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  • When you picture iconic rebels of Scottish folklore, you probably picture William Wallace,

  • as seen in Braveheart, charging into crowds of English troops with his blue face-paint

  • and broadsword.

  • What you probably don't picture is a psychopathic, mass-murdering cannibal with a bloodthirsty

  • family that was said to have killed upwards of a thousand victims.

  • We're talking about AlexanderSawneyBean, the Scottish King of Cannibalism, and

  • his terrifying broodthe Sawney Bean Cannibal Clan.

  • If you're about to eat, put down the fork and listen in.

  • It's going to get gross.

  • When exactly Sawney Bean and his family operated (if they ever existed at all) is an open question.

  • Some sources have him being born as early as the late twelfth century, while others

  • place him as late as the fifteenth or sixteenth century.

  • The mythic nature of the Bean Cannibal Clan gives it a certain flexibility with the facts,

  • like many other disturbing folkloric figures.

  • America has Mothman, England has Spring-Heeled Jack, and Scotland has Sawney Bean, who's

  • undeniably the most gruesome of the national boogeymen.

  • But, according to most versions of the legend, Bean was born in the Scottish council of East

  • Lothian sometime just before or during the reign of King James VI of Scotland.

  • These were humble beginnings, as he was born to the poor homestead of a farm labourer.

  • Not much is known about his birth family or childhood, but Young Sawney is said to have

  • done manual work like his father when he came of age, digging ditches and trimming hedges.

  • However, things took a turn for the worst when this upstart young gentleman found love.

  • Bean's crush, known as Black Agnes Douglas, was a woman of such low moral fibre that many

  • thought her to be a witch.

  • The two were a match made in hell.

  • Sawney and Black Agnes eloped together, leaving their family and polite society for good.

  • They robbed, fought, and even murdered for fun, like a brutal, Scottish Bonnie and Clyde.

  • This nightmare couple became so feared and scorned that they were forced to live off

  • the grid to avoid being killed by angry mobs or the soldiers tasked with keeping the peace.

  • Where did Sawney and Black Agnes decide to make their new home?

  • If you guessed “a dark, slimy sea cavethen ding, ding, ding, you are correct!

  • The legends say that the two of them settled down across the country in Bennane Cave, by

  • Ballantrae in Ayrshire.

  • This cave wasn't just a glorified crack in the cliff face, either.

  • Bennane Cave was a huge rock formation embedded with a complex series of mile-deep tunnels.

  • The cave mouth would also be flooded twice a day at high-tide, protecting the secret

  • entrance from any outside intrusion.

  • It was the perfect place to have an evil lair, or to start a family.

  • Or, if you're Sawney Bean and Black Agnes, both!

  • Sawney and Agnes got busy in every sense of the phraseand soon enough, they had fourteen

  • more mouths to feed.

  • If you thought that becoming a father and family man would set Sawney on the straight

  • and narrow, you'd be horrifically wrong.

  • After all, without a real job, Sawney needed to find some way to feed his family.

  • This encouraged him to take his crime game up to the next level.

  • He started to rob and murder even more regularlyand somewhere along the line, Sawney acquired

  • a taste for human flesh.

  • The human-flesh diet was one he quickly got his family to take up, too, setting in motion

  • a chain of events that would make the Sawney Bean Clan the most vicious family of killers

  • in Scottish history.

  • When his children became old enough to take up the family trade (which is to say, murder,

  • robbery, and cannibalism) they joined their mother and father in ambushing lonesome travellers

  • on Scotland's back roads.

  • The Bean Clan would murder these unfortunate passers-by and steal their clothes, cash,

  • and valuables.

  • They would then brutally hack the bodies into quarters before carrying them back to the

  • cave for salting, cooking, and eating.

  • To the untrained eye, it would just seem like the victims simply fell off the face of the

  • earth, not leaving a single trace.

  • Nobody knew that they were keeping the Bean Clan fed.

  • This taboo precursor to the Atkins Diet seemed to be working pretty well for the Bean family,

  • because over their quarter-century reign of violence and terror, their numbers swelled

  • massively.

  • The family's fourteen children bore Sawney and Black Agnes eighteen grandsons and fourteen

  • granddaughters, all the products of incest.

  • The cave soon became home to 46 brutal, flesh-hungry savages of varying ages, unified in one purpose:

  • Killing, robbing, and eating anyone who dared to come near Bennane Cave.

  • With his new horde of loyal and hungry relatives, Sawney Bean upped his game yet again, organising

  • brutal attacks on whole groups of travellers.

  • They would meticulously track and stalk their victims, waiting for the exact moment to strike.

  • And when they finally did strike, it was like something out of a living nightmare.

  • Picture this: You're a small trading convoy, it's perhaps you, some family members, and

  • a few business partners.

  • You're transporting goods across the highlands to trade.

  • Perhaps you've brought a weapon or two, just as a precautionary measure.

  • It'll be enough to frighten off one or two opportunistic bandits, surely.

  • Then, as you're walking down a lonely, country road, you hear an almost demonic screaming

  • and howling echoing out from all around you.

  • You're so shocked by the sudden cacophony, you don't know what to do.

  • You freeze, as suddenly shapes come charging in all around you.

  • They don't look like your average highwaymen: There's men, women, and children.

  • They're filthy, bloodstained, crazed.

  • Some wearing tattered fragments of stolen clothes and others completely naked, like

  • the Celtic warriors they descended from.

  • All of them are bearing knives, clubs, or fists.

  • They set upon you in a violent frenzy.

  • Before you and your party can muster up any kind of defenceor even a reaction, beyond

  • screaming and wide-eyed terrorit's too late.

  • Your supplies are looted, and your dismembered corpses are being carried off to Bennane Cave

  • to be salted or pickled.

  • According to the legends of the Bean Clan, this exact horrifying scenario played out

  • hundreds of times over the twenty-five years that the brutal cannibal clan was active.

  • While they were typically extremely skilled at slaughtering whole groups of people without

  • leaving any material evidence, occasionally some terrifying clues to what was truly going

  • on would slip through the net.

  • Leftovers from the Bean Clan's legendary cannibal feasts would sometimes wash out of

  • the cave mouth and end up on Scotland's other shores.

  • People who lived on the coasts would sometimes see cooked or eerily well-preserved limbs

  • appear on the beaches, some covered in human-looking bite marks.

  • The Sawney Bean Clan's activities were even affecting the local economy.

  • When the body parts began to wash up with greater frequency, local authorities realised

  • there must have been some prolific murderers on the loose.

  • Local innkeepers were grilled by ye olde police in connection with the murders, seeing as

  • they seemed like the most likely suspects, considering most of the recent disappearances

  • had been travellers passing through.

  • The pressure got so great that some local businesses even closed up shop for good, unable

  • to cope with the severity of police scrutiny.

  • Not that any of these leads ever led anywhere productive.

  • Meanwhile, the Sawney Bean Clan continued to do what they did best: Murder, robbery,

  • and cannibalism.

  • People were being falsely accused and executed for the Sawney Bean crimes, while these murderous

  • Scots were getting away Scot free, pun intended.

  • Villages near Bennane Cave were becoming ghost towns, as inns closed down and rumours spread

  • that anyone who passed through the area was doomed to disappear and die a horrible death.

  • And, to be fair, could you really say this was inaccurate?

  • The Sawney Bean clan was impressively prolificby some counts, murdering more people

  • than Gary Ridgway, Ted Bundy, John Wayne Gacy, Jeffrey Dahmer, and the Zodiac Killer combined.

  • They were setting murderous world records.

  • Of course, when you have such an impressive winning streak, it's unsurprising that you'd

  • eventually let it go to your head.

  • And when you get cocky, you get sloppy.

  • This is exactly what happened one fateful night towards the end of the Bean Clan's

  • tenure.

  • A man and his wife were riding home on horseback from a local fayre and happened to unknowingly

  • wander onto one of the Bean Clan's favourite routes.

  • The two of them were in high spirits, laughing, joking, gleeful from their time at the fayre.

  • If they knew what was about to happen, they probably would have savoured those last few

  • moments together for longer.

  • The hungry, watchful eyes of the Bean Clan were staring at them from the darkness.

  • Just as had happened so many times before, the Sawney Bean Clan emerged from the darkness,

  • ready to slaughter the unsuspecting couple.

  • However, for the first time, even though the Beans had numbers on their side, they were

  • in for a real battle.

  • The husband, as it turned out, was an experienced fighterpacking a sword and a gun that

  • he used to single-handedly fend off the cannibal horde.

  • During the bloody exchange, the wife of the couple tragically fell from the back of the

  • horse, and was gorily dismembered by the Beans.

  • Legend has it that they began tearing out her entrails and eating her alive.

  • This, however, only galvanised the husband's Scottish fighting spiritbringing out

  • the William Wallace in him, as he continued to valiantly fight the cannibal clan with

  • his pistol and sword.

  • While he probably couldn't have sustained combat for long, the noise of the brawl unfolding

  • alerted thirty nearby villagers.

  • They charged in with their own weapons, forcing the enraged Bean Clan to retreat off into

  • the night.

  • For the first time since the start of this twenty-five-year-long nightmare, their cover

  • had been blown.

  • Survival wasn't enough for the husband.

  • He'd seen these animals slaughter his beloved wifehe wanted justice, he wanted revenge.

  • That's why, as the legend goes, he travelled all the way to Glasgow to request a personal

  • audience with King James (some sources report it being James IV, others report it being

  • James VI.

  • Point is, it was definitely a king called James.

  • Moving on).

  • He told the king his tale of the cave-dwelling cannibals, and the King was so horrified that

  • he pulled together a four-hundred-man hunting party and set out for Bennane Cave himself.

  • The days of the Sawney Bean Clan were officially numbered.

  • King James and his elite cannibal-hunting squad charged into Bennane Cave with a pack

  • of ferocious hunting dogs, overwhelming the Beans with sheer numerical force.

  • The cave looked like a set from a grimy, 1970s horror moviefilled to the brim with stolen

  • items and half-eaten corpses.

  • Meat was pickled in barrels, hanging from hooks, cooking over open fires.

  • The sight was so horrifying that the Beans were immediately hauled out of the cave and

  • dragged back into mainland Scotland, where they were executed without trial.

  • The brutality of the enraged Scottish public almost rivalled that of the family itself

  • the men, women, and children of the Sawney Bean Clan were alternately dismembered and

  • burned alive.

  • Their reign of terror was finally over, once and for all.

  • This brings the gruesome legend of Sawney Bean and his bloodthirsty family to a close.

  • Was any of this grounded in truth?

  • Well, probably not.

  • There exists no real concrete evidence to prove that Sawney or any of his or his family's

  • crimes ever really happened.

  • The tales of his exploits were only committed to writing hundreds of years after they supposedly

  • happened, leaning more into frightening folklore than fact.

  • Some contemporary scholars, such as Dr. Louise Yeoman, also attribute the figure of Sawney

  • Bean to Anti-Scottish propaganda on behalf of the English monarchy.

  • Even the nicknameSawneywas popularly used at the time as shorthand for a stereotypical

  • violent Scot.

  • However, even though he was probably never real, Sawney Bean's cannibal clan has since

  • reverberated through pop culture in a massive way.

  • In Scotland, Sawney Bean has made Bennane Cave a popular tourist attraction, allowing

  • locals to profit off of the legend.

  • The story of Sawney Bean also inspired the brutal horror novelOff Seasonby Jack

  • Ketchum and Wes Craven's horror cult-classicThe Hills Have Eyes” – about an American

  • family being stalked by mutant cannibals in the Nevada desert.

  • Even though Sawney Bean and his clan were (thankfully) a product of fiction, the ripples

  • of his dark legend have the power to make us feel just a little bit queasy even today.

  • Thanks for watching this episode of The Infographics Show!

  • You may have lost your appetite for food, but if you have an appetite for more insane

  • cannibal facts, you should watchDid This Cannibal Couple Eat 30 People?” andCould

  • You Survive An Emergency By Eating Your Family?”

  • And remember: If ever you're in Scotland, maybe give the local sea caves a wide berth.

When you picture iconic rebels of Scottish folklore, you probably picture William Wallace,

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Insane Story of Cannibal Clan that Terrorized Europe

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    Summer posted on 2020/07/30
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