Mental Floss

The Quick 10: 10 Instances of Cannibalism

Stacy Conradt
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Today marks the anniversary of the rescue of the cannibalistic Donner Party (in case you're not familiar, they're #1 on the list below). But the Donner Party is definitely not the first - or last - to turn to dining on human flesh when in dire straits. Or, you know, for entertainment. I've tried to steer clear of modern serial killers like Jeffrey Dahmer, though no tale of cannibalism is particularly pleasant.

1. The Donner Party. In 1846, the Donner Family plus some friends and hired hands headed west from Illinois to California. They had almost completed the journey when they ran into some severe weather around Truckee, California, and decided to set up camp for the rest of the winter until they could make it the rest of the way. It was a cruel winter, though "“ provisions ran out and people were dying left and right. Help finally arrived on this day in 1847, but they couldn't take everyone at once. By the time the Second Relief came in a week later, the remaining survivors had started to eat some of the dead bodies.

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4. Lon Nil. In 1970, the brother of the Cambodian Prime Minister was killed in a riot. Nil was a politician as well, and was visiting the town of Kampong Cham when his brother announced a plan to depose King Sihanouk. Sihanouk encouraged people to riot and revolt and join the Khmer Rouge, and the people of Kampong Cham took him at his word and killed Lon Nil, then ripped out his liver and had a restaurant cook it up so they could eat it.

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10. The Uruguayan Rugby team that the movie Alive was based on. No doubt you're familiar with this one, but I had to include it. On Friday, October 13 1972 (where was this last week when I was compiling my list of Friday the 13th events?), the plane carrying Stella Maris College's rugby team crashed in the Andes. Seventeen of the 45 people on the plane either died upon impact or died of injuries sustained in the crash the following day. Eight more died in an avalanche on October 29. After quickly depleting the small amounts of food that had been on the plane, everyone collectively decided that they would need to eat the dead bodies of their friends in order to survive. And it was a good thing they did: the nourishment gave some of the men the energy needed to hike for days to try to find some help. Finally, in mid-December, they spotted cows roaming and then a few men on horses. The remaining 16 survivors back at the camp were finally rescued on December 22.

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