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Sawney Bean Is Seen As Scotland’s Most Prolific Cannibal, And For Good Reason

Legend has it that Sawney Bean and his 48-member family lived in a Scottish cave, where they murdered and cannibalized people for more than two decades.

If you love horror movies as much as I do, then chances are that you’ve seen “The Hills Have Eyes.”

I’ve always assumed that the filmmakers came up with the idea of the incestuous cannibals on their own, but I was surprised to find out that they were actually inspired by a legendary man from Scottish folklore.

Sawney Bean was said to live in a cave along with his 48 family members, some of whom were born as a result of incest — but that isn’t the most disturbing part. This terrifying clan killed and ate over 1,000 people at some point between the 13th and 16th centuries.

Bean’s father was a ditch digger and hedge trimmer, but Bean had no interest in taking up his family’s trade. When he met the woman who would become the mother of his children, he decided to leave home.

The couple traveled to a cave near Bennane Head in Ayrshire, where they lived for the next 25 years or so. Over that time, they welcomed eight sons and six daughters into the world, whose incestuous relationships produced 18 grandsons and 14 granddaughters.

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Instead of finding regular work, the Beans instead decided to ambush, rob, and murder people who happened to pass by at night. They then brought the bodies back to their cave to dismember and eat.

It wasn’t uncommon for discarded body parts to be found on nearby beaches, so local villagers became suspicious. They first blamed their innkeepers, as they were the last to see some of the missing people.

Meanwhile, the cannibalistic clan kept killing and eating travellers. One night, they decided to target a married couple riding on a horse from a fair. They mauled the wife when she fell to the ground, but the husband was saved when a large group of fair-goers showed up, scaring the Beans away.

After being informed about the family’s doings, King James VI led a manhunt with a team of 400 men and several bloodhounds to the cave. They were greeted by the grisly sight of human remains scattered everywhere.

The Beans were captured shortly after and taken to Leith, where they were all executed without trial. The men were said to have their genitals, hands, and feet cut off. The women and children were forced to watch before being burned alive.

Most see the tale as a folk story, with some believing it was created as anti-Scot propaganda. Scottish historian Dr. Louise Yeoman says books about Sawney Bean were published in England when prejudice against Scottish people was very common.

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(via All That Is Interesting)

“The Sawney story was a dig at Scots — a people so barbarous they could produce a monster like Sawney, who lived in a cave and ate people,” she told the BBC.

However it originated, one thing’s for sure — the legend of Sawney Bean and his family is seriously disturbing. Be sure to SHARE this creepy story of cannibalism with others!