witches, and vampires. It’s also the height of cannibalism and related crimes in history. Of course, there are a lot more criminals out there that choose dinner over dumping–the numbers might actually surprise you. In fact, since prehistoric times, there have been thousands of reports of cannibalism, from single victims to entire groups and populations that have consumed human flesh for various motives.

Most people assume that the motive behind cannibalism is of an evil nature, or perhaps in rare cases for survival. However, there are many different reasons why people turn to cannibalism and each offender has their own motive. Some people just want to dispose of the bodies well. Others might need food. Some have mental instability that causes them to think this is an appropriate behavior. Others are just very disturbed and truly evil, such as the fictional character Hannibal Lecter.

The Other Eaters

Cannibalism is essentially the ultimate taboo for most people. Those who use it in a criminal nature are the ones most remembered for their stories. Such is the case with Albert FIsh, a 1930s criminal that was as close to an actual monster as you can get. He was a pedophile and sexual deviant, kidnapping and raping a girl that lived in Manhattan. He got away with the crime until 6 years later when he sent a letter to the family, detailing his crimes, which was traced back to Fish leading to his arrest and conviction. He was sentenced to death and executed at Sing Sing in New York in 1936.

Another evil character can be found in Armin Meiwes, a German man who posted an internet ad in 2001 that was seeking a man to be “slaughtered and then consumed”. Surprisingly, a willing participant actually replied and they met on Christmas Day. Meiwes taped the entire crime, which included some of the most unfathomable acts a human could commit. He was arrested after a confession and now serves a life sentence.

A short list of other well known (and not-so well known) offenders of cannibalism:

  • Jeffrey Dahmer
  • The Stella Maris College Rugby Team in Uruguay (1972)
  • The Mauerova Family (Czech Republic, 2000s)
  • Andrei Chikatilo
  • Issei Sagawa
  • Alferd Packer
  • The Donner Party
  • Aztec tribes
  • Colonists in Jamestown (1609-1610)
  • Tarrare
  • Charles Domery
  • Karl Denke
  • Japanese soliders during WWII
  • Stanley Baker
  • Briton Albert Fentress
  • Nikolai Dzhumagaliev
  • Hadden Clark
  • Rick Gibson (legally consumed human tonsils and testicles)
  • Omaima Aree Nelson

In addition to this list, there are a number of groups, tribes, and other individuals that have been involved in cannibalism in some shape or form throughout history. It’s not as rare as a lot of people think, even though it is quite taboo. In fact, in 2014 alone, there were at least five known cases of cannibalism or attempts at cannibalism; these are the ones that were discovered. Of all of the crimes that are committed, there’s something about consuming human flesh that makes it a much more heinous act than others. For pleasure or survival, the general consensus is still that this is not an appropriate act for the human race.