Tuesday, January 4, 2011

The Story Of "Cannibal Alfred Packer"...!

History is so full of interesting characters, it's hard to keep track of all of them.

I'm not sure that interesting is really the proper description for this guy, but short of saying he was a monster...it's the best I could do!

I'm almost positive there were more stories like this that we have never heard, but I'm not really sure that I want to! Do you?

Way back in 1901, the confessed Colorado cannibal Alfred Packer was released from prison on parole after serving 18 years.

One of the ragged legions of gold and silver prospectors who combed the Rocky Mountains searching for fortune in the 1860s, Alfred Packer also supplemented his meager income from mining by serving as a guide in the Utah and Colorado wilderness. In early November 1873, Packer left Bingham Canyon, Utah, to lead a party of 21 men bound for the gold fields near Breckenridge, Colorado.

The winter of 1873-74 was unusually harsh. After three months of difficult travel, the party staggered into the camp of the Ute Indian Chief Ouray, near present-day Montrose, Colorado. The Utes graciously provided the hungry and exhausted men with food and shelter. Chief Ouray advised the men to stay in the camp until a break came in the severe winter weather, but with their strength rekindled by food and rest, Packer and five other men decided to continue the journey.

Two months later, Packer arrived alone at the Los Pinos Indian Agency, looking surprisingly fit for a man who had just completed an arduous winter trek through the Rockies. Packer first claimed he had become separated from his five companions during a blizzard and survived on rabbits and rosebuds. Suspicions grew, though, when it was discovered that Packer had an unusual amount of money and many items belonging to the missing men. Under questioning, Packer confessed that the real story was far more gruesome: four of the men, he claimed, had died naturally from the extreme winter conditions and the starving survivors ate them. When only Packer and one other man, Shannon Bell, remained alive, Bell went insane and threatened to kill Packer. Packer said he shot Bell in self-defense and eventually ate his corpse.

Though shocking, Packer's grisly story would probably have been accepted as an unfortunate tragedy had not searchers later found the remains of the five men at a single campsite-not strung out along the trail as Packer had claimed. Packer was arrested and charged with murder, but he escaped from jail and remained at large for nine years.

Recaptured in 1883 near Fort Fetterman, Wyoming, Packer once again changed his story. He claimed that all six men had made camp alive, but lost and starving, they were too weak to go on. One day Packer went in search of the trail. Upon returning several hours later, he discovered to his horror that Bell had gone mad, killed the other four with a hatchet, and was boiling the flesh of one of them for his meal. When Bell spotted Packer, he charged with his hatchet raised, and Packer shot him twice in the belly. Lost and trapped alone in a camp of dead men, Packer said he only resorted to cannibalism after several more days, when it was his only means of survival.

Having twice changed his story, Packer's credibility was undermined, and a jury convicted him of manslaughter. He remained imprisoned in the Canon City penitentiary until 1901 when the Denver Post published a series of articles and editorials questioning his guilt. Eventually, the state freed Packer on parole. Packer went to work as a guard for the Post and lived quietly in and around Littleton, Colorado, maintaining his innocence until the day he died in 1907.

Though we will never know exactly what happened on the so-called "Cannibal Plateau" near present-day Lake City, Colorado, recent forensic studies of the remains of the men who died have tended to support the details of Packer's second confession.

Now, to me it doesn't matter what version of the story you buy into, the whole thing is pretty scary. I think the reason for that is the ingrained fear of cannibalism we all seem to have!

In fairness, I guess we never know just what we would do to stay alive under similar conditions! To tell you the truth, I hope I never have to find out!

Now, my friends, let's get some fresh coffee and sit in the kitchen for a while. Still a little chilly outside, at least for me!


Ben in Texas said...

I agree, we'll never know the whole real story. BUT! I do know this for a fact..
You will NEVER find me trapped in a SNOW storm.. I DO NOT DO cold!!

Anonymous said...

Wow, and I thought the story of 'Liver Eating Johnson' was strange, I never heard of this one. Thanks for the write-up. I'm with Ben in Texas above, snow is pretty and fun to play in, but as a way of life - nah, I'll just try and keep my toes in the sand. :^)

Thanks again HermitJim.

Mechanic in Illinois said...

We should have Packer take Obama, Reid, and Pelosi on a back packing trip. He would probably come back poisoned. Thanks for the great story.

Momlady said...

Yeah, what the Mechanic said.

Dizzy-Dick said...

Packer was far from being the only one that has turned cannibal to stay alive. Remember the rugby team who's plane crashed in the Andes mountains, the Doner Party in the Rockies, etc. Also, there have been really bad guys who did it just for fun or had a really strange eating habit. . .

JoJo said...

Good Morning,
I wouldn't want to be in the wild in winter either. What a story but yes there have been others. Kind of makes you wonder what you might do to stay alive. Ugly thoughts.
Pass the pot please a little chilly for me too.

Anonymous said...

It is an interesting story and I read about him last year, I think You had mentioned him here. But since he changed his story more than one time I think he just killed them all and ate them.

Have a great day now!

HermitJim said...

Hey Ben...
I'm certainly with you on that! Me and snow don't get along!

Thanks, buddy, for coming by today!

Hey Anon 7:05...
Like I said, probably more stor9ies out there than we know similar to this...but I don't even want to know them!

World is weird enough as it is!

Thanks for coming by today!

Hey Mechanic...
You're right...he probably would!

Hey, thanks for coming by today!

Hey Momlady...
Good to see you this morning!

Thanks for coming by!

Hey Dizzy...
Been a lot of stories like this, for sure!

Many times, fact is stranger than fiction!

Thanks, buddy, for coming by today!

Hey JoJo...
For now, I think I'll stick with the coffee and cookies!

Thanks, sweetie, for coming by today!

Bob Mc said...

"Long pork"! There are lots of stories about starving men (and women) driven to cannibalism. Some not so starving! Makes you wonder how close to dieing from starvation you would be before resorting to the same thing. Hope I never get that hungry.

Marjie said...

And that story, my friend, is why I like to stay well within the reaches of civilization! I don't need to be starving and have some loony chop me up!

Marie said...

One thing that seems to be consistent is that he liked to blame Bell...sad story regardless.

HermitJim said...

Hey Christer...
Probably right about that! I'm sure there are more and I may have mentioned him before...don't remember!

Hey, you stay warm and thanks for coming by today!

Hey Bob...
You and me both, my friend! I don't know what I would do and hope I never have to find out!

Thanks for the visit!

Hey Marjie...
Probably staying at home is the best thing under many circumstances, I think! Way too many crazies out there that might get ya!

Have a great day, and thanks for coming by!

Hey Marie...
He was pretty firm on that point, wasn't he? For all those years, that part of the story never changed!

And it really is a sad one...and I can imagine that this guy must have been haunted by this for a long time!

Hey, I sure appreciate you coming by today!