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6 More Cannibal Killers

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In comparison to the worldwide murder rate, cases of cannibalism are rare, but they stand out because of the horror they instill in the rest of us. In addition to the six cases featured in the post 6 Horrifying Modern Cannibals, I found these six cannibal stories from all over the world.

1. Nikolai Dzhurmongaliev

Nikolai Dzhurmongaliev eventually became known as "the Metal Fang". He worked as a laborer in Alma-Alta in Kazakhstan, which was part of the Soviet Union in 1980, the year a rash of disappearances gripped the town. Dzhurmongaliev was constantly trying to pick up women, many who were never seen again. He threw parties for his friends in which he served generous dishes of meat. Two men who were invited to his home found body parts and alerted authorities. After his arrest, he claimed he had killed many prostitutes, ate their flesh, and also served them cooked to his friends. Authorities linked 47 disappearances to the Metal Fang, and committed him to a mental institution. He escaped during transport in 1989 and was recaptured in 1991. Soviet authorities kept Dzhurmongaliev's two-year adventure a secret to avoid panic.

2. Surender Kohli

500moninder_pandher

The village of Nithari, Uttar Pradesh, India experienced a rash of disappearing children between 2004 and 2006, with a total of 38 missing. Prominent businessman Moninder Singh Pandher and his house servant Surender Kohli were arrested when the skeletal remains of 17 children were found in a large culvert behind Pandher's home. Local residents found the first evidence and contacted the local welfare agency to investigate because they suspected a police cover up. The servant Kohli confessed to murdering six children and one adult after sexually assaulting them, then eating some victim's livers and other body parts. Village residents protested as police took credit for the investigation, claiming their complaints had been ignored until the bodies were found. Under pressure, two police supervisors were suspended and six officers were fired. Both Pandher and Kohli were convicted of one murder and given death sentences in early 2009. In September, Pandher was acquitted by an appeals court, but may still face charges for other victims. Kohli's conviction was upheld.

3. Alferd Packer

211AlferPackerThe curious case of Alferd Packer is debated to this day. Packer answered the call of the Colorado gold rush in 1873 and set out from Utah with a group of men bound for the Los Pinos Indian Agency in Colorado. A blizzard trapped Packer and five companions and they ran out of supplies. In April of 1874, Packer met up with other travelers that had split from the group before the blizzard. His story changed several times. Packer claimed that his companions were forced by hunger to eat those who had died of exposure, and he was the last survivor. However, Packer had possessions of the deceased men, and when the bodies were found they showed signs of a struggle. Packer then claimed self-defense and later confessed to murder, but escaped before his trial. Captured nine years later, he again confessed and was found guilty of the murder of one man. His death sentence was vacated on a technicality. Packer was tried again in 1886 for the murder of the four others and sentenced to forty years. He was paroled by the governor of Colorado in 1907 and died a free man a few years later.

4. Sergey Gavrilov

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27-year-old Sergey Gavrilov of Samara, Russia murdered his mother because she refused to give him money, assuming he would spent it on vodka and gambling. He then took the money and spent it as she thought he would. On returning to his mother's apartment two days later, he was again out of money and soon ran out of food. The body of 55-year-old Lyubov was out on the balcony, frozen, so Gavrilov removed her legs and cooked them to eat over a month's time. Gavrilov was arrested after the body was found (minus the legs) and convicted in 2009. Gavrilov was sentenced to 15 years in prison, but the judge reduced the sentence by nine months because the convict was starving at the time he decided to eat his mother.

5. Tsutomu Miyazaki

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Tsutomu Miyazaki killed four little girls in Saitama Prefecture, Japan in 1988 and 1989. He also sexually molested their corpses and in at least one case drank blood and ate the hands. The victims were between four and seven years old. Miyazaki also sent taunting letters to the families, going so far as to send ashes and teeth to one victim's parents. He was caught molesting another girl in July of 1989 and arrested. Police found pictures of the victims and body parts in Miyazaki's home. His trial began in 1990, but psychiatric evaluations delayed his sentencing until 1997. Miyazaki's death sentence was appealed until 2006, and he was hanged for his crimes in 2008.

6. Albert Fish

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Albert Fish was a house painter with strange sexual appetites in New York City. In 1928, he answered a classified ad placed by the family of 18-year-old Edward Budd, who was looking for a job. Fish was attracted to Edward, but decided his 10-year-old sister Grace would be an easier victim. Fish, who went under the name Frank Howard at the time, offered to take Grace to a birthday party, from which she never returned. Six years later, Fish sent a horrifying letter to the Budd family explaining that he kidnapped the little girl in order to eat her flesh, which he did over a period of nine days. Police traced the stationery used in the letter to the boarding house Fish had recently left, and arrested him when he returned for his mail. Fish confessed to the murder of Grace Budd and also that of 4-year-old Billy Gaffney in 1927. Fish pleaded insanity and relied on his cannibalism and sexual perversions to prove his instability, but a jury found him guilty in 1935. He later confessed to murdering 8-year-old Francis McDonnell in 1924. Fish is also suspected in several other missing child cases. Hamilton Albert Fish was executed by electric chair on January 16, 1936.

See also: 6 Horrifying Modern Cannibals.

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5 Dubious Historical Antidotes for Poison (and What Actually Works)
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An artificial bezoar stone from Goa, India
Wellcome Images // CC BY 4.0

When it comes to their health, humans will believe just about anything. In this extract from the new book Quackery: A Brief History of the Worst Ways to Cure Everything, authors Lydia Kang, MD, and Nate Pedersen discuss some of the more questionable ways people once tried to protect themselves from poison—whether or not the methods actually worked.

Poison is everywhere. Naturally or unnaturally, it can be in the soil (arsenic), in the air (carbon monoxide), in your drinks (lead), and in your food (cyanide). With so much danger around, it’s no wonder humans have obsessed over finding a universal antidote—the one thing that could save us from all toxins. Imagine you’re a medieval prince about to inherit the throne. Chances are, there are a lot of power-hungry wannabes waiting in the wings. A little arsenic or hemlock might be your best friend or your worst nightmare. Just in case, best have an antidote on standby.

For millennia, a certain amount of magical thinking was employed when arming oneself against poison because science was inconveniently slow to catch up. So grab your handy unicorn horn and a bezoar, and let’s take a look.

1. BEZOARS

Bezoars have been used for centuries as antidotes to poisons. A bezoar is solid mass of undigested food, plant fibers, or hair found in the digestive tracts of animals, including deer, porcupines, fish, and, yes, humans. Anyone with a cat is familiar with the less-cool feline version: hairballs.

Bezoars and other stone-like items created by animals often had a good story behind them. Legends told of deer that would eat poisonous snakes and become immune or cry tears that solidified into poison-curing stones. First-century Arabic author al-Birumi claimed bezoars could protect against one poison called “the snot of Satan,” which we hope never ever to encounter. By the 12th century, when Europe became plagued with, uh, plagues, the bezoar crept into pharmacopeias as panaceas and alexipharmics (poison antidotes).

Bezoars were a seductive notion for the rich and royal, who were at risk of assassination. The stones were often enclosed in bejeweled gold for display or worn as amulets. Indian bezoars, in particular, were sought for life-threatening fevers, poisonous bites, bleeding, jaundice, and melancholy. Consumers were also known to scrape off a bit of bezoar and add it to their drinks for heart health and kidney stones. These tonics were sometimes adulterated with toxic mercury or antimony, which caused vomiting and diarrhea, making buyers think they were effective.

But were they? One team of researchers soaked bezoars in an arsenic-laced solution and found that the stones absorbed the arsenic or that the poison was neutralized. Hard to say if it worked well enough to cure a fatal dose. Ambroise Paré, one of the preeminent French physicians of the 16th century, was also a doubter. The king’s cook, who’d been stealing silver, was given the choice between hanging or being Paré’s lab rat. He chose the latter. After the cook consumed poison, Paré looked on as a bezoar was stuffed down his throat. Six hours later, he died wracked with pain. Perhaps he chose ... poorly?

2. MITHRIDATES

This antidote was named after Mithridates VI, the king of Pontus and Armenia Minor. Born in 134 BCE, he pretty much invented the phrase “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” by consuming poisons daily to prevent his own assassination. His royal home was stocked with stingray spines, toxic mushrooms, scorpions, mineral poisons, and a poisonous plant–filled garden. He was so unpoisonable that after his son took over his kingdom and he faced execution, he couldn’t even commit suicide by poison! He begged a guard to stab him to death. (It worked.)

Though the king’s actual recipe for the antidote is nowhere to be found, versions began to circulate after his death, and they became synonymous with the king himself. Compounds with lengthy and expensive ingredient lists prevailed, including iris, cardamom, anise, frankincense, myrrh, ginger, and saffron. In the first century, Pliny the Elder snarkily remarked, “The Mithridatic antidote is composed of fifty-four ingredients ... Which of the gods, in the name of Truth, fixed these absurd proportions? ... It is plainly a showy parade of the art, and a colossal boast of science.”

Showy or not, people would take the extensive mix of herbs, pound them together with honey, and eat a nut-sized portion to cure themselves. At least it endowed them with expensive-smelling breath.

3. HORNS

An apothecary shop sign in the shape of a unicorn
An ivory pharmacy sign in the shape of a unicorn's head
Wellcome Images // CC BY 4.0

Unicorn horns have been considered a part of antidote legend since the mythical beast galloped into literature around 300 BCE. For centuries afterward, real earthly beasts would sacrifice their lives and their horns to slake our thirst for the miraculous, nonexistent animal, including rhinoceroses, narwhals, and oryx. Even fossilized ammonites were used. It was believed that drinking vessels made of such horns might neutralize poisons, and wounds could be cured by holding them close by. In the 16th century, Mary, Queen of Scots reportedly used a unicorn horn to protect her from poisoning. Too bad it didn’t prevent her beheading.

4. PEARLS

Pearls have long been thought to be powerful antidotes. A beautiful, rare gem created by the homely oyster, a pearl is born out of annoyance (the mollusk secretes iridescent nacre to cover an irritant, like a parasite or grain of sand). Pretty as they are, they’re about as useful as the chalky antacid tablets on your bedside table; both are chiefly made of calcium carbonate. Good for a stomachache after some spicy food, but not exactly miraculous.

Pearl powder has been used in traditional Chinese medicine to treat a variety of diseases, and Ayurvedic physicians used it as an antidote in the Middle Ages. It was also reported to make people immortal. An old Taoist recipe recommended taking a long pearl and soaking it in malt, “serpent’s gall,” honeycomb, and pumice stone. When softened, it would be pulled like taffy and cut into bite-sized pieces to eat, and voilà! You would suddenly no longer need food to stay alive. Cleopatra famously drank down a large and costly pearl dissolved in wine vinegar, though in that case she wasn’t avoiding poison. She didn’t want to lose a bet with Antony—which might have fatally injured her pride.

5. THERIAC

Albarello vase for theriac, Italy, 1641
A vase for theriac, Italy, 1641
Wellcome Images // CC BY 4.0

Theriac was an herbal concoction created in the first century by Emperor Nero’s physician, Andromachus, who was reported to have Mithridates’s secret notes. It was a mashed formula of about 70 ingredients, including cinnamon, opium, rose, iris, lavender, and acacia in a honey base. In the 12th century, theriac made in Venice was branded as particularly special, and Venetian treacle (derived from a Middle English translation of theriac) became a hot commodity. Its public, dramatic production often attracted curious crowds.

By the 18th century, cheaper golden syrup was substituted for honey. As treacle began to lose its luster as a treatment, its definition as an herbal remedy disappeared from common vernacular. But the sweet syrup remained. Which is why when we think of treacle, we think of treacle tarts, not a fancy means of saving ourselves from a deathly poisoning.

BONUS: WHAT ACTUALLY WORKS

Thankfully, science has brought us a wide range of antidotes for many items we shouldn’t be exposed to in dangerous quantities, if at all. N-acetylcysteine, fondly referred to as NAC by doctors, saves us from acetaminophen overdoses. Ethanol can treat antifreeze poisoning. Atropine, ironically one of the main components of plants in the toxic nightshade family (such as mandrake), can treat poisoning from some dangerous fertilizers and chemical nerve agents used as weapons. For years, poisonings were treated with emetics, though it turns out that plain old carbon—in the form of activated charcoal—can adsorb poisons (the poisons stick to the surface of the charcoal) in the digestive system before they’re dissolved and digested by the body.

As long as the natural world and its humans keep making things to kill us off, we’ll keep developing methods to not die untimely deaths.

We’ll just leave the fancy hairballs off the list.

The cover of the book Quackery: A Brief History of the Worst Ways to Cure Everything
Workman Publishing

Excerpt from Quackery: A Brief History of the Worst Ways to Cure Everything by Lydia Kang, MD and Nate Pedersen/Workman Publishing. Used with permission.

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By Napoleon Sarony - Library of Congress, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons
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25 of Oscar Wilde's Wittiest Quotes
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By Napoleon Sarony - Library of Congress, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

On October 16, 1854, Oscar Fingal O'Flahertie Wills Wilde was born in Dublin, Ireland. He would go on to become one of the world's most prolific writers, dabbling in everything from plays and poetry to essays and fiction. Whatever the medium, his wit shone through.

1. ON GOD

"I think that God, in creating man, somewhat overestimated his ability."

2. ON THE WORLD AS A STAGE

"The world is a stage, but the play is badly cast."

3. ON FORGIVENESS

"Always forgive your enemies; nothing annoys them so much."

4. ON GOOD VERSUS BAD

"It is absurd to divide people into good and bad. People are either charming or tedious."

5. ON GETTING ADVICE

"The only thing to do with good advice is pass it on. It is never any use to oneself."

6. ON HAPPINESS

"Some cause happiness wherever they go; others whenever they go."

7. ON CYNICISM

"What is a cynic? A man who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing."

8. ON SINCERITY

"A little sincerity is a dangerous thing, and a great deal of it is absolutely fatal."

9. ON MONEY

"When I was young I thought that money was the most important thing in life; now that I am old I know that it is."

10. ON LIFE'S GREATEST TRAGEDIES

"There are only two tragedies in life: one is not getting what one wants, and the other is getting it."

11. ON HARD WORK

"Work is the curse of the drinking classes."

12. ON LIVING WITHIN ONE'S MEANS

"Anyone who lives within their means suffers from a lack of imagination."

13. ON TRUE FRIENDS

"True friends stab you in the front."

14. ON MOTHERS

"All women become like their mothers. That is their tragedy. No man does. That's his."

15. ON FASHION

"Fashion is a form of ugliness so intolerable that we have to alter it every six months."

16. ON BEING TALKED ABOUT

"There is only one thing in life worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about."

17. ON GENIUS

"Genius is born—not paid."

18. ON MORALITY

"Morality is simply the attitude we adopt towards people whom we personally dislike."

19. ON RELATIONSHIPS

"How can a woman be expected to be happy with a man who insists on treating her as if she were a perfectly normal human being?"

20. ON THE DEFINITION OF A "GENTLEMAN"

"A gentleman is one who never hurts anyone’s feelings unintentionally."

21. ON BOREDOM

"My own business always bores me to death; I prefer other people’s."

22. ON AGING

"The old believe everything, the middle-aged suspect everything, the young know everything."

23. ON MEN AND WOMEN

"I like men who have a future and women who have a past."

24. ON POETRY

"There are two ways of disliking poetry; one way is to dislike it, the other is to read Pope."

25. ON WIT

"Quotation is a serviceable substitute for wit."

And one bonus quote about Oscar Wilde! Dorothy Parker said it best in a 1927 issue of Life:

If, with the literate, I am
Impelled to try an epigram,
I never seek to take the credit;
We all assume that Oscar said it.

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