With Thanksgiving creeping up on us this week, we’re all planning our feasts. While many of us are opting for the more traditional turkey, the books in this roundup are centered around a very different kind of hunger. From Jamestown to the Donner party to Jeffrey Dahmer, cannibals have existed the world over.
Human cannibalism dates back to the prehistoric era and is a horrifying phenomenon. These books explore the roots of cannibalism as it stands within the human experience, as well as a number of cases that detail cannibalistic killers.
This fast-paced account follows two cannibals in Florida. Jonathan Lawrence and Jeremiah Rodgers are ex-convicts who met in a hospital for the criminally insane. Drawing from numerous mental health reports, court transcripts, and family interviews, Rosen traces the path of horrific destruction Jonathan and Jeremiah left behind, including the murder and cannibalization of an 18 year old girl.
The true story of NYPD officer Gil Valle, or, “The Cannibal Cop.” Valle recognized as a young man that his sexual proclivities were not the same as the average man’s. As he grew up, his fantasies became more violent. He wrote stories about them, and shared his perverse imaginings with like-minded individuals on the internet. When Valle’s wife discovered his search history, she panicked and went to the police.
Valle was jailed for conspiracy to commit torture, rape, murder, and cannibalization.
Serial Killers: Butchers & Cannibals
This cannibalistic anthology lists over two dozen iconic cannibals. The profiles include killers dating back to the 16th century, such as Countess Elizabeth Báthory, a woman is now considered the female Dracula. The book also incorporates the true stories that inspired some pop culture touchstones as Psycho and Silence of the Lambs.
You Have a Very Soft Voice, Susan
When Susan Fensten received an email from someone claiming to be a distant cousin, she leapt at the chance to make a connection with family. She had no way of knowing that she had just stepped into the middle of a massive internet stalking conspiracy.
In the early age of the internet’s swirling complexity, Susan found herself at the center of a cyberstalking ring—all from an innocent posting that she’d made on Geneaology.com, looking for distant family members. Susan’s life is soon marred by threats of kidnapping, assault, torture, and cannibalism.
The Shawcross Letters
John Paul Fay is a "murderabilia" dealer—someone who deals in collectibles related to famous murderers. His life isn’t a particularly bright one, and it grows darker still when he finds himself ensnared in a friendship with Arthur Shawcross, the Genesee River Killer. This book contains unedited letters between the two, including Shawcross’ explicit detailing of the people he murdered and the methods he used.
Death by Cannibal: Minds with an Appetite for Murder
This book compiles several of America’s most infamous murderers and cannibals. Five men who committed these crimes are profiled within. Their locations and socioeconomic backgrounds vary. Their motivations differ, from deep-rooted fantasies to the idolization of killers like Jeffrey Dahmer. One even went so far as to share his atrocious meal with unknowing friends.
Man-Eater: The Terrifying True Story of Cannibal Killer Katherine Knight
Raised in less-than-ideal family conditions, Katherine Knight committed one of the worst crimes in Australian history. Her experience working in various slaughterhouses came in handy when she ultimately chose to commit murder, killing her former boyfriend, John Price—who had only recently filed a restraining order against her.
Price’s body was found decapitated and skinned, and his head found in the kitchen, in a pot with vegetables.
Related: Most Wanted List: 7 Surprising Facts About Cannibalism
Dinner with a Cannibal: The Complete History of Mankind's Oldest Taboo
Travis-Henikoff examines the cultural, psychological, and historical motivations behind why people commit cannibalism. This book looks at archaeological evidence of cannibalism, as well as how it’s been woven with war and religion throughout various points in history.
Cannibal: The True Story Behind the Maneater of Rotenburg
Armin Meiwes put an ad in a chatroom for cannibals. He received hundreds of responses, but chose Bernd Juergen Brandes. Brandes would go to Meiwes isolated home to be eaten alive. The entire event was filmed, from the arrival in the “slaughtering room”, decked out with a cage, meat hooks, and a butcher's table, to Brandes’ death.
Jones examines the psychology of Meiwes, and the events that transpired, resulting in murder and a meal to die for.