Cannibalism, as repulsive as it is, can be understood in cases where consuming the deceased is an alternative to certain starvation. Those who eat human flesh by choice, however, tend to be the kind of people who will torture and murder to satisfy their curiosity. Be warned that some of the following links are disturbing.
1. Dorangel Vargas
Dorangel Vargas is known as "the Hannibal Lecter of the Andes". He was confined to a mental hospital in 1995 after the remains of a missing man were found in his home, but Vargas was released two years later. In 1999, police in San Cristobal, Venezuela again found human remains in Vargas' possession. This time, at least ten skulls and fresh entrails were found. Vargas admitted eating the bodies, but denied murder charges, saying the bodies were given to him. This statement led to conjecture that Vargas was being used to cover up an organ trafficking operation. Vargas was homeless and already known to be mentally unstable. During an interview, Vargas claimed that eating people was like eating pears. Vargas is confined to a mental institution.
2. Kevin Ray Underwood
Kevin Ray Underwood was arrested in April 2006 for the murder of 10-year-old Jamie Bolin in Purcell, Oklahoma. Although there is no evidence that Underwood actually cannibalized the body, police found meat tenderizer and barbecue skewers among the tools used to commit the murder. Underwood confessed to the murder and his plans to eat Bolin's flesh. His videotaped confession is full of gruesome details.
3. Robert Maudsley
Robert Maudsley committed his first murder in 1974. He sold sexual services to support his drug addiction, and killed one of his clients. Maudsley was sent to a hospital for the criminally insane. In 1977, he and another inmate took a third inmate hostage for nine hours before authorities could break into the cell. The victim, a pedophile, had been tortured and killed. His skull was cracked open and a part of his brain was missing. A spoon in the skull led guards to believe Maudsley had eaten part of his victim. He was convicted of manslaughter and sent to Wakefield prison, where he soon killed two more men before being sent to solitary confinement. In 1983, a special cell was constructed for Maudsley at Wakefield prison, where he is held in solitary confinement behind glass with no human contact. Food is passed to him through a slot. This cell is believed to be the model for Hannibal Lecter's enclosure in The Silence of the Lambs.
4. Issei Sagawa
Japanese student Issei Sagawa studied at the Sorbonne in Paris and became infatuated with Dutch student RenÃ©e Hartevelt in 1981. Instead of courting her, he shot her in the back of the neck. Then Sagawa lived out a fantasy he'd had since childhood as he cut her flesh and ate it raw. He then had sexual intercourse with Hartevelt's body, cut it into pieces, put some of the flesh in his refrigerator for later, and stuffed the rest into suitcases to dispose of at nearby Bois de Boulogne park, where he was noticed. Police retrieved Hartevelt's body parts and arrested Sagawa a few days later. Sagawa confessed to the murder. He was held for two years, then committed to a hospital for the criminally insane. While there, he wrote his autobiography In the Fog, which became a best seller in Japan. Sagawa was deported to Japan, where he underwent mental examinations and was found sane. Japanese officials could not prosecute him because France did not send the necessary paperwork. By 1986, he was a free man, and willing to talk about what he did to RenÃ©e Hartevelt. Sagawa is the "celebrity cannibal" of Japan. He has written more books, worked a short time as a restaurant critic, granted interviews, painted nudes, and even acted in porn films. In short, he is making a living off his crime.
5. Armin Meiwes
Armin Meiwes posted a personal ad online to solicit a victim for murder and cannibalism in 2001. Bernd Juergen Brandes, who did not know Meiwes, volunteered to be his victim through a German chatroom. The two met and carried out the plan, which is documented in gruesome detail. Meiwes consumed the remains of Brandes over several months. He was reported to police after posting another personal ad. Meiwes was convicted of manslaughter amid questions of whether a murder victim can give consent. He was retried in 2006 and convicted of murder, and sentenced to life in prison.
6. Jeffrey Dahmer
In the summer of 1991, Jeffrey Dahmer was on probation after serving time for fondling a young boy, but his overworked probation officer never visited his Milwaukee apartment. Police were called when a 14-year-old boy tried to escape Dahmer's clutches, but Dahmer convinced officers that the boy was an adult and the situation was a lover's quarrel. They left Konerak Sinthasomphone, who did not speak English, in Dahmer's hands. He was never seen alive again. When another victim, Tracey Edwards ran screaming from Dahmer's apartment, police investigated and found a house of horrors. In Dahmer's apartment were body parts belonging to 11 people. Some were found in the refrigerator and freezer, some packed into a barrel of acid, and some were dried and cleaned to be souvenirs. In his confession, Dahmer alluded to cannibalism and sexual acts with the deceased bodies, activities he expanded on in a 1994 interview. Dahmer pleaded insanity but was convicted and sentenced to life terms for each of 15 murders. He later pleaded guilty to another murder in Ohio. In 1994, another prison inmate bludgeoned Dahmer to death with an iron bar.
Researching my extensive list of modern cannibals is psychologically exhausting. This look at cannibalism will continue next week.
Update: see part two of this post, 6 More Cannibal Killers.