Sofia Zhukova, known as the ‘Granny Ripper’, who supposedly gave children sweets made from the flesh of her victims, died in Russia of COVID-19 on December 29 2020, at the age of 81, before the conclusion of her murder trial.
Zhukova, a retired pig butcher, was charged with murdering three people, but police suspected she was involved in many other unsolved cases in Russia.
Neighbours claimed she made sweets from the flesh of her victims.
Zhukova, 81, a retired pig slaughterer, was accused of butchering schoolgirl Anastasia Alexeenko, seven, whose severed head was found in 2005 with her face severely battered. The child had reportedly annoyed Zhukova by being noisy while playing nearby, and had thrown ice-cream at Zhukova when told to be quiet.
The court was told that she kidnapped the schoolgirl and held her for three weeks. The child was allegedly murdered the day before her severed head was found near Zhukova’s flat. A phone call assuring Anastasia’s mother, Natalya, that the girl was still alive had been made from the sausage factory where the pensioner worked as a pig slaughterer, the court was told. Forensic experts found the girl’s DNA in Zhukova’s bathroom, some fourteen years after the alleged killing.
She was also charged with murdering and dismembering a 52-year-old janitor in Khabarovsk, and killing a female friend, who was aged 77. Police were investigating at least four more unsolved murders linked to her. Internal organs of the janitor, Vasily Shlyakhtich, a Ukrainian immigrant who was her tenant, were allegedly discovered in the granny’s fridge in 2019. She said in evidence: ‘I killed the janitor, but he raped me. What do you think I should have done? I chopped him up with an axe.’ She demonstrated her technique in court.
Local children found his severed arm in a rubbish skip, and other remains were found in plastic bags at a skip.
A law enforcement source said:
‘The bowels and other inner organs of the man were found in her fridge – and she threw away the bones. But dogs smelled the blood and carried the body parts all around the area.’
Neighbours said she even turned her victims into food and sweets (candies, lollies), and offered them around to children. One stated:
‘We always found it strange that despite being surly and unfriendly, she would often find the time to cook things for the local children. ‘They were always meat dishes. Sometimes she gave them to the adults, she bought me and my husband plates with jellied meat.’
Zhukova’s crimes, murdering at least three people, are unfortunately not unusual. More than 400,000 people are murdered every year globally. What made this old lady newsworthy, and her death the subject of headlines (unlike most of the millions who have died of COVID) is the allegation of cannibalism – particularly the fact that she fed some of the human meat to neighbours and possibly made sweet treats for children out of the flesh.
But, you know, we do what we know. Like the Sawyer family in The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, her life was centred around killing as a calling – so pigs, rapists and noisy children were all just items of work or problems to be solved. In retirement, she solved her problems the same way she had solved her employment tasks, as well as finding ways to ingratiate herself to her neighbours. As one of the Sawyer lads said:
“My family’s always been in meat!”
Or as Pythagoras said some 2,500 years ago:
“For as long as men massacre animals, they will kill each other. Indeed, he who sows the seed of murder and pain cannot reap joy and love.”
2020 assailed us with fires, floods, famine and pestilence (both the pandemic and political varieties). The power of nature was demonstrated in several forms: in the massive power of storms, floods and fires, and the microscopically small virus that crippled the world economy and killed (probably well over) 1,700,000 people (so far). Our faith in being the masters of this planet and the manipulators of the natural world was finally shaken. We were toppled from our declared place at the top of the food chain by a miniscule virus that used our own cells as food to proliferate. We, like the animals we breed and kill by the billions, became fodder, not just to viruses, but occasionally to other humans. Some reported cases of alleged, proven or suspected cannibalism from 2020 are listed below. How many more are still unknown? Considering the hundreds of thousands of people who go missing each year, that is anyone’s guess.
I am well aware that, as I write this, there are still a handful of days to go in the year, and there is a good chance 2020 may still have some more surprises for us. But anyway (as far as I know), this is the year 2020 in cannibal news.
A blind couple in Uttar Pradesh’s Kanpur district allegedly had a seven-year-old girl killed so they could eat her organs, as they believed that this would result in them having a child. Police said that a seven-year-old girl had gone missing on the night of Diwali on Saturday. Her blood-stained body was recovered from a field near the village on Sunday. ”Several organs of the body were missing….her stomach had been ripped open” and the girl was also raped before being brutally murdered.
On 8 November a hiker came upon the skeletal remains of a human leg in a field on the northern outskirts of Berlin. Investigators discovered bite marks on the bones, though they said it was still unclear if they were human or from another animal. A 41-year-old man was arrested at his home close to the site where the victim’s bones were found, on suspicion of murder with sexual motives. “The suspect had an interest in cannibalism,” Berlin prosecutors’ office spokesman Martin Steltner said. “He searched online for the topic.” Well really, who hasn’t?
Because the alleged killer and victim met on an on-line dating site, reports of the arrest have evoked parallels to the infamous case of the “Rotenburg cannibal”. In 2006, a German court convicted Armin Meiwes of murder and disturbing the peace for killing a man he had met online and eating him. Meiwes is serving a life sentence.
66-year-old Viktor Zakharov was arrested on suspicion of three murders after a severed penis was found in his garden in the Siberian village of Severnoye. Skeletal remains of two other men were subsequently found under his floorboards. Authorities are investigating whether the scrap metal collector ate the men. He is now also being investigated concerning the disappearance of 14-year-old Alexey Bakun in 2012.
A 41-year-old Ukrainian admitted that he killed his girlfriend, then fried and ate her legs after the two had a drinking session at home on April 13. He hid the rest of her body in the reeds of a nearby river, where it was found the next day by a father taking his two children for a stroll. Officers ambushed Oleksandr in his home and found him frying flesh from his girlfriend’s leg before eating it. Local reports said the police felt sick after witnessing the horrific scene. According to Ukrainian media, Oleksandr cooked his girlfriend’s legs and ate them after he reportedly ‘got hungry’.
Also in Ukraine, Maxim and Yaroslav Kostyukov, 42 and 21, were convicted of killing Yevgeny ‘Zhenya’ Petrov, 45. The three had been drinking together when a row developed over the conflict between Kiev’s army and pro-Moscow rebels in the eastern part of the country. A court heard how the son had held Petrov from behind while the father stabbed him twice in the chest. Yaroslav Kostyukov then beheaded the victim and cut flesh from the corpse as well as his heart, kidneys, liver and other internal organs. He confessed to cooking the meat which was served when the father and son hosted a homeless man called Yura. Prosecutor Oksana Karnaukh said: “There is no such crime as cannibalism listed in the Criminal Code of Ukraine.” The pair were, however, charged with murder and aggravating circumstances committed by a group of persons, and illegal possession of arms. And, presumably, legs.
In Oklahoma, a hospital admitted a severely bleeding 28-year-old patient, who told the staff that two men had surgically removed his testicles as he lay on a wooden table in their remote cabin in the woods. One of the men said he was a “cannibal” who kept body parts in a refrigerator. The unnamed “patient” met the “surgeon”, Bob Lee Allen, on a website advertising castrations. Allen said that he had 15 years’ experience doing similar surgeries and would remove the man’s testicles free of charge. Why so generous? After the two-hour procedure, Allen “laughed and said that he was a cannibal,” the victim told investigators, adding he had a freezer full of body parts.
In Brooklyn NY on April 15, Khaled Ahmad ran up to some cops from the 68th Precinct who were on meal break in a bagel shop about 4:30 a.m., and told them he had killed his 57-year-old father. The victim had been gutted and “the victim’s innards were removed but not found, leading some investigators to believe Ahmad may have eaten them”. Ahmad “had a history of mental illness” while the unfortunate father was a retired grocer, who had just sold his store in Rockaway Beach, Queens. Ahmad had created a GoFundMe page in September 2019 that asked the public to help fund his return to the Palestinian territories, but at the time of the murder, he and his 57-year-old father, Imad Ahmad, were sheltered at home in Dyker Heights, Brooklyn to avoid getting the coronavirus. One high ranking cop said, “it’s the worst crime scene I’ve ever seen.”
Here’s the thing – would you pick any of these guys as cannibals? They don’t have a single eye in the middle of their forehead like the cyclops or dog-faces like the cyanocephali. They don’t have bones through their noses like the mythical cannibals of the colonial stories. In fact, since Jack the Ripper, or perhaps Sweeney Todd, cannibals have looked “normal” – indistinguishable from anyone else. Cannibalism has come home, and the cannibal could be living next door. Or even closer.
2020 CANNIBAL MOVIES
Pretty amazing that anyone managed to produce anything in 2020 with all the lockdowns and social distancing, yet below we have a bunch of cannibal movie releases. Several others were put on the backburner and will hopefully appear in 2021 when things get back to abnormal.
Gretel & Hansel (Oz Perkins) – a reboot of the Grimm Brothers tale.
Human Hibachi (Mario Cerrito III) – Indie cannibalism, banned by Amazon.
The Last Thanksgiving (Erick Lorinc) – cannibal pilgrims attack a restaurant that stays open for Thanksgiving.
Cannibal Comedian (Sean Haitz) – you know how comedians like to say “I killed out there”?
Spell (Mark Tonderai) – Hoodoo cannibal rituals.
The Dinner Party (Miles Doleac) – an invitation from the cultural elites – they’d like to have you for dinner.
Butchers (Adrian Langley) – stranded in the backwoods, attacked by cannibals, did anyone mention chainsaws?
Cadaver (Jarand Herdal) – post-apocalyptic family are invited to a show, where they can join the cast, or the menu.
My paper in Exchanges: The Interdisciplinary Research Journal has just been published.
A ‘horrid way of feeding’: Pervasive, aggressive, repulsive cannibalism
Cannibalism both fascinates and repels. The concept of the cannibal has changed and evolved, from the semi- or in-human anthropophagi of Classical texts to the ‘savage’ cannibals of colonial times, whose alleged aberrations served as a justification for invasion, conversion and extermination, to the contemporary cannibal driven often by psychosexual drives. Cannibal texts typically present the act as pervasive, aggressive and repulsive. If these parameters are admitted, alleged cannibals immediately fall outside normative European humanist morality. This paper examines cannibalism as a major delineator of the civilised human. Cannibals offer social scientists a handy milestone to confirm the constant improvement and progress of humanity. The idea that colonised peoples were not savage, degenerate cannibals threatens the concept of the ‘Great Chain of Being’, which was assumed to show an inexorable progress from plants to animals to humans, and upward toward the divine, led by enlightened Western civilisation. But cannibal mythology, factual or imaginary, offers an opportunity to re-evaluate the assumptions of human supremacism and see ourselves as edible, natural beings.
Look, 2020 hasn’t been dull, you gotta admit. So far this year, we’ve had fire, flood, famine and pestilence (pandemic variety) and it’s not even the solstice yet.
In reports of cannibalism, it’s all happening in the countries starting with the letter U; the United States and Ukraine are neck and neck. The US could have pulled ahead, but the guy who allegedly hung his Grindr date upside down, cut off his testicles and ate them, did it on Christmas eve, so technically that’s still 2019 (a pretty big year for cannibal stories – six cases documented).
In Brooklyn NY on April 15, Khaled Ahmad ran up to some cops from the 68th Precinct who were on meal break in a bagel shop about 4:30 a.m., and told them he had killed his 57-year-old father. The victim had been gutted and “the victim’s innards were removed but not found, leading some investigators to believe Ahmad may have eaten them”. Ahmad “had a history of mental illness” while the unfortunate father was a retired grocer, who had just sold his store in Rockaway Beach, Queens.
On the other side of the country, police were called to a home in Richmond, California, where they found Dwayne Wallick, a “suspected” cannibal, “digging into his grandmother’s dead body and trying to eat her remains”. The murder involved both a knife and an ice pick. “Police believe unspecified drugs may have played a role in the crime”. No shit, Sherlock.
A 41-year-old Ukrainian admitted that he killed his girlfriend, then fried and ate her legs after the two had a drinking session at home on April 13. He hid the rest of her body in the reeds of a nearby river, where it was found the next day by a father taking his two children for a stroll.
Officers ambushed Oleksandr in his home and found him frying flesh from his girlfriend’s leg before eating it. Local reports said the police felt sick after witnessing the horrific scene. According to Ukrainian media, Oleksandr cooked his girlfriend’s legs and ate them after he reportedly ‘got hungry’.
Also in Ukraine, Maxim and Yaroslav Kostyukov, 42 and 21, were convicted of killing Yevgeny ‘Zhenya’ Petrov, 45, in Ukraine. The three had been drinking together when a row developed over the conflict between Kiev’s army and pro-Moscow rebels in the eastern part of the country.
A court heard how the son had held Petrov from behind while the father stabbed him twice in the chest. Yaroslav Kostyukov then beheaded the victim and cut flesh from the corpse as well as his heart, kidneys, liver and other internal organs. He confessed to cooking the “meat” which was served when the father and son hosted a homeless man called Yura.
Prosecutor Oksana Karnaukh said: “There is no such crime as cannibalism listed in the Criminal Code of Ukraine.” The pair were, however, charged them with murder and aggravating circumstances committed by a group of persons, and illegal possession of arms. And, presumably, legs.
Here’s the thing – would you pick any of these guys as cannibals? They don’t have a single eye in the middle of their forehead like the cyclops or dog-faces like the cyanocephali. They don’t have bones through their noses like the mythical cannibals of the colonial stories. In fact, since Jack the Ripper, cannibals have looked “normal” – indistinguishable from anyone else. Cannibalism has come home, and the cannibal could be living next door.
This one is NOT cannibalism
“The US has been processing dead bodies from Covid-19 diseases into hamburgers”
That was a post on the now defunct WeChat conspiracy theory site Zhidao Xuegong (it translates as “the Scholar Forum for Ultimate Truth”) in May 2020. Another post claimed that Covid-19 may have killed a million people in the US, with the corpses:
“very likely being processed into frozen meat, fake beef or pork, or processed into cooked meat as hamburgers and hot dogs. Cannibalism has existed in the US before … and only a few dozen years ago, Americans ate blacks, Indians and Chinese.”
The site reportedly had millions of followers on WeChat, which is the Chinese equivalent to Facebook, before the Chinese government shut them down. Apparently China did not want to make relations with the US any worse than they already were. The site was closed for “fabricating facts, stoking xenophobia and misleading the public” which apparently is illegal in some parts of the world (and very popular in others).
Now THAT would have supplied some interesting stats for my 2020 cannibalism tally.
This blog reviews films and TV shows involving human cannibalism. Sounds creepy, well, it is a bit, but it’s part of an exercise investigating how we decide what is edible and what is repulsive. Why are we happy to kill for food an animal that doesn’t want to die, yet unwilling to eat another animal that is already dead? Every work considered contributes to the answer to that question, some more than others of course.
Anyway, this post is to say thanks for reading this blog. In May, for the first time, the blog received well over 1,000 views, which is very exciting. As a special thank you, here is one of my favourite cannibal songs, by the wonderful Mr Tom Lehrer.
Well, yes, now there is going to be a game based on it, written by the Director, Ruggero Deodato. Set in Borneo, the Cannibal video game will allow players to take on the role of a variety of different characters. We don’t know who those characters will be yet, but more information will follow.
Based on the artwork, it seems as though Cannibal will attempt to replicate the found footage style of the movie, which is something that’s been done in games like Outlast and Resident Evil 7. With one of the innovators of the found footage genre at the helm, though, it will be interesting to see if Cannibal will be able to take this style of horror game to the next level.
Cannibal will launch in November for iOS, Android, PC, PS4, Switch, and Xbox One.
The new trending hashtag on Twitter is#EatTheBabies. Why?
A right-wing group of climate change deniers decided to prank US House of Reps member Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez at a meeting in Queens this week, by getting a woman to stand up and insist that the only way to stop climate change was, as her t-shirt says
“We got to start eating babies! We don’t have enough time! … We have to get rid of the babies! … We need to eat the babies!”
Yes, of course, the t-shirt is widely available on the Internet now.
Besides being a cannibal story, and getting the Republicans to accuse AOC of not denying she ate babies (really!?), it also reminded a few people of an episode of The Simpsons, in which Chief Wiggum warns the kids off drugs by showing them a drug-addled hippie who has:
the munchies for a California cheeseburger
It’s Season 8 episode 25, “The Secret War of Lisa Simpson”, in which Bart is sent to military school, and Lisa follows because she wants a challenge, only to be met by extreme misogyny by the other students. You can watch it on-line at daily motion, although the video is reversed (i.e. mirrored) which makes all the writing back to front, but at least puts Homer’s steering wheel on the right side of the car.
This was not the only stab at cannibal themes in The Simpsons, but the others were in the Treehouse of Horrorsspecials, where you expect those sort of things.
So that’s a good enough excuse for mentioning AOC’s run-in with cannibalism on a film/TV cannibalism blog, isn’t it?
Meanwhile, last month a Swedish scientist caused an uproar for mentioning cannibalism and climate change in the same Powerpoint presentation at a Gastro conference. Discussing food shortages that are likely to result from the warming of the planet, behavioral scientist and marketing strategist Magnus Soderlund from the Stockholm School of Economics asked for feedback (sorry) of what sort of foods people would be willing to eat, including, at one point, human flesh. This was quickly turned into sensationalist headlines around the world, including Fox News, which said “Swedish Scientist Floats Eating Human Flesh as Solution to Global Climate Change,” and the London Evening Standard, whose headline read “Scientist Suggests ‘Eating Human Meat’ to Tackle Climate Change.”
Snopes has a detailed look at this story, although it is hard to work out exactly what Soderlund said, since it was in Swedish. But in a statement after the shit hit the fan, the scientist stated:
I do not want to eat human meat, I do not want to be eaten, I do not think that eating humans influences the climate, I am not an activist, I am just a researcher who thinks that it must be possible to ask questions about also the dark sides of what we humans do and do not do.
Amen to that. Let’s also ask WHY we eat what we do, and are disgusted by what we don’t. That’s worth considering, in any language.
Cannibal Tours is a documentary by Australian director and cinematographer Dennis O’Rourke. The scenes in it are presented without comment, but its irony and disquiet at the nature of ‘cannibal tourism’ is blindingly obvious.
The soundtrack of the film is a mixture of music, sounds of nature, and a symphony of camera shutters.
The film follows European and American tourists as they travel the middle Sepik River in Papua New Guinea. Most of the villages in the film are inhabited by the Iatmul people. The tourists enjoy bargaining for local handcrafts such as woodcarvings and baskets, snap endless photos of the colourful savages, hand out cigarettes, watch dance performances, and offer naive comments about native people and how they live in harmony with nature.
It intersperses the scenes of the tourists with black-and-white photographs from the era of German colonialism of New Guinea.
The pervasive ethnocentrism of the tourists casts them as the savages, as they dehumanise and exoticise Sepik River life.
Some of the tourists’ observations are reproduced below without comment, just as O’Rourke does on camera.
German tourist: I heard that German colonists were very popular!
Where have they killed the people? Here? Local: At those stones we would dance and cut off heads. German tourist: Now I need a photograph!
An Italian tourist observes:
They are truly primitive. I wonder though if their way of life is better than ours. Truly living with nature. Not really living, more like vegetating. The experts assure us they are satisfied. Happy and well fed. Nature provides them with the necessities of life. And they don’t have to worry about thinking of tomorrow.
Local: The previous generation saw the Germans arrive by boat and thought their dead ancestors had returned. Now, when we see tourists, we say about them ‘the dead have returned!’
There are lengthy scenes of tourists bargaining for carvings and masks.
Native woman – tourists come and look but never buy. You white men have all the money! We village people have no money!
Talking about the Spirit House, one local person recalls:
The Germans, the English and Australians took all the sacred objects. The missionaries destroyed all the most powerful symbols kept in the spirit house. The missionaries threw them out saying “It’s the devil! Get rid of it!”
German tourist [into his tape recorder]: Now we see the remains of a house where, in the past, cannibalism was practised.
…for reasons of survival. And custom too, I think. It was symbolic. I think cannibalism was a cultural practice, not a necessity. Because wildlife must have been plentiful.
Local: We sit here confused while they take pictures of everything. We don’t understand why these foreigners take photographs.
Italian: we must try to help them advance in the world, bringing to them some values and convictions. Naturally, this will involve going into their villages as the missionaries do to teach them. To educate and stimulate them to behave differently.
… living in a world completely overwhelmed by nature. They are also human.
even though our evolution could still be disputed by some.
There is much hilarity when the tourists find a phallus for sale.
Back on their boat, the tourists wear native warpaint and play at being savages.
Maggie Kilgour wrote that
“the figure of the cannibal was created to support the cultural cannibalism of colonialism, through the projection of western imperialist appetites onto the cultures they then subsumed “.
The imperialists now have cameras rather than guns. The film really asks – who are the cannibals?
The film is available (at time of writing) on YouTube:
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