Cannibalism: the act of eating a member of one’s own species. It is as brutal and bizarre as it gets, and make no mistake—humans are not exempt from the practice. In fact, humans have been practicing cannibalism for as long as there have been humans. It is very probable that each and every single person reading this is descended from cannibals, and if you do the math, it makes sense that chasing your family tree back far enough, you would find someone who would either have been forced to cannibalize to survive or who did it because they just thought it was the right thing to do.
Luckily, cannibalism isn’t very popular today and is relegated to marginalized cultures and a few depraved individuals. But every once in a while, someone comes along and shocks us with an insatiable thirst for the blood of their own kind—for human blood. This isn’t just another serial killer list with Jeffrey Dahmer or Albert Fish; these are various Americans from vastly different walks of life, forever linked by one life decision from which they would become inseparable: They each chose, for different reasons, to eat the flesh of other people. Here are ten terrifying, lesser-known American cannibals.
10 Levi Boone Helm
Levi Boone Helm was an American outlaw and Wild West gunfighter born in Kentucky in 1828. He came from a well-respected family that moved to Missouri when he was a child. Like many other historical figures, his story is shrouded in mystery and folklore, but he was definitely a real person and quite capable of doing everything attributed to him. Helm would eventually settle into the bad boy routine and choose the Wild West way of life. It was said that he once walked into a courtroom while court was in session and began to yell at the judge, telling him exactly what he thought of him—and it wasn’t nice, to say the least.
Helm was known for heavy drinking and violence and had a short marriage due to rampant domestic abuse. The costs of the divorce left his family broke and impoverished, so Helm decided to head out to California to strike it rich—or have a lawless, wild time. He lived an outlaw life of rough-riding, gunfighting, running from the law, traveling, and robbing people and institutions.
Levi Boone Helm would eventually come to be known as The Kentucky Cannibal, an obvious reference to his place of birth as well as the particularly brutal way he preferred to dispose of his victims. As his long killing spree progressed, the Kentucky Cannibal was reported to have eaten parts of his victims, possibly out of pure, wild savagery and for the psychological effect, or possibly in part because the life of an outlaw was a rough one, and coming by resources and shelter was often difficult.
Helm would eventually be caught for his crimes in Montana and hanged. According to legend, as the hangman approached to kick the box out from beneath his feet, he screamed, “Every man for his principles! Hurrah for Jeff Davis! Let ‘er rip!” and jumped off the box willingly, hanging himself. Levi Boone Helm died on January 14, 1864.
9 Carroll Cole
Carroll Edward Cole, or “Eddie” as he was also known, was a notable, though lesser-known, American serial killer who would be executed in 1985 for his crimes. Like many other serial killers, such as Peter Kurten, Eddie Carroll had an extremely violent upbringing and was beaten as a child. This probably contributed to his violent tendencies. Cole was also forced to watch his mother have sex with men, with him in the same room.
Cole grew up in California and would ultimately go on to commit a crazed murder spree, killing “loose women” across multiple states, including Nevada, Oklahoma, Wyoming, Texas, and, of course, California. He was a drunk who drifted and killed as he moved along. He was actually caught once, but the police released him, enabling Cole to murder again. Carroll then began experimenting, like many serial killers, with both necrophilia and cannibalism. He claimed that after he murdered a woman in Oklahoma, he awoke from a drunken stupor and found slices of his victim’s buttocks in a frying pan. In January 1980, he was arrested on his honeymoon and was ultimately executed by lethal injection on December 6, 1985.
8 Austin Harrouff
An unusual inclusion on this list is a young Florida man named Austin Harrouff, also known, as the media dubbed him, as The Cannibal Frat Boy. Harrouff wasn’t a rugged outlaw or a brutal serial killer—he was otherwise a good kid, a young man from Florida who attended Florida State University and had a bright future ahead of him. He suddenly killed and cannibalized two people for a completely different reason: drugs.
After the double homicide and act of cannibalism, police were shocked to find no illicit drugs in Austin Harrouff’s system. But what they didn’t know was what they didn’t test for: a synthetic drug known as flakka, which can cause temporary psychosis and superhuman strength. It’s like PCP in those respects, and at the time in 2016, police and authorities were just starting to wake up to the reality of synthetic drugs.
On August 15, 2016, Harrouff ingested the substance and, entirely unprovoked, attacked a couple in their home, stabbing both to death. Then he began to eat their faces. As he was eating the face of the male victim, Joseph John Stevens III, a neighbor witnessed the attack and came to help, but Harrouff stabbed him, too. The neighbor fled and called 911. The case turned into a press fiasco, with the father ending up on Dr. Phil and a young man’s life ruined because of a single stupid decision to take the wrong drug.
7 Alferd Packer
Alferd Packer was another American cannibal of old, born on January 21, 1842. He joined the Union Army in the Civil War but would soon be discharged, due to seizures from epilepsy. Like many others at the time, Packer made the executive decision to pack up shop and head west for a brand new start at a brand new life. A native of Pennsylvania, he headed westbound and ended up in Colorado with a group of 21 people in early 1874. On February 9, against the suggestions of locals who had taken them in for refuge, Packer and five other men set out to cross the Colorado mountains in the middle of a particularly brutal winter, chasing their dreams and throwing caution to the wind.
A blizzard hit them shortly after their departure, and the team was trapped in deep snow and ice and endured freezing temperatures. On April 16, Packer arrived at Los Pinos Indian Agency alone. It was only a matter of time before other party members from the original 21 began turning up and were skeptical of his story that a storm had killed everyone but him. Packer moved on to Saguache. Townsfolk noticed him spending large sums of money as if he had just won the jackpot.
Packer was detained after enough suspicion had been aroused, and he concocted two separate accounts of what happened to the party. At first, he said they slowly died off from starvation and the brutal cold, and he ate their corpses to survive. Pressed further, he admitted to actually killing one of the party members, though he said it was in self-defense. When a search party turned up the corpses of the other five men, it was noted that Packer’s story didn’t jibe with the way the bodies were found. He was arrested and brought up on murder charges.
Packer escaped the jail and fled, but he ended up being apprehended nine years later and held to stand trial. Due to the particularly brutal nature of his crimes, Alfred Packer was sentenced to death. He appealed and was sentenced to 40 years in prison for manslaughter. After serving 17 years, he was released to live out the rest of his days a free man. Alfred Packer died of dementia in 1907.
6 Nathaniel Bar-Jonah
This man was the filthiest of the filthy, the lowest of the low; Nathaniel Bar-Jonah (born as David Paul Brown) was a child molester, probable murderer, and, of course, a cannibal. After history of attempted child lurings in Massachusetts, Bar-Jonah was caught disguising himself as a police officer in 1974, trying to kidnap a young boy. He impersonated an FBI agent in 1977 and kidnapped two boys. One managed to escape, and Bar-Jonah was arrested and ultimately sentenced to 18 to 20 years in prison. He changed his name while incarcerated and was released in 1991.
Bar-Jonah headed to Montana to continue his ravenous ways. In 1999, he was arrested for, again, impersonating a police officer. A search of his home would uncover articles of boys’ clothing, cutouts of young boys, and tons of other creepy finds. On the floor of his garage, investigators found the bone fragments of a ten-year-old boy named Zachary Ramsey, who had disappeared in February 1996. However, the charges pertaining to Ramsey were dropped, as his mother intended to testify that he was still alive. More bone fragments were found, but DNA testing confirmed that none of the bones of the two other boys found belonged to Zachary Ramsey.
Lacking evidence for a murder charge, Bar-Jonah would be charged with kidnapping, assault, and child molestation and sentenced to 130 years in prison. He would later admit to having cannibalized the children he killed. Bar-Jonah died of a heart attack in 2008.
5 Richard Chase
Next up on the list is the notable blood-drinker known as The Sacramento Vampire, Richard Trenton Chase. Chase was obsessed with drinking the blood of his victims, among other things. He had a lust for blood and was hospitalized for injecting animal blood into his veins. He was a tried and true hypochondriac who constantly believed he was sick and was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, among other things. With all of this, Chase believed the only way to “cure” his supposed illnesses was to continually drink the blood of animals and freshly dead people—or at least inject it.
Chase’s brush with cannibalism would occur with the murder of Terry Wallin, a 22-year-old pregnant woman who was home alone while her husband was at work. Chase killed Wallin and removed several organs, disemboweled her, and drank a yogurt cup full of her blood. Her husband tragically came home to discover the gory aftermath. Chase had eaten a part of Terry Wallin’s body at the crime scene.
4 Big Lurch
Antron Singleton, otherwise known by his stage name Big Lurch, was a hip-hop musician and rapper with his whole life ahead of him who also ended up on this list by taking the wrong drugs. Though he only ended up releasing one album due to his crimes cutting his career short, Big Lurch had promise, working with a lot of rather popular talent from the San Francisco Bay Area, such as E-40, Mac Dre, and many, many more.
In April 2002, Big Lurch fatefully ingested PCP. In a crazed drug frenzy, Singleton went berserk and murdered his roommate, Tynisha Tsais, and proceeded to cannibalize her body. Her chest was sliced completely open, and a knife blade was discovered broken off inside her corpse. Singleton’s teeth marks were found on her face and lungs, which had been ripped out. Before the murder, Singleton had only committed one other crime, which was a DUI, a nonviolent offense. Tsais’s murder was another act of cannibalism that came out of the blue as the result of drugs. Antron Singleton would be sentenced to life in prison in 2003.
3 Rudy Eugene
Rudy Eugene is another odd case. Nicknamed the Miami Cannibal and the Miami Zombie, Eugene would make headlines for a brutal attack he carried out in Miami, Florida. On the early morning of May 26, 2012, Eugene woke his girlfriend up, saying he had to go out to meet a friend and would be back in a little while. He told her that he loved her and left. She then later received a call from him saying, “I’m going to be late. I love you. I’ll be back.” It is believed that Eugene also took some synthetic drugs at this point. (However, only small amounts of marijuana were found in his system.)
At around 2:00 PM, a now-naked Eugene encountered a homeless man named Ronald Poppo and viciously bit off 75 percent of his face, reportedly swallowing chunks of Poppo’s flesh. Poppo survived the attack, but his nose and left eye were gone (and his right eye was left blind). Eugene continued to go absolutely berserk and ended up being shot to death by the police who arrived at the scene. At this point, its extremely safe to say that synthetic drugs are a bad idea.
2 Hadden Clark
Hadden Clark is another interesting case. A very strange man born in Troy, New York, in 1952, Clark didn’t come from a particularly rough background, though his father committed suicide, and Hadden was always a little odd. Clark would be convicted of killing two victims, 23-year-old Laura Houghteling and six-year old Michele Dor. Clark was probably schizophrenic and was prone to outbursts of anger and increasingly bizarre behavior over the years. His brother, Bradfield, strangled a woman to death.
In October 1992, Laura Houghteling would disappear from her home, Clark was employed by her family as the gardener at that time. Police instantly began to suspect him and questioned him relentlessly while also gathering evidence. Eventually, he confessed to the murder of Houghteling. They then began to suspect Clark of Michele Dor’s murder in 1986 (Clark’s niece was a friend of Michele’s), and he ultimately led investigators to where he’d buried her body.
While he strangled Houghtlingen and slit her throat, it was Dor who he had cannibalized. He slit Dor’s throat and drank her blood. This, combined with the fact that he had disguised himself as Laura Houghteling after killing her in order to throw people off, earned him the nickname The Cross-Dressing Cannibal. Clark’s mother also used to dress him in girl’s clothing when he was a child. Hadden would eventually claim to have murdered dozens of people. He was sentenced to two 30-year sentences in prison for the murders of Houghteling and Dor.
1 Tobias Schneebaum
Tobias is another unusual one for the list, an unusual one in a list of unusual ones. Tobias was born Theodore Schneebaum but would later change his name to Tobais and became quite the eccentric New York artist and writer. He also made exploration a hobby and would travel a lot. Born in 1922, he spent much of the 1950s traveling in South America and spent months in Peru, only to be feared dead while he was living among the natives. He ended up spending some time with a tribe called the Arakmbut and would live as they lived, experiencing life as a member of the tribe.
During a hunt, the tribe encountered other people, and the confrontation turned violent. Schneebaum stood back and watched the combat until six people were dead. The tribe then gathered the bodies and started a fire, began cooking them, and ate them. It was at this point that Tobias Schneebaum took a piece of a human heart and ate it. He later recalled that it tasted “a bit like pork” and that he was not happy about having to eat it. Schneebaum would return to the United States and tell of his experiences in writing, which just have been, like pretty much everyone else on this list, an extremely bizarre ride.
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