Cannibal Killers (1993)

Moira Martingale
Carroll & Graf Publishers

Everything you wanted to know about your favorite cannibal-killers, narrated alongside anthropological speculation about vampirism and lycanthropy as myths linked to ancient bloodlust.  All the heavy hitters in 20th century anthropophagic psychopathology make an appearance: Peter "the Dusseldorf Vampire" Kurten, Albert Fish, Joseph Kroll, Ed Gein, Ed Kemper, and Jeffrey Dahmer.  A few more obscure cases are also explored, including the truly bizarre story of Issei Sagawa.  A Comparative Literature Ph.D. student in Paris in 1981, Sagawa murdered and then ate Renee Hartevelt, a fellow student from Holland who Sagawa had ostensibly hired to tutor him in German.  After his arrest, Sagawa was judged insane and sent to a psychiatric hospital in France.  Within a year, however, Sagawa's influential father arranged for his son to transfer to a hospital back in Tokyo.  By 1985, Sagawa was released from psychiatric care and  apparently went on to become somewhat of a minor media celebrity in Japan--writing rather lurid books about his exploits in Paris, doing TV interviews, and even appearing in a magazine spread about a restaurant specializing in BBQ. 

Two other facts worth noting:  When police finally captured Albert Fish--still the reigning champion of American psychos--his psychiatric evaluation was assigned to Fredric Wertham, later to be famous for his campaign against "excessive" violence in comic books.  Also, there was apparently a man in Scotland in the 16th century, Sawney Bean, who raised a family of almost 50 dependents in and around a cave near Galloway, all of whom lived on human flesh.  So, that was something I didn't know before.

Toward the end Martingale attempts to convince us that sadistic serial killing and thus probably also cannibalism is on the rise (the book appeared right after Dahmer's arrest), but in truth, cannibalistic murder sprees appear to be extremely rare. Either that, or cannibals are getting better at not getting caught. Probably not worth worrying about, however.

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