Scary Urban Legends | Mr. Sawney Bean

As legend has it, Scotland has its own cannibalistic urban legend of a man named Mr. Alexander "Sawney" Bean and his family of cannibals from the 15th century. The rumor is that Sawney Bean was a tanner by trade. He was born in East Lothian and later moved to Bennane Cave by Ballantrae Bay in Ayrshire, Scotland. There he supported his wife by ambushing travelers on the nearby roads that connected the villages.

Unable to hide his crimes, he resorted to murdering the victims and then eating the bodies to sustain a high protein diet for him and his wife. They produced 14 little cannibals of their own, who grew up to produce even more human flesh eating thugs. The family continued for over two decades while the towns dealt with finding decaying yet preserved body parts on the surrounding beaches as well as an extremely long list of missing persons.

At this point the Bean family of cannibals grew so big in numbers the Bean Army was able to attack larger groups of people at one time--sometimes as many as half a dozen people would be attacked in a militaristic style by the men in the family and then brought home to the women to prepare for preservation and salting.

This went on until one day a couple were attacked coming home from the fair. The woman was pulled off of her horse and disemboweled while the other group hadn't pulled the man from his horse yet. He drove his horse into the group as another group of about 20 people came upon the scene. They Bean Army was outnumbered and retreated back to its cave. The husband told his story to the Chief Magistrate of Glasgow who turned to King James I. It wasn't long before the King and his army of 400 men and a pack of dogs, as well as a group of local volunteers, searched the countryside for the attackers. The dogs finally picked up the scent of human flesh while passing the Bennane Cave.

As they struggled through the twisting and turning tunnels of the cave, they passed rows and rows of human body parts hanging from the walls and ceiling, much like meat in a butcher shop. They found piles of jewelry and clothing as well as human bones from previous meals. It must have been horrifying.

Eventually, all 48 of the entire Sawney Bean army, were arrested and brought to the King or Edinburgh. They were sentenced to death. The men were drawn and quartered while the women watched. The remaining women were burned to death at the stake.

Whether or not the tale of Sawney Bean is true, some people think it is simply a fiction story and created to humiliate the Scots by the British. Some believe the tale in its entirety while others think it loosely based on the story of the Perth butcher who turned cannibal. Andrew Christie was butcher who lived during the time of famine. He and the other people who lived in the Grampian Mountains turned to cannibalism to survive. They also lived in a cave and ambushed people then murdered them for food. They were eventually caught by an army with Christie escaping without a trace.


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