Cannibalism has had a long, sordid history.  In our western culture it is practically unheard of, except in cases of severe famine – like the tragic experience of the Donner Party. Other cultures – such as the Korowai, participate in cannibalism as part of their religious sacraments. It is not often that we hear of someone eating another human being, and even rarer that we hear of a person volunteering to be eaten. Before you continue reading, consider yourself warned. The story of Armin Meiwes, referred to by some as “The Real-Life Hannibal Lecter”, is not for the squeamish.

To unassuming neighbors and acquaintances, Meiwes was a perfectly normal German-native. By day he worked as a computer technician and enjoyed restoring old cars. Neighbors described Meiwes as a great friend. He often mowed their lawns, helped them with car repairs, one neighbor even regularly allowed him to babysit her children. What neighbors didn’t know is that the Armin Meiwes they thought they knew was harboring some very disturbed fantasies.

It is thought that these fantasies began for Meiwes when he was just a boy. He revealed to investigators that he had often obsessed over Hansel and Gretel, written by the Brothers Grimm. He said that he enjoyed the part where the witch fattened Hansel up in order to cook and eat him. It was then Meiwes claims that he began fantasizing about cannibalizing his friends “so that they would remain part of him forever”.

It wasn’t until spring of 2001 that Meiwes decided to take his dark, repressed, fantasies, and turn them into a reality. After frequenting several cannibal websites, Meiwes decided to post an ad requesting a man between 18-25 to be slaughtered and eaten. Meiwes claimed that over two-hundred people responded to his ad, but only one – Bernd Juergen Brandes agreed to meet with him.

The Cannibal of Rothenburg

Meiwes had been corresponding with Brandes for over a month, and it was finally time for the two to meet in person. On March 9, 2001, Meiwes met Brandes at the train station and took him back to his home.  After giving Brandes the tour and showing him (what he called) “the slaughter room”, the two engaged in sexual intercourse.

Once the two had finished, it was time to get down to business. They kissed affectionately before agreeing that Brandes’ penis would be the first part to go. Brandes’ insisted that Meiwes bite it off, but after it proved to be too tough to chew through; Meiwes opted to chop it off.  Meiwes gave Brandes a bottle of schappes, a handful of sleeping pills, along with some vicks cold medicine in order to dull the pain; then proceeded to chop off Brandes’ penis and placed it on the dinner table.

“I had a fantasy, and, in the end, I fulfilled it”

Meiwes and Brandes both attempted to eat Brandes’ raw, severed penis. After having some difficulty chewing through the tough flesh, Meiwes decided to cook the penis with some of Brandes’ fat, wine, garlic, salt, and pepper, but ended up burning the organ. Meiwes chopped up the burnt penis and fed it to his dog, then took Brandes upstairs to bleed out in the bathtub.

Meiwes went downstairs to read a Star Trek novel. It would be several hours before he returned to the bathtub were Brandes was still holding on to life. He stabbed his friend and lover in the neck several times, and then hung him up on meat hooks – in what is known as “The Gein Configuration”.

He proceeded to bleed out Brandes’ body, much like one would bleed out a deer. He removed Brandes’ head and gutted the body cavity, before butchering it expertly into steak-like slices. Meiwes – who had been videotaping all of the events, took the meat and stored it in his freezer.

For almost a year after their ordeal, Meiwes devoured Brandes’ flesh – feasting on somewhere close to 40 pounds of it. Although Brandes had been reported missing, somehow Meiwes flew under the police’s radar. It wasn’t until Meiwes posted a second ad asking for volunteers and detailing the events of him and Brandes’ meeting, that he became an interest to authorities.

Confessing to his crimes, authorities seized the video and photos of what had occurred between Brandes and Meiwes. Meiwes led officers to bones that had been scattered in the yard. Additionally, authorities uncovered a torture room Meiwes had constructed for his next willing victim, which included a cage and a barbecue pit. When asked about his crime, Meiwes stated “I had a fantasy, and, in the end, I fulfilled it”.

Meiwes was originally charged with manslaughter and sentenced to eight years in prison. Some believed that his charge was too lenient, and a retrial was ordered. Though Meiwes claimed that he was simply following out Brandes’ wishes, prosecutors disputed that Brandes had consumed too much alcohol to make coherent decisions, as well as the possibility of mental illness. On January of 2006 the retrial began. Armin Meiwes was charged with murder, and sentenced by a German court to life in prison.