Here are just three of the many Wild American West Cannibals

The Kentucky Cannibal

Boone Helm First let start with Boone Helm, who was a mountain man and gunfighter of the American West known as the Kentucky Cannibal.

Helm was also a serial killer who gained his nickname for his opportunistic and unrepentant proclivity for the consumption of human flesh taken from the bodies of enemies and traveling companions.

While this was usually done in survival situations, Helm sometimes took flesh in preparation of being in a survival situation.

Example of one of these events was a trip that went bad.  On one tragic trip across the west, the harsh winter weather turned against the travelers of Helm group.  One by one, the weaker of the group began to fall, and were left to perish. Eventually only Helm and one other, a man named Burton, were left. But, almost within reach of the Fort, Burton fell and was left in an abandoned cabin.

Helm continued on to the old stockade, but found it abandoned for the winter. All hopes of finding food there were ruined. Helm returned to where he had left Burton. He was gathering firewood when he heard a pistol-shot. Burton had killed himself.

The starving Helm feasted upon the body of his companion, eating one leg. He wrapped up the other piece and continued eastward. Prior to departing on the march, Helm had admitted to practicing cannibalism in the past and said if it became necessary, he would do it again.

Helm was later found at an Indian camp by John W. Powell, a soldier, geologist and frontier explorer. Powell soon learned Helm richly deserved his notorious reputation. Nonetheless, Powell gave him food and clothes and took him to the Salt Lake City Mormon settlements. Helm never gave him as much as a thank you, although he was reputed to be carrying a bag of money containing over $1,400.

In Salt Lake City Helm bragged about his exploits and spent his money. Some Mormons hired Helm to kill a couple of men they wanted removed, which he did without so much as a flicker of compassion. But, once the dastardly deeds were done, the Mormons also wanted him to disappear.

He was finally forced to leave Salt Lake City and he moved back to California where he killed a man who had taken him in and given him shelter.While there he also shot an unarmed gunfighter known as Dutch Fred in cold blood. Forced into the wilderness again Helm is alleged to have murdered and eaten a companion.

Later he signed on with Henry Plummer and his gang of outlaws. But, it wasn’t long before he and four other gang members were captured, arrested, and tried in secret. The Montana territory vigilantes hung Helm and the others in what is now Virginia City, Montana on January 14 1846 before a crowd of over 6,000 spectators. Upon watching one gang member being hanged, Helm remarked “Kick away old fellow. My turn next. I’ll be in Hell with you in a minute.”

When it came his turn Helm allegedly yelled “Every man for his principles! Hurrah for Jeff Davis! Let ‘er rip!” and then jumped off of the hangman’s box. Boone Helm is buried in Virginia City’s Boot Hill Cemetery. It will never be known how many men Helm may have murdered or eaten.


The Colorado Cannibal


Then there is Alfred Packer, also known as The Colorado Cannibal. Packer was serving as a guide for six men hiking in Colorado. When the men went missing in a snowstorm and Packer showed up alone and seemingly unfazed, people were suspicious

Packer was arrested and taken in for questioning. The tale he told then was quite different: Packer said that while they were stranded, Israel Swan (the oldest of the group) died and the others ate his body. Humphrey died next, of natural causes. Then Miller died of an undisclosed accident.

Each of the bodies were eaten by the survivors. Then, according to Packer, Shannon Bell shot Noon in order to eat him. Then Bell tried to kill Packer as well, so Packer killed Bell in self-defense. Not long after telling his story, Packer escaped from jail and wasn’t seen again until 1883. Meanwhile, the remains of the other prospectors were found, showing evidence of violence. However, they were all lying near each other, and their feet were bound with strips of blanket.

Later Packer confessed to eating some human flesh, but it’s still pretty unclear what happened.


Liver-Eating Johnson


And who can forgetLiver-Eating Johnson, whose wife was killed by members of the Crow tribe.   Johnson spent the next twenty years killing something like 300 Crows and eating their livers.

Rumors, legends, and campfire tales abound about Johnson. Perhaps chief among them is this one: In 1847, his wife, a member of the Flathead American Indian tribe, was killed by a young Crow brave and his fellow hunters, which prompted Johnson to embark on a vendetta against the tribe

The legend says that he would cut out and eat the liver of each man killed.  This was an insult to Crow because the Crow believed the liver to be vital if one was to go on to the afterlife.

In any case, he eventually became known as “Liver-Eating Johnson”.

The story of how he got his name was written down by a diarist at the time.

There were three Johnson’s, nicknames were commonplace, and with Johnson’s show of eating the liver, he received his name.

One tale ascribed to Johnson (while other sources ascribe it to Boone Helm) was of being ambushed by a group of Blackfoot warriors in the dead of winter on a foray to sell whiskey to his Flathead kin, a trip that would have been over five hundred miles.

The Blackfoot planned to sell him to the Crow, his mortal enemies, for a handsome price.

He was stripped to the waist, tied with leather thongs and put in a teepee with only one, very inexperienced guard.

Johnson managed to break through the straps, then knocked out his young guard with a kick, took his knife and scalped him, then quickly cut off one of his legs.

He made his escape into the woods, surviving by eating the Blackfoot’s leg, until he reached the cabin of Del Que, his trapping partner, a journey of about two hundred miles.

Johnson made peace with the Crow, who became “his brothers”, and his personal vendetta against them finally ended after twenty-five years and scores of Crow warriors had fallen.

The West, however, was still a very violent and territorial place, particularly during the Plains Indian Wars of the mid-19th century.

He joined the Union Army in St. Louis in 1864 (Company H, 2nd Colorado Cavalry) as a private, and was honorably discharged the following year. During the 1880s he was appointed deputy sheriff in Coulson, Montana, and a town marshal in Red Lodge, Montana. He was listed as five foot, eleven and three-quarter inches tall according to government records.

In his time, he was a sailor, scout, soldier, gold seeker, hunter, trapper, whiskey peddler, guide, deputy, constable, builder of log cabins, and any other source of income producing labor he could find.

His final residence was in a veterans’ hospital in California. He was there for exactly one month before dying.



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One Response to American Cannibals of the Wild Wild West

  1. Cyberavenger says:

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