10 Reviews of Human Flesh by Real Cannibals
Cannibalism is one of the greatest taboos in human civilization. But there are a few people who have tasted human flesh, and a few of them have shared their thoughts on just what “long pig” tastes like.
In 1972, Arthur Shawcross killed a young boy and girl in Watertown, New York. He went to prison for the crimes, but he was released after serving just under 15 years. His record was sealed when he moved to Rochester, New York, in 1988, where he soon started killing prostitutes, claiming 11 lives before he was caught.
Once he was back in prison, Shawcross started bragging about some of the disgusting things he did to his victims, including several cases of cannibalism. He claimed to have first eaten human flesh while serving in Vietnam, where he supposedly followed two women into the jungle, butchered them, and ate them. However, there is no evidence that he actually did this. He also claimed to have eaten the genitals of four prostitutes and the heart of the 10-year-old boy he killed. The bodies were too decomposed to verify this, but they were horribly mutilated.
According to Shawcross, human meat tastes like the burned end of a nice pork roast. In correspondence with writer Christopher Berry-Dee, Shawcross reiterated that human flesh tastes like pork, suggesting that people should think of that the next time they sit down to ham, bacon, or a juicy pork chop.
Shawcross was held at the Sullivan Correctional Facility in Fallsburg, New York, until he died on November 10, 2008, at the Albany Medical Center.
Peter Bryan’s long history of violence started when the owners of the shop he worked in fired him for stealing. In response, Bryan beat their 20-year-old daughter to death with a hammer before trying to commit suicide by leaping from a balcony. Found to be mentally ill, he was placed in a maximum-security psychiatric hospital in 1993.
Nine years later, he was released from maximum security and moved to another hospital, where he was eventually granted permission to leave the ward unsupervised. That same night, he left the hospital, went to the apartment of 43-year-old Brian Cherry, and brutally beat him to death with a hammer. Then, using a saw and several knives, Bryan amputated Cherry’s arms and right leg. When the police arrived, they found brain matter in a frying pan on the stove.
Bryan said that he had cooked the brain in margarine and that it tasted “really nice.” He added that he had also sampled meat from Cherry’s legs and arms, which he described as tasting quite like chicken. After his arrest, Bryan was put back into a psychiatric hospital, where he murdered another inmate in 2004. Bryan said he wanted to eat him, but there wasn’t enough time to cook him.
Bryan is currently held in Broadmoor, a high-security psychiatric hospital in Berkshire, England, where he is likely to remain for the rest of his life.
8Alexander Selvik Wengshoel
In 2010, 21-year-old Norwegian art student Alexander Selvik Wengshoel was scheduled to have his hip replaced due to a birth defect that left him reliant on crutches or a wheelchair to get around. In the year leading up to the surgery, Wengshoel managed to convince his doctor to let him take the removed hip bone home. Wengshoel didn’t know what he wanted to do with it, but he knew that he wanted to use it in his art somehow.
When he got home after the surgery, Wengshoel started boiling the hip and scraped off some flesh still clinging to it. Realizing that this was a unique opportunity, he decided to taste a scrap of the flesh, describing it as “really nice.” After that, he decided to make a meal out of the flesh remaining on the bone. Only a handful of meat was left, so the dish was just an appetizer, served with a side of potatoes au gratin and a glass of wine. According to Wengshoel, “It had this flavor of wild sheep if you take a sheep that goes in the mountains and eats mushrooms. It was goaty.”
Tobias Schneebaum was an American artist who won a Fulbright fellowship to study art in Peru, hitchhiking all the way from New York in 1955. Along the way, he heard about a tribe called the Arakmbut, who lived in the jungle and hunted with bows and arrows. Deciding that sounded interesting, he set off without a compass to find them. Although the Arakmbut had a fierce reputation, they welcomed Schneebaum, who was delighted to find the tribe was very accepting of homosexuality, which he had been persecuted for in New York. He soon resolved to stay with them for the rest of his life.
That changed after he was invited on what he thought was a hunt. Instead, the Arakmbut attacked another village and killed the six people they found there. After the massacre, they roasted some of the bodies while dancing around the fire. Schneebaum was horrified but was eventually prodded into joining the dancing. When the Arakmbut started handing out pieces of human meat, Schneebaum ate some. After the incident, he reconsidered staying with the tribe and eventually walked out of the Peruvian jungle covered in paint.
Schneebaum’s memoir Keep The River On Your Right became a cult classic. He usually brushed off questions about the taste of human flesh, explaining that he was too caught up in the moment to remember much of the taste, and he didn’t want people thinking of him as a cannibal anyway. However, he did once mention that it tasted a little bit like pork. He later added: “All I’ll say is that I like my meat well done, and this wasn’t.”
Omaima Nelson was born in Egypt and moved to the United States to become a model. In 1991, she met 56-year-old William Nelson, whom she married two months later. It wasn’t a happy union, with Omaima accusing her husband of beating and raping her. Just three weeks after the wedding, she snapped and murdered him. In an attempt to destroy the evidence, she dismembered his body, fried his hands, and boiled his head.
The murder truly became bizarre when Omaima removed her husband’s ribs, coated them with barbecue sauce, and cooked them “like in a restaurant.” According to a psychiatrist, Omaima told him that she bit into the ribs, exclaiming aloud, “It’s so sweet, it’s so delicious … I like mine tender.”
The police were alerted to the crime after Omaima foolishly asked a friend to help her dispose of the body. She was eventually found guilty of second-degree murder and given a life sentence. She later said that she hadn’t eaten her husband after all, but she was applying for parole at the time, and parole isn’t usually given out to cannibals.
Notorious Milwaukee cannibal Jeffrey Dahmer claimed the lives of 17 young men between 1978 and 1991. Dahmer never really spoke openly about his cannibalism, but he discussed it a little bit with the FBI when he was arrested. He said that he would cut off pieces of the bodies, usually from the biceps and the thighs, and he would also cut out some of the organs. He would take the muscles or the organs and chop them into bite-size pieces, which he would then cook in a skillet on his stove.
As for what Dahmer thought of the taste, he said it was similar to filet mignon, cut from the smaller end of beef tenderloin. It is considered the most tender cut of beef and is often called the “king of steaks.”
Dahmer was sentenced to life in prison in February 1992 and was murdered by a fellow inmate two years later.
William Seabrook was a reporter with the New York Times but is better known for his truly bizarre travel books. One of his most notable works is Jungle Ways, published in 1931. The book details a trip to West Africa, where he encountered a tribe known as the Guere, who were reported to ritually consume flesh from recently deceased tribesmen. Curious as to what human meat tasted like, Seabrook decided to try some for himself.
There are two different stories about how Seabrook came to eat human flesh. According to Seabrook himself in Jungle Ways, he simply joined in with the Guere. Another story claims that this didn’t happen and that Seabrook actually committed cannibalism on his return to France, where he persuaded a hospital intern to sneak him part of a fresh corpse.
Regardless of how he got the meat, Seabrook probably was a genuine cannibal and described the taste of human flesh at length. According to Jungle Ways, “It was like good, fully developed veal, not young, but not yet beef. It was very definitely like that, and it was not like any other meat I had ever tasted. It was so nearly like good, fully developed veal that I think no other person with a palate of ordinary, normal sensitiveness could distinguish it from veal.”
3Jorge Negromonte Da Silveira
In April 2012, Brazilian Jorge Beltrao Negromonte da Silveira; his wife, Isabel Cristina Pires; and his mistress, Bruna Cristina Oliveira da Silva, were arrested in connection with the murder of a homeless woman. After being taken into custody, they quickly admitted to killing two other young women as well. In all three murders, the trio cannibalized the bodies and sold the meat.
In an interview, da Silveira compared human meat to beef in taste and consistency. Since it was beef-like meat, da Silveira said the group had three different recipes for cooking human flesh. The first was carne guisada, a Mexican stew that often uses beef and is slowly simmered. Another option was a cassava-based Brazilian dish known as macaxeira. But the trio became most notorious for making empadas, traditional Brazilian meat pies, which they often sold to their unsuspecting neighbors.
Da Silveira was sentenced to 23 years in prison, while his wife and mistress were given 20 years each. Da Silveira says it is a good thing that he is in prison because otherwise, he would surely kill again.
One of the more notorious cannibals in recent history is Japan’s Issei Sagawa. Sagawa was studying in Paris when he met 25-year-old Dutch student Renee Hartevelt. On June 11, 1981, Hartevelt was visiting Sagawa at his apartment when he shot her in the back. After she was dead, Sagawa spent two days eating parts of her body.
In his memoir, Sagawa said that he ate the red meat of her buttocks raw. He said it was tasteless and odorless, but it melted on his tongue like raw tuna sashimi. Next, he cooked flesh from her hip in a roasting pan, describing it as decent but flavorless until he added mustard and salt. He also baked parts of Hartevelt’s breasts but didn’t like them because they were too greasy. His favorite was meat from the thighs, which he described as “wonderful.”
Sagawa was arrested three days later after witnesses saw him disposing of the body. He was declared insane and put into an asylum. In 1985, he was deported back to Japan, where they found him sane but evil. However, the French authorities refused to hand over the evidence needed for a criminal trial. Since the Japanese authorities had declared him sane and could not try him as a criminal, Sagawa became a free man. After his release, he wrote a book and became something of a celebrity in Japan. However, in a later interview, he rolled back on some of his claims: “In my book, I wrote that it was tasty, but that was not really true; I’d much rather eat Matsuzaka [Kobe] beef. But because I’d desired to consume human flesh for so long, I’d managed to convince myself that it would necessarily be delicious.”
German cannibal Armin Meiwes infamously posted a classified ad on the Internet announcing he was seeking “a well-built 18- to 30-year-old to be slaughtered and then consumed.” According to Meiwes, the ad received over 200 responses. After meeting a young man who backed out, he found 41-year-old Bernd Juergen Brandes, who agreed to be eaten. On March 9, 2001, the two met and had sex before Meiwes cut off Brandes’s penis so that they could eat it. First, they tried to consume it raw but found it too “rubbery.” Meiwes then tried to cook it using garlic and butter but ended up burning it.
After 10 hours of waiting for Brandes to bleed to death, Meiwes killed him, hung his body on a meat hook, and began carving off meat. Over the next 10 months, he ate about 18 kilograms (40 lbs) of human steak and mince. In later interviews, Meiwes said he sauteed the steak with salt, pepper, nutmeg, and garlic. For sides, he had princess croquettes and brussels sprouts with a green pepper sauce. To drink, he preferred a glass of South African red wine. And what did Meiwes think of the meat? He said it was a little tough but otherwise quite good. Apparently, it tasted like pork but with a stronger, slightly bitter taste.
Meiwes insisted that Brandes’ death was assisted suicide rather than murder. He was originally sentenced to eight and a half years in prison for manslaughter but lost a retrial and was sentenced to life in prison. He is now a vegetarian.