While the subject of cannibalism is a favorite among horror aficionados, let us not forget this is a truly heinous crime that has been committed by the most depraved among humans for centuries—or longer. Eating the flesh of another human may be one of the most taboo acts imaginable—and for good reason.
But over the years, a surprising number of people have devoured their fellow man, not out of desperation, but motivated by a perverse appetite. The disturbing deeds of the 13 real and famous cannibals revealed here are sure to turn your stomach. So pour yourself some nice, soothing Chianti and settle in for these true tales of men with appalling appetites. But remember, these are just the known cannibals…
1. Jeffrey Dahmer
Undoubtedly the most notorious cannibalistic serial killer, Jeffrey Dahmer murdered 17 young men between 1978 and 1991. Murder, though, was just the beginning of Dahmer’s sick and twisted M.O. He dismembered, cannibalized, and retained human remains, earning the nickname, “the Milwaukee Cannibal.” Sentenced to 16 life terms in prison, Dahmer was beaten to death by fellow inmate Christopher Scarver in 1994. He is, without a doubt, one of the most famous cannibals in America.
Related: 10 Little-Known Facts About Jeffrey Dahmer
2. Nikolai Dzhumagaliev
Kazahk serial killer Nikolai Dzhumagaliev confessed to the murder of 10 people, though authorities assume there were most likely more victims. He claimed he wanted to rid the world of prostitutes, and would attack women, drink their blood, then eat their remains. While drunk, he shot a coworker and was apprehended, only to escape from custody twice. The second time he was on the run for three years. He was eventually apprehended and committed to a mental institution.
The cannibal’s doctors claimed he was cured in 2005. However, just before Christmas 2015, he supposedly escaped the facility again. Officials refuse to confirm whether or not Dzhumagaliev is at the mental facility, or if he even arrived there in the first place. Keep your eyes peeled...
3. Armin Meiwes
Known as “The Master Butcher,” German Armin Meiwes’s famous cannibalism was wrought on a voluntary victim. Meiwes posted on a website called "The Cannibal Cafe” (for people with cannibalistic fetishes) that he was “looking for a well-built 18-to-30-year-old-male to be slaughtered and then consumed.” Bernd Jürgen Armando Brandes answered the ad. The two men made a videotape of Meiwes severing and then eating Brandes’ penis, which both men ate; Meiwes then killed and ate Brandes. When a college student noticed the online ad, Meiwes was arrested and sentenced to eight years in prison. At a subsequent retrial, in which he stated that he still had a taste for flesh, he was sentenced to life in prison.
Related: 5 Strange Happenings in History You’ve Probably Never Heard of
4. Mohammad Arif Ali and 5. Mohammad Farman Ali
Police re-apprehended these Pakistani brothers when the head of a three-year-old boy was discovered in their shared home in 2014. Already convicted of several counts of this gruesome crime in 2011, the two known cannibals had since been released. While being questioned for the more recent crime, they claimed to have dug up and cannibalized the corpses of over 100 people, incorporating them into homemade curry. In spite of their guilt, the men had been released from prison in May 2013, inciting—for obvious reasons—a public outcry.
Related: The Harpe Brothers: America’s Original Serial Killers
6. Issei Sagawa
At barely five-feet-tall, Sagawa said he chose his classmate, the five-foot-ten, 25-year-old Renée Hartevelt, as his victim for her beauty and health. He lured her to his apartment, shot her, and over the course of two days, cannibalized her body. When he tried to discard her remains in the Bois de Boulogne Lake in Paris, he was spotted and arrested. The French government extradited Sagawa to Japan, where he was committed to a mental institution. But, with the French case closed, he was able to check himself out, and, horrifyingly, has lived free since 1986. Sagawa has published several books and even worked briefly as a restaurant reviewer, profiting off his famous cannibalism. However, in an interview with Vice magazine in 2009, he said that being forced to make a living as a known cannibal and murderer “was a terrible punishment.”
7. Rudy Eugene
Known as the “Causeway Cannibal,” Rudy Eugene brutally attacked homeless man Ronald Poppo underneath the MacArthur Causeway in Miami in 2012. Eugene, who was naked at the time, beat Poppo, then bit and chewed the flesh of his face, grossly disfiguring him and rendering him blind in both eyes. Police shot and killed Eugene after repeated warnings. A toxicology report showed that there was only marijuana in Eugene’s system, and his family was dumbfounded by the new cannibal’s sudden and inexplicable behavior.
Related: 9 Creepy Cannibal Movies That Will Make Your Skin Crawl
8. Luka Magnotta
In 2012, a gruesome video of a young man being repeatedly stabbed with an ice pick, dismembered, then cannibalized was uploaded to a website called Best Gore. The man in the video was subsequently identified as Lin Jun, a missing international student at Concordia University in Montreal. Days later, packages containing body parts (which, after investigation, turned out to be Lin’s) were delivered to the offices of the Conservative Party of Canada. Evidence led police to the apartment of Luke Magnotta, who by that time had fled to Paris, then Berlin. Magnotta was apprehended and sentenced to life in prison.
9. Jose Luis Calva
Police discovered Mexican murderer Jose Luis Calva eating a dish of human meat seasoned with lemon when they went to question him about the disappearance of his girlfriend in 2007. In his apartment, they also found the mutilated body of his girlfriend, human flesh in the refrigerator, a frying pan containing human flesh, and a cereal box filled with human bones. Calva had been working on an unfinished manuscript called “Cannibal Instincts,” and there was a photo of Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal Lecter taped to his wall. After being sentenced to 84 years in prison, Calva committed suicide in his cell.
10. Alfred Packer
American prospector Alferd Packer was one of the earliest cannibals in America. He claimed that he cannibalized his already-dead fellow travellers to survive in the mountains of Colorado in the winter of 1874. However, inconsistencies in Packer’s story, regarding how, exactly, the men died, led him to be sentenced to 40 years in prison–eight years for each victim. He was released on parole in 1901, and died in 1907.
Read More: Alfred Packer: the Maneater of Colorado
11. Alexander Spesivtsev
Russian serial killer Alexander Spesivtsev is believed to be responsible for the murders of over 80 people, whom he lured into his home with the help of his mother. He kept a grisly diary of his killings, in which he described the torture, mutilation, dismemberment and cannibalization of his victims. Though he only confessed to the murder of 19 people, police believe the number to be much greater, based on evidence found at his home. One victim told the police she was forced to eat a soup made from the body of her friend. Spesivtsev was declared insane and committed to a mental institution in 1996.
12. Albert Fish
Albert Fish was an American serial killer, rapist, and cannibal with a perverse taste for children. For his exceptionally cruel methods, he is one of the more famous cannibals in America. In 1928, he abducted 10-year-old Grace Budd in New York. Six years later, the Budd family received an anonymous letter riddled with spelling errors that detailed a man’s descent into madness and cannibalism. In the letter’s final paragraph, Fish graphically recounted abducting Grace Budd, killing her, and consuming her flesh. The authorities soon apprehended Fish, and he was executed by electric chair in 1936.
Read More: The Real-Life Boogeyman: Terrifying and Insatiable Albert Fish
13. Anthony Morley
On May 2, 2008, English model and chef Anthony Morley ran into a kebab house at 2:30 AM, drenched in blood, and pleading for someone to call the police. Then the horrifying truth came out: he had murdered a man named Damian Oldfield, with whom he’d been sexually involved. After slitting Oldfield’s throat, Morley cut, fried, seasoned, and attempted to eat pieces of Oldfield’s leg. Morley was sentenced to life imprisonment for his heinous crime.
Featured photo of Alfred Packer: Alchetron