“they were cannibals, and they were going to eat him” – Texas teen arrested for killing family

A Texas teen has been arrested on murder charges, accused of slaughtering his parents and two siblings — including a 5-year-old brother — because he believed they were all “cannibals” planning to eat him.

Cesar Olalde, 18, was arrested after a standoff with police on Tuesday May 23 in suburban Texarkana and charged with capital murder — punishable by the death penalty or life in prison without parole.

Police in the town of Nash — population about 3,800 — went to Olalde’s home after getting a report that a man had harmed his family and was threatening to kill himself.

When they arrived, they found the teen holed up, while family members were inside.

An affidavit by Nash Police Officer Craig Buster, said that the teen, barricaded inside, had called police, saying “he had pulled the trigger, and shot his family.”

After persuading Olalde to end his standoff and surrender, police went inside the home and found the bodies of his parents, Reuben Olalde and Aida Garcia, older sister, Lisbet Olalde, and 5-year-old brother, Oliver Olalde — all in a bathroom.

“It appeared as if the victims had been shot at various places in the residence and [had been dragged] to the bathroom,” according to the affidavit. Multiple spent cartridge casings were found throughout the home, and “blood spatter on multiple surfaces.”

The affidavit said Joseph Flieder, a colleague of Lisbet Olalde, had gone to the house because she’d missed work that day. He knocked on the door but got no response.

Flieder, together with a family member who had also arrived to check on the family, forced his way inside, where he was confronted by Cesar Olalde. The teen allegedly pointed a gun at the man several times and brandished a knife.

Flieder told responding police officers that Cesar Olalde said,

“he had killed his family because they were cannibals, and they were going to eat him”

Olalde was jailed on a $10 million bond.

Neighbour Robert Ward described the victims as a “beautiful family” made up of “extremely nice” and “hardworking people.” He said the daughter had recently graduated from college and planned to become a teacher, and that Cesar was “such a good kid. He was going to get into an apprentice program to be a plumber.”

There is no actual cannibalism involved in this story (unless Cesar Olalde was right about his family, as suggested by several people online).

But what is interesting is the fear of cannibalism that must have been strong enough to drive him to this desperate act, killing those closest to him. There are clearly major mental problems involved, but that’s not a sufficient explanation. Why see them as cannibals – why not aliens or pirates or something else?

The terror of cannibalism relates directly to our experience as babies, when we are altricial – totally dependent on caregivers, for far longer than any other animal of similar size. We gestate as cannibals, eating from the placenta – our mother’s body. We are born and fed from a breast (usually human or bovine), which is more eating of the body. As we grow, we experience rage when our needs are not immediately recognised and satisfied, and this rage may be homicidal in nature (Freud called the first six months of a child’s life the “cannibalistic stage”). We want to eat our mother, and are terrified that, being so much larger and more powerful, she may feel like eating us first. We fear, in other words, reabsorption into the maternal body from which we emerged.

The only difference between eating human meat and that of other animals is that we fear consumption by other humans, whereas the animals we eat – cows, pigs, sheep, chickens, fish, etc, are generally herbivorous or gentle, peaceful animals. We don’t recognise this fear at a conscious level, but under stress or psychic collapse, we find ourselves back inside our mental image of Freud’s primal “cannibalistic phase”.

Indiana court upholds life sentence for man convicted of murder and cannibalism

On May 17, 2023, The Indiana Supreme Court in Indianapolis upheld the life sentence without parole for a 41-year-old Indiana man convicted of killing his ex-girlfriend and dismembering her body before partially eating several of her internal organs.

Joseph Oberhansley was convicted in September 2020 of murder and burglary in the slaying of 46-year-old Tammy Jo Blanton in Jeffersonville in September 2014. Clark Circuit Judge Vicki Carmichael sentenced Oberhansley to life in prison without parole, based on the jury’s recommendation.

Oberhansley’s legal team filed a brief for an appeal in June 2022. It is available at this link. His attorney, Victoria Casanova, argued before the court in April 2023 that her client’s mental health was not taken into consideration and that the jury did not return a proper verdict form in weighing aggravating and mitigating circumstances.

The opinion, written by Justice Christopher Goff, said the jury made “the necessary weighing determination.” Three other justices concurred and Justice Geoffrey Slaughter agreed in part.

The body of Blanton, 46, was found at her home the morning of Sept. 11, 2014, badly mutilated with more than 25 sharp force injuries and multiple blunt force injuries.

Jeffersonville Police reported that at approximately 9:30 a.m. on the morning of Sept. 11, 2014, officers responded to a call requesting a welfare check at Blanton’s home. Several hours earlier, Blanton had called 911 because an angry Oberhansley was upset about the end of their relationship—refusing to leave her home until ordered by several police officers.

Upon arriving at Blanton’s home, officers knocked on the door and Oberhansley answered. A detective on the scene noticed a cut on Oberhansley’s hand and searched him, finding in his pocket a brass knuckle and a knife that appeared to have hair and blood on it.

Investigators obtained a warrant for the home and inside the bathroom found a “big bloody mound of something in the bathtub.” It was Blanton’s body. She had been stabbed 25 times in the head, neck, and chest.

The body had also been extensively mutilated. The front portion of her skull, a portion of her brain, lung, and most of her heart had been removed. Further investigation revealed that parts of her organs were found on a dinner plate next to a frying pan, bloody knives, and a pair of tongs that had blood on them.

During a subsequent interview with police, Oberhansley “revealed to the detectives that he ate Tammy’s brain” and that he also “tried to pull the ‘third eye’ out with tongs,” police wrote. He also admitted to eating the organs that he removed from Blanton. Oberhansley was originally charged with murder, abuse of a corpse (because cannibalism is not a crime in 49 US states) and breaking and entering.

Oberhansley testified that two men had been at the victim’s home when he arrived around 4 a.m. that morning and said they were responsible for Blanton’s death. He said the men had knocked him out and that he awoke when police arrived.

Clark County Prosecutor Jeremy Mull told jurors Wednesday during opening statements in Oberhansley’s murder trial:

“Joseph Oberhansley butchered Tammy Blanton like you wouldn’t kill a livestock animal. But this lady died with dignity.”

Mull said Blanton locked herself in a bathroom before Oberhansley kicked a door down and attacked her — just one week after holding her captive and raping her. Oberhansley told police during a videotaped interview that Blanton “really wasn’t all that scared, surprisingly,” as if she knew she was about to die, Mull recalled. “In her last moments, she wasn’t going to give him the pleasure of seeing her scared,” the prosecutor said.

 A psychologist testified at trial that Oberhansley was “the most severely mentally ill person whose case she had reviewed,” Oberhansley’s defence attorney Cara Schaefer Wieneke wrote:

“It would be easy to look at the horrors visited upon Tammy and conclude they were simply the actions of a monster. But doing so would be reductive, and this Court’s 7(B) review must look deeper. This Court must consider his actions in the context of his profound mental illness.
There is also no question that Oberhansley was suffering from a severe mental illness when he committed this crime. What there is a question about, however, is whether Tammy would be alive today if Oberhansley were not so severely mentally ill. There are reasons to believe that she would. Because of that, Oberhansley asks this Court to find his sentence of life without parole is inappropriate.”

Oberhansley’s mental state was a recurring complication in the court process, in which he was found at different times competent and incompetent. For example, in 2017, his defence wrote that their client believed they were working for the devil, according to The Courier-Journal.

The case was originally declared a mistrial after witness testimony put forth information about Oberhansley’s past that parties had stipulated would not be introduced during the proceedings. For example, it was not specified in court that the defendant had spent a 12-year stint in a Utah prison for manslaughter because—while he was jealous and high on meth—he shot and killed his girlfriend Sabrina Elder, and shot his own mother (who later forgave him).

Oberhansley’s sister had grabbed his and Elder’s infant son. He shot at them, but missed. Then Oberhansley shot himself in the head. He survived, but a psychiatrist wrote he’d given himself a “partial lobotomy.” He pleaded guilty to a manslaughter charge, down from murder. His family was reluctant to take the stand, prosecutors said.

In his first trial over Blanton’s death, Oberhansley’s defence asserted that their client’s mental state was a major factor. Lawyer Bart Betteau cited horrifying details of the murder, saying that jurors would hear that Oberhansley believed Blanton was going to kill him and that she could hear his thoughts.

“Think about the process and say to yourself, is this someone who’s thinking right? His thought was that someone was after him.”

Oberhansley’s attorneys couldn’t mount an insanity defence, however. They lost their ability to do so in return for the state declining to seek the death penalty. The attorneys’ previous attempt to lodge an insanity defence was thwarted when Oberhansley filed a motion to withdraw it. He denied living with a mental illness.

Oberhansley is incarcerated at the New Castle Psychiatric Unit of the Indiana Department of Correction.

The most interesting part of this extended legal battle (nine years) from the point of view of Cannibal Studies is the statement from the prosecutor about the victim being “butchered… like you wouldn’t kill a livestock animal.” Philosophers struggle with the inconsistency of our social customs – we cherish dogs and cats, protect whales, but accept the butchery in mind-boggling numbers of cattle, sheep, pigs, chickens, and others. We know about the horrendous suffering in the slaughterhouse, but close our minds to it. We know that on top of its appalling cruelty, the meat industry is one of the largest sources of greenhouse emissions as well as a cause of several severe human health problems such as hypertension and colon cancer. Yet the meat industry remains exempt from much of the environmental and health debate that surrounds other issues. Stanley Cavell states that becoming part of a social contract requires becoming “conspirators”, agreeing implicitly what will be acceptable, disregarding its ethical conundrums. Such “perpetual failure of justice invites the threat of madness”.

Cannibals are routinely described as insane, as if their capricious psychotic episodes fully explain both their choices and the appalled revulsion of the rest of society. Oberhansley’s appeal described him as “detached from reality”. But the persistent portrayal of cannibalism as unthinkable and cannibals as insane relates to their refusal of the fissure between reality and the language able to describe it. The cannibal personifies ruthless attempts to satisfy voracious human appetites, while realising the animality of fellow humans; he puts the unthinkable into reality through the flesh and blood of his victim. His madness arises in the gap between the carefully expurgated language of the social contract and the reality of the world as a giant slaughterhouse.

Spanish influencer “practiced cannibalism”: eats part of her own knee

Cannibalism is usually defined as eating the flesh of another animal of the same species. In the case of humans, this of course means eating the flesh of another human. But sometimes people eat their own flesh. Is this still cannibalism, and is there anything wrong with it?

The answers usually given seem to be yes and yes. I agree that eating your own flesh is, by definition, a form of cannibalism, but I really cannot see what all the fuss is about. What about people that chew their fingernails, called onychophagia, or (oww!) their cuticles? Or perhaps more extreme is the fashion of eating placentas after childbirth – some women take them home and cook them, or there are companies that offer to sterilise and morcelise placentas and make pills from them. There is not, unfortunately, universal agreement on the supposed health benefits.

British social anthropologist Alfred Gell reported that in the 1970s he was conducting fieldwork among the Umeda people of West Sepik in Papua New Guinea, when he accidentally cut his finger and, as people often do, put it in his mouth to suck the wound. The locals were horrified and considered him a cannibal:

“the shocked countenances and expressions of disgust evinced by my Umeda companions told me soon enough…”

If Gell was thought a cannibal for sucking his own blood, what would the Umeda think of Spanish ‘influencer’ Paula Gonu, who announced that she ate some cartilage that was removed from her knee during surgery? In an interview with the Club 113 podcast, Gonu, who had opted for local anaesthesia, spoke of watching the doctor operate on her knee in real-time on a screen. After the doctor finished the procedure, the influencer said he asked her if she wanted to keep the part of her meniscus that he had removed. Gonu said yes and the doctor put the piece of cartilage in a small bottle filled with preservative.

Gonu explained that she had to undergo surgery to remove her meniscus (cartilage in the knee joint) following an injury. A week after the surgery, Gonu decided she wanted to eat the cartilage.

“I was talking with the boyfriend I had at the time, and I told him, ‘I want to eat it. It’s mine and I have to reinsert it into my body’. He asked, ‘But why do you want to eat it?’ I answered, ‘Why not? It’s not going to hurt me.’ So, then I made a Bolognese sauce, I added it in, and I ate it.”

Gonu previously shared the story in a viral TikTok last November, which has been viewed more than 4.3 million times, with the caption: “It didn’t give me super powers.” However, after Gonu retold the story on the Club 113 podcast, it entered the news cycle again.

Spanish media was quick to trumpet Gonu’s cannibalism. “Paula Gonu practiced cannibalism: She ate her own meniscus,” read one headline. Another headline from November, when the influencer originally shared the story, stated: “The rich eat meniscus.”

One Twitter user  called it “Bizarre”. This was one of the more moderate comments.

Autocannibalism or autosarcophagy is in a sense universal, in that we all consume dead cells from our tongue and cheeks all the time. But autocannibalism is not always voluntary. The Hungarian noblewoman Erzsébet Báthory (the one who allegedly used to bathe in the blood of virgins in the early 17th century) is supposed to have forced some of her servants to eat their own flesh. In 1934, Claude Neal, a 23-year-old African-American, was brutally lynched by a group of white men who had stormed the county jail in Brewton, Alabama where he was being held after confessing to the murder of a 20-year-old white woman in Greenwood, Florida. One member of the mob told an NAACP investigator that during the lynching, which lasted ten-to-twelve hours, the men cut off Neal’s penis and testicles and forced him to eat them. Other incidents of coerced autocannibalism were reported in the years following the 1991 Haitian coup d’état. and in the 1990s, young people in Sudan were forced to eat their own ears.

As for the other kind, voluntary autocannibalism, there are many cases documented, well before Paula Gonu thought of the idea. A recent one was the case of Incrediblyshinyshart who told Vice that he had served his friends tacos, made from his own amputated leg.

So Gonu’s idea was far from original. But nor is there much wrong with it. Cannibalism is frowned upon when it involves disturbing a corpse, and definitely disapproved when it involves killing someone as prey. But Gonu did none of that – she merely ate a part of herself, with her own full consent, instead of throwing it away. You could almost say she was into recycling.

The cannibal weeping demon: Akira Kurosawa’s DREAMS (1990)

Dreams (夢, Yume) is a 1990 magical realist anthology of eight stories, written and directed by Akira Kurosawa, inspired by his recurring dreams. An international co-production of Japan and the United States, Dreams was made with assistance from George Lucas and Steven Spielberg.

Akira Kurosawa (Japanese: 黒澤 明, March 23, 1910 – September 6, 1998) was a Japanese filmmaker and painter who directed thirty films in a career over fifty years. Kurosawa directed around one film per year throughout the 1950s and early 1960s, including a number of classics which were often adapted by other directors. These included Rashomon (1950), Ikiru (1952), Seven Samurai (1954) – which was remade in 1960 by John Sturges as The Magnificent Seven, Throne of Blood (1957), Yojimbo (1961) and High and Low (1963). He is widely considered one of the most important and influential filmmakers in the history of cinema.

Kurosawa’s bold, dynamic style was strongly influenced by Western cinema, yet distinct. In 1990, the year Dreams was released, he accepted the Academy Award for Lifetime Achievement.

Dreams is his most personal work, taken from his own life and unconscious mind. He addresses themes such as childhood, spirituality, art, death, and the mistakes and transgressions made by humans against nature. The episodes within Dreams do not have a single narrative, but are the fragmentary adventures of a “surrogate Kurosawa” (often recognizable by the character wearing Kurosawa’s trademark hat) through eight different segments, or “dreams”, each one with a title. Each is more a fairy tale than a dream in the filmic sense.

A child sees a forbidden fox wedding ceremony and is told he must suicide, another weeps as he witnesses the spirits of a peach orchard that has been cut down by his family, reflecting the human war on nature.

The fear of nature fighting back is a bleak dream of men struggling through a mountain blizzard. The horror of war is demonstrated as a Japanese officer is confronted by the ghosts of his annihilated platoon.

Our understanding of nature is questioned in “Crows”, the only dream not made in Japanese, where Vincent van Gogh is portrayed by American filmmaker Martin Scorsese, with a broad New York accent, and the protagonist travels through the images that fill van Gogh’s tortured imagination.

Our abuse of nature comes to its logical conclusion as we see nuclear power points explode behind Mount Fuji, human ingenuity able to create but not control these forces; in the end, all they can do is colour the toxic pollution so people know what is killing them.

The Weeping Demon” is the seventh dream, and of particular interest in Cannibal Studies. It shows the aftermath of nuclear devastation, a fear that has haunted us all for eighty years, particularly the Japanese, who were the first and only people to experience nuclear weapon attacks.

A man is wandering around a misty, bleak mountainous terrain. He meets an oni (demon or ogre), who is a mutated human with a single horn on his head. Oni are known for indulging in murder and cannibalism when they get the chance. They are typically portrayed as hulking figures with one or more horns growing out of their heads, massive teeth, and occasionally a third eye in the centre of the forehead.

The demon tells him that there was a nuclear conflagration, which resulted in the destruction of nature and animals, the growth of dandelions taller than humans, and horns sprouting on the heads of those humans left. The horns cause them to feel excruciating pain each evening; but they cannot die, so they howl in agony all night. Many of these demons were formerly millionaires and government officials, who are now suffering through a hell befitting their sins.

Even in this apocalyptic post-war world, the social hierarchies continue to oppress – the demons with two or three horns eat those with only one.

“There’s no food! We feed on ourselves. The weak ones go first. It’s about my turn now. Even here we have grades. One-horn demons like myself always get eaten by those who have two or three horns. Before they were powerful and pretentious. And now they still throw their weight around as demons.

The demon that the man meets is waiting to be eaten, seeing this as an escape from his agony and nagging hunger, but also as a punishment – before the wars, he was a farmer who poured milk into the river and buried vegetables to maintain market prices. He warns the man to flee, but when the man asks where he should go, the demon just asks if he too wants to become a demon. The terrified man runs away with the demon in pursuit.

The film finishes with a meditation on death, the final and irrevocable return to nature. Laying down our technology, our appetites and our bodies is celebrated – peace at last.

Condemned as disjointed by some critics, the film has a logic to it, a dream logic, in which things are out of place yet seem quite natural. It starts with a little boy witnessing the wedding procession of the foxes, a slow funereal procession that is forbidden for human viewing, and finishes in a village that has spurned technology and progress in favour of clean air and water and long, peaceful lives, where we witness a funeral procession that is pure colourful celebration.

Dreams is a sumptuous, thoughtful, dramatic, film from which I found it hard to look away. Although it is one of Kurosawa’s last films, it shows him at the height of his power and creativity, and offers a glimpse into his mind, just as he glimpses the mind of van Gogh.

Dreams is now a classic, as are all Kurosawa’s works, but it currently has only 66% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, proving that a lot of people can’t be bothered listening to (or even watching) other people’s dreams. The New York Times critic called it:

“…a collection of short, sometimes fragmentary films that are less like dreams than fairy tales of past, present and future”

But dreams, like the evening news, are always fragmentary – narratives jump from tragedy to kitsch to humour. Dreams often reflect and amplify our repressed emotions and fears, and fairy tales are mythic versions of dreams. Many, perhaps most, fairy tales include cannibalistic giants, wicked step-parents, witches and ogres, such as Little Red Riding Hood, Hansel and Gretel or The Juniper Tree. Children wander, lost and hungry, through brooding forests and come across strange and fantastic creatures. Dreams reveal our repressed fears about the human attacks on nature and each other, the struggles and conflicts that lead to monsters or demons.

In dreams, we lose our rational sense of causality – anything can happen. We get lost, like in fairy tales, in forests or snowstorms or in the mind of Vincent van Gogh, seeing the world the way he had to, consuming it and reimagining it before he could paint it. We meet ghosts of people who don’t know they are dead. Nuclear power plants explode, a fear on everyone’s mind in 1990, four years after The Chernobyl disaster. In dreams, ethics become aesthetics, to quote from Hannibal.  Dreams, like fairy tales, are episodic and disjointed, and the film captures this brilliantly.

Although fairy tales date back centuries, they remain ever popular, with new versions or completely new stories released to reflect the fears of each historical period. In our modern period, the growing and changing presence of media makes us all aware of the bloodshed on the battlefields and in the death camps and slaughterhouses of modern industrial societies, images that we desperately try to forget or repress. It is no wonder that dreams are full of cannibals.

Jack The Ripper – “a different breed of killer” – “FROM HELL” (Hughes Brothers, 2001)

Even those who are not True Crime aficionados know of Jack the Ripper, a mysterious serial killer who slaughtered women in the Whitechapel district of London in 1888, took body parts for trophies, and on one occasion wrote to the authorities boasting of having eaten a victim’s kidney. Well, half a kidney – the other half was enclosed in the letter, and was positively identified as human tissue. The letter was entitled “FROM HELL”.

In my thesis, I date modern, domestic cannibalism from 1888, when Jack the Ripper murdered five or more women in the summer and autumn of that year.

The From Hell letter was sent to the Chairman of the Whitechapel Vigilance Committee in October with a box containing half a kidney.  The letter stated that the writer had taken the kidney from a woman, and half of it was enclosed as proof. “tother piece I fried and ate it very nise” (sic).

This letter, and the half-kidney, are featured in this week’s movie.

A huge literature has developed on the history and likely identity of Jack, but none of it is conclusive; the crime writer Patricia Cornwell argued that the Ripper was the famous artist Walter Sickert. Others have written credible accounts of other suspects, including Prince Edward Albert Victor, second in line to the British throne. The enduring mythology of Jack the Ripper, though, depends on the fact that he remains unknown, a figure hidden by his presumed uniformity with those of his milieu. Jack was the domestic cannibal – murderous, voracious, and indistinguishable from any other citizen, just another face in the street, as demonstrated by the fact that he was never apprehended, or even conclusively identified.

Jack rapidly became an international phenomenon. A Chicago doctor wrote in the Medical Standard that,

… the Whitechapel murderer is a cannibal pure and simple. The Whitechapel murders are clearly the work of a lunatic of the so-called “sexual pervert” type, fortunately rare in Anglo-Saxon lands but not infrequently met with in Russia, Germany, Bohemia and France. In these lunatics there is a return to the animal passions of the lowest cannibalistic savage races. Cannibalism is shown in a thirst for blood, and these animal passions come to the surface when the checks imposed by centuries of civilization are removed either by disease or by the defects inherited from degenerate parents.

So critical to the creation of the domestic monster was The Ripper that almost a century and a half later, books and films are still investigating and theorising on his acts and identity.

Jack went “viral” long before the internet was around to invent the term. Jack conventions are held around the world offering attendees the opportunity to view and buy merch and listen to “experts” tell them who Jack (maybe) was. Many books have offered definitive proof of Jack’s secret identity, only to have other experts contradict them. One writer actually bought at auction a shawl belonging to one of the victims, Catherine Eddowes, and had it forensically examined, finding, through links to the DNA of descendants, that it contained her blood, and the semen of a long-suspected Polish immigrant named Aaron Kosminski. Seems conclusive, doesn’t it, but other Jack-fans were sceptical; DNA can be contaminated. Richard Cobb, who organizes Jack the Ripper conventions, told the Guardian that the shawl had been “openly handled by loads of people and been touched, breathed on, spat upon.”

This film, From Hell, has a somewhat more circuitous lineage, being based on a graphic novel (formerly called comic book series) by Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell which was published from 1989-1998 and then collected into book form. That novel is based on a 1976 non-fiction book by Stephen Knight with the rather unfortunate title of Jack the Ripper: The Final Solution. Knight’s theory proposes a conspiracy by the Freemasons, in which high-ranking Freemason Sir William Gull, royal surgeon to Queen Victoria, is told to cover up the marriage of a shopgirl, Annie Crook to Prince Albert Victor, the heir to the throne, which had resulted in a baby who would be in line for the crown, particularly as the Prince was dying of syphilis. The murders themselves were not the crimes of passion common in impoverished London, particularly from the pimps that the women feared most, but involved the careful dissection of the bodies and removal of organs and often vulvas. The basis of many theories was that these were clearly the work of an educated man with medical or at least anatomical training.

“Martha Tabram was raped, tortured and killed. This is methodical. The butchery is irrational, yet meticulous and deliberate. Altogether a different breed of killer.”

The film had mixed reviews, getting a 57% “fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes, but I found it an easy to watch, interesting tale told with some gusto, by a stellar cast: Sir William Gull, physician to His Maj and presumed serial killer, is played by the late lamented Ian Holm, who was playing a sweet, doddery, 111 year old Bilbo Baggins in The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring the same year he played Jack.

Johnny Depp plays Inspector Abberline, the cop searching for Jack, with his usual brooding sensual close-ups, while Heather Graham (Boogie Nights) is quite luminous as the sex worker Mary Kelly, who becomes his love interest as well as a target of Jack. Then there’s a delightful performance by Robbie Coltrane (Hagrid from the Harry Potter films) as Abberline’s sergeant, who quotes Shakespeare as he tries to revive Abberline from his opium den dreams, where he imbibes absinthe laced with laudanum and “sees” the murders as they happen.

Ian McNeice (Bert Large from Doc Martin) pops up as the coroner, and there are a host of other familiar faces. If you like a boisterous story and some great performances, you might enjoy this. But if you are serious Jack groupie, you will wince at the anachronism that puts the receipt of the kidney some time before the murder of Catherine Eddowes, from whom that kidney is likely to have been taken.

Like any fictional recreation of history, there is inevitably exaggeration and speculation. The film depicts an all-powerful Freemason movement infiltrating the police and medical establishment and threatening or killing anyone in their way. There is an evocative depiction of the life of late nineteenth century sex workers (called “whores” by the police, and often themselves, and “unfortunates” in official language). There is also some cursory mention of the classism and racism that English society exhibited in the age of Empire (and still does), seeking to blame the American natives in “Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show” (perhaps a wink to the serial killer in The Silence of the Lambs?), foreigners, Orientals, Jews, Socialists – anyone other than the rich and powerful. Several scenes feature the hatred of Jews that saw the police and the populace open to antisemitic provocation when looking for a scapegoat. The chasm between the respectable killer and the honest but disreputable poor is made by means of an (otherwise gratuitous) appearance by the Elephant Man, Joseph Merrick who, like Jack, was a famous denizen of Whitechapel. He stands surrounded by respectable white men, wondering at his ugliness, but having no inkling of his humanity.

Foreigners, the disfigured, the “unfortunates” and Jews were outsiders in English society, and outsiders are denied the protection that other citizens expect, and so are easily accused, attacked, killed and sometimes even eaten. The “unfortunate” mother of the royal baby is kidnapped and given a frontal lobotomy, a new scientific technique which was instantly turned to the advantage of the elite.

In Victorian England, the poor were blamed for any and all of society’s ills, with the idea of suspecting a rich, educated man excluded from consideration. Of course, the Indigenous people in Queen Victoria’s empire were similarly objectified, enslaved or slaughtered, also using the benefits of modern technology such as the gunboat and machine-gun.

The movie opens with a quote, Jack, saying “One day men will look back and say I gave birth to the twentieth century.”

I can see no other reference to such a quote in any source other than this movie, but it has a certain ring to it, it makes sense of this modern drama between the rich, who only ever want more, and the poor, who scrabble just to stay alive. At a time when the environment has been appropriated and cannibalised by the ruling class, has Jack’s comment in 1888 proved prophetic?

Jack the Ripper was less “a return to the animal passions of the lowest cannibalistic savage races” and more a manifestation of the voracious appetite and greed of modern capitalist industrial society, where the value of everything, including the life of humans and other animals, is counted only in monetary terms, and the marginalised and objectified are cast out and consumed.

Issei Sagawa: “This Is A Manga Written By A Cannibalistic Murderer”

 “I just open the page, and the first thing I see is – a half-eaten head.”

If you’re not familiar with the term, “anime” is animation, which can be hand drawn or computer generated. It usually refers to Japanese creations, but in Japan it can apply to any animated work. Usually, anime is used to refer to TV shows or movies, while “manga” usually means graphic novels (comics). There is children’s anime and a whole range of adult material, which regularly wanders into the world of sex and violence.

The manga reviewed in this short YouTube clip (above) embraces both sex and violence, as well as combining those in the form of necrophilia and cannibalism, and does so in graphic detail. It is the autobiographical record of Issei Sagawa, a Japanese man who murdered and cannibalised a young Dutch student named Renée Hartevelt, whom he had befriended at the Sorbonne in Paris in 1981. Sagawa never served time for the act.

Sagawa’s story has been told in many formats, including several documentaries, including The Cannibal Who Walked Free in 2007 and CANIBA in 2017.

Sagawa died in 2022, but he left behind a record of his activities in the form of manga, a comic book, although it was far from comical. In fact, this review on YouTube is on the site “Anime Dork”, described as “a team of passionate anime otakus” (obsessive fans), formed in August 2022, whose reviews are usually fairly light-hearted and humorous.

Not this one. The reviewer, Sydney Poniewaz, who writes under the name sydsnap, is an actress and YouTube star (pushing toward a million subscribers, so very successful), and a True Crime aficionado, particularly fascinated by the often very weird crimes committed in Japan, where she sometimes resides. But she is clearly horrified by the content of the booklet she is holding which, she tells us, is drawn by “an awful human being”, and extracts of which she eventually begins showing us.

She gives a brief synopsis of the case, such as:

“He began to sexually assault her corpse, and then partake in cannibalisation of her body.”

In the manga, she tells us,

“He talked about everything he did to her body: every scent he smelled, every texture he felt, every disgusting brief or prolonged thought throughout any sort of disgusting act he did, which – he does a lot!”

She seems most shocked by the fact that he escaped justice and led the rest of his life a free man, making films including porn, writing books, and even doing restaurant reviews.

“I’m trying to show one image where he’s not being disgusting, but honestly, he always is… he’s talking about how good it felt to murder her, how he wants to do it again.”

So, Sydney did not like the book, which she bought for (no doubt) a lot of money, and then she had to pay lots more to have the Japanese text translated, which she truly seems to regret.

“I do not recommend it. I really, really, really do not recommend it for the faint of heart. I am a pretty hard person to shake in terms of content, but this is probably the most disgusting thing I have ever read.”

There are a lot of comments on the YouTube site, mostly shocked and horrified, and a few are below. I particularly like the one that emphasises that these stories almost always focus on the killer, this one being told by him from his point of view, and rarely the victim. Renée Hartevelt, like Charlene Downes whom we discussed last week, deserves to be remembered for more than just being eaten by another member of her species.

There are more extracts of the manga, if you are interested, in the Caniba documentary, and I captured a few for my review of it. Or if you really want to get into the whole story (and I suppose some readers will), the manga itself is available on eBay, for a hefty price tag.

Why did he do it? The manga makes that pretty clear. He ate Renée for the same reason any of us eat anything – because he wanted to. The outrage that followed is based on the deeply held but mostly unexamined idea, largely based in religion, that humans are somehow separate and above other animals, kind of demi-gods. Issei Sagawa, obviously, did not believe that.

From transphobia to cannibalism of children – with a side of Nazis

The recent tour of Australia by British anti-trans campaigner Kellie-Jay Keen-Minshull— who also goes by the name of Posie Parker — added cannibalism to the culture wars already raging over transsexual rights.

Keen-Minshull organised a “Let Women Speak” tour of Australia and New Zealand, holding rallies in several cities to claim the push for transgender rights is “silencing”, endangering and discriminating against women.

There has been a lot said about Keen-Minshull, mostly debating her claim to be a warrior for women’s rights and accusing her of being an extremist, expressing views that are designed to be harmful to the transgender community. The rhetoric she uses is far more extreme than usually expressed in Australian politics, although it has become common in other countries, particularly the USA. She suggests, among other claims, that trans women are sexual predators who pose a safety threat to girls in female bathrooms. She describes gender affirmation healthcare as mutilation, and being transgender as a “fetish” — positions totally at odds with the views of experts who work with people who are transitioning. 

Keen-Minshull’s rally in Melbourne was attended by far-right extremists who performed Nazi salutes. Although organisers claimed the masked thugs had “gate-crashed” the event, a trans rights activist and TikTok star known online as LilahRPG said “everyone was just furious, seeing Nazis doing salutes uninterrupted and interacting with the TERFs.” TERF is an acronym for “trans-exclusionary radical feminist“.

This is one of the clearest indications that far-right social media is using the “gender-critical” movement to promote membership of their groups.

Keen-Minshull has made a series of videos (see Twitter message above) about “Grooming Gangs” – repeating unproven claims that a young girl in England was killed and eaten as kebab meat. These claims are then used as racist conspiracy theories, saying that the botched police investigation was in fact a cover-up of paedophile elites who, they say, control everything. Keen-Minshull says:

“What we know is that there’s grooming gangs in Telford. A young woman that never actually really made it to mainstream news, wasn’t a big story, was cut up and I think she was put into meat that was sold for human consumption. We know that there are vast numbers of men involved in these grooming gangs, and we know that there’s weird cover-up stuff going on, that only makes sense if the other people in power are also raping children.”

The case she is referring to seems to be the disappearance of 14-year-old Charlene Downes, who disappeared in Blackpool in north-west England in November 2003. Accusations were made of a child-grooming ring, which induced young girls into having sex in return for cigarettes, food and alcohol. At least one newspaper was quick to claim that investigations had been “hampered by political correctness”, because the girls were white and the perpetrators non-white.

Two men, Ilyad Albattikh and Mohammed Reveshi, were tried in May 2007—the first for Downes’ murder, the other for helping dispose of the body—but the jury failed to reach a verdict. A re-trial was scheduled, but in April 2008 the accused were released because of concerns about serious errors in the evidence compiled by Lancashire Constabulary, who were chastised for their inept handling of the case.

The prosecution had claimed Charlene’s body had been cut up and minced into kebabs in a Blackpool takeaway called “Funny Boys”.

At the time of the trial, the court was told the fast food shop owner had “joked” that Charlene Downes had been chopped up and put into kebabs that were sold to the public. 

There is a lot of racism involved in this story. White children being raped by men of colour is stated or implied in many of the reports, although there is little evidence to show that white offenders were not also involved. Many actual cases of the cannibalism of children indicate the opposite – that white men like Jeffrey Dahmer and Albert Fish prey on children of colour, because such missing children are less likely to be investigated by white detectives. Meanwhile, the Indian current affairs website OpIndia did not mince its words about the alleged mincing of the victim:

Groomed by Muslim gangs, minced into pieces, fed as kebabs

Of course, Ms Keen-Minshull did not invent the idea of using cannibalism as a weapon of dehumanisation (Christopher Columbus did that very successfully) or even as a part of the culture wars – recall the hate and scorn aimed at the New York Times when it suggested the “cannibalism has a time and a place… and others suggest that that time is now”.

Classical mythologies told of savage gods who ate their own children, and paranormal entities such as witches, who used body parts for their rituals. Such usages were not exclusively supernatural, with “blood libel” accusations that Jews were killing Christian children to use their blood for religious rituals and cannibalism dating back to the twelfth century, and being revived with nauseating regularity up to the present day.

QAnon has been very successful recruiting members in the US, partly based on accusing everyone from Hillary Clinton to a pizza shop owner of killing and eating children. The accusations are meant to dehumanise the alleged perpetrators, but usually end up doing the same to the victim. Poor little Charlene is now almost unknown, except as the “kebab meat girl”.

Lots more details of her case are available on YouTube investigations such as the one below, some of them are quite lurid.

WINNIE-THE-POOH: BLOOD AND HONEY (Rhys Frake-Waterfield, 2023)

Winnie-the-Pooh is a much-loved (but sometimes intensely disliked) fictional bear who evolved from the childhood stories told to his son (Christopher Robin) by A. A. Milne, the author of a series of books first published almost a century ago. The original Pooh was an actual toy bear bought in Harrods in 1921. Other toys belonging to the little boy, Piglet, Eeyore, Kanga, Roo, and Tigger, were incorporated into Milne’s stories as friends of Pooh, who was presented as “a bear of very little brain”. Pooh and his friends lived in the 100 Acre Wood, where they got into all sorts of scrapes.

The anthropomorphic bear, his name now without hyphens, was licensed by the Disney company in 1961 for a very successful series of features that became one of their most popular franchises. I loved the books as a child, and hated what the cartoons had done to him, but maybe that’s just me.

Anyway, Milne’s U.S. copyright in Winnie-the-Pooh expired at the end of 2021, 95 years since publication of the first story. The character therefore entered the public domain in the United States, with Disney no longer holding exclusive rights. Independent filmmaker Rhys Frake-Wakefield seized on this opportunity to create a horror film titled Winnie-the-Pooh: Blood and Honey.

The premise, told through a cartoon opening, is that Winnie and Piglet feel betrayed and abandoned by Christopher, who has grown up and moved on to big-boy things like college and sex. (For a wonderful discussion of the difference between being “lost” and being “abandoned”, I recommend Hayley Singer’s new book, Abandon Every Hope). They have gone feral.

During a particularly cold winter, they are starving, and decide to kill and eat their old friend Eeyore the donkey, which drives them to detest humanity. They make a pact:

“they renounced their humanity and returned to their animalistic roots, swearing never to talk again.”

When Christopher comes to the 100 Acre Woods with his fiancée Mary five years later, he looks for his old friends, telling her “It’s going to be OK, alright, I promise.” Only of course it isn’t.  Pooh and Piglet kill her and capture him, and chain him up in their old house, where he can see his (late) fiancée hanging defleshed (eaten?) from a meat-hook, while Pooh flogs him with the late Eeyore’s tail.

Pooh and Piglet then proceed to hunt and kill a group of women students who have come to a holiday house in the woods to help one of them recover from a stalking incident (clever poetic irony) and then Pooh kills some men who try to help them. There is a lot of extreme violence involved including strangling, crushing with cars, mauling (by piglet of all people), insertion into a wood-chipper, and bludgeoning with a sledge-hammer.

At this point, I need to come clean and admit that I am having trouble classifying this as a cannibal film. Lots of people get killed (it’s definitely a slasher), and toys eat another toy at the beginning, which is a sort of cannibalism (but only in the way that Woodstock from Peanuts is a cannibal for eating turkey on Thanksgiving). I don’t know that toys are a discrete “species”, but if not then even a real pig and bear eating a donkey is nowhere near cannibalism. But the introduction says they “renounced their humanity”, so I’m taking that as a licence to include this in a cannibalism blog; they were anthropomorphically human when they ate the human donkey, right? Hey, even Princess Fiona from Shrek wasn’t really human (she was a secret ogre) but we wrote up her exploits, eating brave knights who came to save her. So we have some fun ontological challenges like “what is cannibalism?” what is “eating?” and “what is human?” Apparently they believe that not talking is the way to renounce humanity, which both bolsters anthropocentric arguments about human superiority (we are often described as the only species with a language, to the annoyance of the whales), but also raises some interesting questions for the voiceless, or those who choose not to talk. Does a vow of silence mean a renunciation of humanity? A question for another time and, hopefully, a different blog.

But from a Cannibal Studies point of view, there are some other interesting ideas in the back-story. It starts with starvation cannibalism (if we allow that name) in that, like survivors of plane crashes, shipwrecks, or ill-considered trips across the Sierra Nevada, Pooh and Piglet are driven to eat their friend Eeyore through extreme deprivation. But then we move to a new motivation – social degeneration, where the formerly very civilised, polite toys become psychotic murderers, much like the feral humans in Texas Chain Saw Massacre, The Hills Have Eyes or Death Line. Look, we don’t really see them eat humans, although we see a skull and jars of blood, and hear reports of mutilated bodies being found in the woods, so there is a certain implication. But they are not human, so that’s OK. They’re not even officially animate, although you wouldn’t say that if they were swinging a sledge-hammer toward your head. And just when did they learn to drive cars?

The film has had almost universally awful reviews, collecting a woeful 4% “fresh” on Rotten Tomatoes, with The Times critic saying:

“Rhys Frake-Waterfield cloddishly desecrates your childhood, and AA Milne’s beloved classic, with a dimly written, shoddily realised, sub-standard slasher whose artistic aspirations never reach beyond making a fast buck.”

The Guardian was even less impressed, describing the film as:

“…a terrifying combination of not-scary and not-funny, and a cast of Love Island types on Xanax apparently reading the dialogue off an optician’s chart held up behind the camera.”

Look, it’s not that bad – the woods look nice but also somewhat ominous, and while some of the acting is wooden, they all have great death scenes, and the violence is enough to attract any gorehound. Anyway, the film was a big success on its release in January (in Mexico) and February (US, UK). As of 23 February 2023, Winnie-The-Pooh: Blood and Honey had grossed $1.8 million in the United States and Canada, and $2.4 million in other territories, including over $1 million in Mexico, for a worldwide total of $4.2 million. The budget was apparently less than $100,000, making it proportionally one of the most profitable films ever made, surprising even the film-maker.

Is it surprising though? Fan fiction has been rewriting classic stories for a while now (have you seen what sexual gymnastics some Fannibals have created for Hannibal and Will?), while stories of the perils of civilisation being brought down by thoughtless dedication to progress and neo-liberalism are the zeitgeist. Winnie-The-Pooh is our abandoned childhood, coming back to haunt us.

Ohio man sentenced to 26 years to life for killing Menlo Park woman in order to stay young through cannibalism

Francis Wolke, 30, was found guilty on March 2, 2023 of first-degree murder for killing 62-year-old Kathleen Anderson in her Menlo Park bedroom in December of 2018, and sentenced on April 5 to a term of 26 years to life in prison.

San Mateo County prosecutors stated that a friend of Anderson found her body while the killer was still inside the house. The friend called the Menlo Park Police Department and detained Wolke at knifepoint until police arrived.

When the trial opened on Tuesday, February 14, Wolke’s attorney, Connie O’Brien, had declared, in a rather unusual opening statement, that her client was driven to murder by a desire to engage in cannibalism. She stated that Volke believed that, if he committed cannibalism, he would “stay young forever” and join the “1%” of people who eat human protein to become rich.

Anderson had never met Wolke, 30, before the murder. “There was no known relationship or contact between defendant and victim, nor a known motive for the crime,” prosecutors said. Wolke lived in Cincinnati, Ohio and had arrived in the San Francisco Bay Area just days before the murder. He was also wanted in Santa Clara County for prowling and drug possession. According to the Palo Alto Daily Post, Anderson worked as the City of Atherton’s arborist for two decades.

In 2020, Wolke had pleaded not guilty due to insanity. The trial jury deliberated for three days before finding him guilty, and then reconvened to consider the insanity issue, which could have seen Wolke sentenced to state hospitals, instead of state prison. The jury handed down its ruling on March 8 2023 in San Mateo County Court in Redwood City, finding that Wolke was sane at the time of the murder.

Defence lawyers had argued the insanity defence based on Volke’s belief that he had to commit cannibalism in order to join “the 1%” and stay young forever. They testified that Wolke said he wanted to join an elite group of wealthy people whom he believed killed humans and ate their flesh to become “protein harvesters” and that he, too, would enjoy wealth and eternal youth after consuming human stem cells.

Deputy District Attorney Tricia Povah argued the case for Wolke’s intent to murder. Povah laid out in graphic details the injuries that Wolke inflicted during multiple attempts to take the life of Anderson, including attempted strangulation.

Wolke was accused of stabbing Anderson in the eye with a pencil, hitting her brain. The allegation that Wolke used a deadly and dangerous weapon in this act was also accepted by the jury.

Wolke also attempted to behead Anderson, which his defence lawyers alleged was due  to his intention to engage in cannibalism. Wolke reportedly told investigators he:

“wasn’t very good at (it) because (he’d) never done it before.”

Wolke, according to court testimony, had a history of heavy methamphetamine use, but did not test positive for any drugs at the time of the murder. According to defence attorney Connie O’Brien, he was experiencing psychosis in the form of auditory hallucinations while on the bus ride from his family’s home in Cincinnati to the Bay Area, with voices telling him that he had to commit sins to join the 1%.

Despite Wolke’s hallucinations, the prosecution argued that Wolke had an understanding of the morals surrounding murder and that he was aware of his actions as he committed the killing. Dr George Wilkinson, a forensic psychiatrist and expert witness for the prosecution, testified that Wolke understood his actions.

“He was well aware of what he was doing, in fact, it would have been necessary to fulfil the delusions.”

Povah argued that he showed awareness of his situation. When police officers went to enter the house to investigate, Wolke told them where to find Anderson, saying:

“The body’s in the basement. I have a mental problem. I very seriously killed that woman.”

Lots of interesting Cannibal Studies issues are raised by this case. Cannibals are almost routinely labelled as psychotic, on the anthropocentric assumption that human flesh is sacred and inviolable. But to be found insane, as Wolke discovered, a murderer has to prove that he (or she) did not know what he was doing, or that it was wrong. Hannibal Lecter, in the books, movies and TV series, was not executed for his crimes because the jury found him insane. He strongly denied this.

An intention to achieve social status through the ingestion of human flesh seems to show a clear understanding of (some rather dubious) causality. That is, he knew what he was doing, even though he was doing something that would seem to most people irrational.

Or is it? The mythology of the Wendigo tells of cannibals who gain strength, size and often healing powers or long life through eating the flesh of other humans, but also develop an insatiable appetite for ever more of the stuff. What appetites distinguish and define the so-called “1%”, that tiny group of uber-rich who absorb around a quarter of the nation’s income and own 40% of the wealth? Psychiatrists will happily tell you that those who achieve huge fortunes or high office are often psychopaths, immune to fear of failure, or empathy for those they exploit. The accumulation of capital, whether by imperialists or corporate raiders, is metaphorically a form of cannibalism, feeding on the flesh of others in a zero-sum game, that is supposed to gain them enormous wealth and eternal life (or a botox version of it).

A part of Wolke’s mind must have worked out that he was not made of such stern stuff, and told him that, to get there, he would need to cultivate his inner cannibal.


A man calling himself The Chinese Zodiac Killer has been sentenced to 16 months in prison for sending threatening letters to various establishments for over a year.

46-year-old Jesse Bartlett of LaFargeville in Jefferson County was arrested in Jefferson County on May 19 2022 for sending letters to media outlets, government offices including the White House, and other organisations in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Washington D.C. In the letters, he claimed that he killed people, ate their flesh and plans to kill more, including an unidentified bus driver. Bartlett was arrested by the FBI and charged with Mailing Threatening Letters.

Bartlett, a school bus driver who, according to prosecutors, owned multiple firearms, was arrested after he was allegedly caught on surveillance cameras placing brown envelopes into U.S. Postal Service collection boxes. On May 12, the FBI filmed Bartlett dropping 21 envelopes into U.S. Postal Service boxes in Watertown and Clayton, and another 21 in the same Watertown bin on May 15.

Further investigation found that the letters were consistent with those written by the so-called “Chinese Zodiac Killer.” Authorities said the letters were signed “Aleister Crowley,” a name that was also referenced in earlier Chinese Zodiac Killer letters, and presumably refers to the late English occultist and artist.

The letters said in part:


In August 2021, a letter was received by a retail company in Syracuse. In the letter, Bartlett allegedly stated:


Another letter sent to The Day newsroom pledged to enslave people in a “macabre paradice”, using the same misspellings as the original Zodiac. The case was investigated by the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force, along with New York State Police, and the United States Postal Inspection Service.

The original Zodiac Killer stabbed or shot to death five people in Northern California in 1968 and 1969. He had sent taunting letters and cryptograms to police and newspapers that included astrological symbols. As far as we know, he did not eat anyone (human).

That original Zodiac Killer was never caught. Bartlett copied the original Zodiac by inserting cryptic codes into his letters, which have not been interpreted (if, in fact, they are not simply gibberish.)

Bartlett pleaded guilty to mailing a threatening communication in December 2022. District Judge Brenda Sannes also imposed a three-year term of supervised release once Bartlett completes his sentence. He also faces local counts of third- and fourth-degree criminal possession of a weapon brought on March 21 by state police. He was allegedly found to be in possession of two illegally owned long guns and expandable magazines, in violation of the state’s Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act of 2013, or “SAFE Act”. According to troopers, the charges are a result of the investigation and execution of a search warrant in May 2022 at Mr. Bartlett’s residence in the town of Alexandria.

Bartlett is clearly not Chinese, the Zodiac Killer or, it seems, a cannibal killer, but simply a copycat who added cannibalism to his modus operandi because it’s so fashionable. According to Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Barnett, there’s no evidence that Bartlett ever tried to carry out any of the things he described in his letters. Bartlett was not charged with any homicide offences, although he was acquitted of killing a friend in 2010 after pleading self-defence. His main motivation seems to be recognition and celebrity, warning “I WILL MAKE AN EXAMPLE OF ANYONE WHO REFUSES TO EDUCATE THE PUBLIC OF MY EXISTENCE”:


Prosecutors also said that Bartlett had stated that he is “a sexual predator” and is “on the hunt for your women at all times.” Although prosecutors have not pursued any leads to do with murder or cannibalism, we may never know for sure what Jesse Bartlett got up to. Could it be the case, as he wrote, that he is killing people whose identities are impossible to track (i.e. homeless, runaways, illegal immigrants), “AND DESTROYING ALL EVIDENCE SO EFFICIENTLY”?

Assistant U.S. Attorney Barnett said that Bartlett’s sentence includes the time he has already served behind bars. So, he’ll be out pretty soon. There are a range of hilarious comments on social media already, many of them ingeniously weaving partisan politics into the story.