by Chuck Foster - November 2008
SERIAL KILLERS, cannibals and ruthless murderers have probably existed since man first stood upright, or since the incest of Adam and Eve populated the world. That's your choice; I really don't care. Here in America, though, this abnormal behavior has haunted friends and foes as long as our history itself. But what about the rest of the world? In my search for answers to questions that few would care to dig up, I found the disturbing tale of the Beane family - a family so evil that their actions terrified the people of Edinburgh in a time when cruel and unusual punishment was the norm of the land.
Sawney Beane was a Scot born outside of Edinburgh during the dominant reign of Queen Elizabeth, about the same time King James VI only governed Scotland. The lack of a socialized education separated class and reduced peasant families to generations of slave labor and poverty. Young Beane's life was no different having been born the son of a ditch digger. At an early age he fled his clan with a wretched young Las as vile and wicked as himself with hopes of finding riches and respect in lands farther away.
The two traveled across country to the coast, near the town of Galloway, where they transformed a large cave into a home. With little money for food and a family in the works, Beane took the trade of robbery to survive. Even though he wasn't an educated man, he knew that he couldn't allow any of his victims to escape - or live. As Beane and his wife began their mischief on the trails of the Scottish coast they were clever enough not to sell stolen valuables that could be recognized, but they quickly discovered this tactic alone couldn't provide enough money for food.
Facing the problem of possible starvation for himself and his family, they started eating the bodies of their victims. The two took on the task of disemboweling, dismembering and cutting the limbs off of their victims in small sections, which were pickled and hung through certain parts of the cave. This bizarre survival mechanism allowed the family to grow, if not thrive, for more than 20 years - not to mention raise a family of 46 children and grandchildren.
In their last days the family consisted of Beane, his wife, eight sons, six daughters, 18 grandsons and 14 granddaughters, who all lived as they had been raised. They ate human flesh, murdered without conscious or remorse, and even worse, partook in incest as a normal part of family life.
With a stockpile of food and valuables at hand the family needed very little from the nearby towns, seldom venturing into them, except for on rare occasions. This macabre seclusion allowed the family to escape detection while strange disappearances plagued the Scotland coastline for years on end. Another factor of their success was that their cave was only known by a few locals, who considered it to be unlivable for even rats as the tide was thought to flood the entire cave twice a day - which it did not. Whether this was good planning by Beane or just blind luck, it worked in his favor, hiding the family's monstrous lifestyle. That was until Beane made his first - and last - mistake.
Having suffered years of missing travelers and loved ones. The townspeople were extremely hesitant to travel the trails from town to town. Stories of pickled body parts found washing ashore from time to time terrified many of them with thoughts of unimaginable deaths and a monster running free across the lands eating human flesh. Little did they know that the body parts found along the beaches were either discarded by the Beanes or washed away from their cave during extremely high tides. But the townspeople never thought a family, let alone a person, could commit such heinous crimes.
The Beanes' luck finally ran out one dreary night when the clan tried to capture a young man and his wife on horseback returning from the fare. As the man fought to protect himself, his wife was brought down off her horse and murdered before his eyes. In a blind rage he trampled a few of the Beanes, and within moments before he too was taken and murdered, a group of travelers stumbled across the attack and fought the Beanes off.
The Beanes' retreat from the scene gave authorities their first break in the two-decade-old case, which led to King James and an army of men and tracking dogs to ascend upon the town of Galloway with a mighty vengeance. The army scoured the coast, almost missing the Beanes' lair until the dogs picked up on the scent of death at the edge of the cave. The king's men entered with swords pulled and torches flaming, only to discover one of the most repulsive sights mankind has ever witnessed - a 25-year-old human slaughterhouse.
After the men passed by hundreds of bones, dangling limbs, and piles of carcasses and valuables, they found the entire Beane family hiding at the end of the cave. The Beane family was then seized and taken back to Galloway, where they were denied trial for such appalling crimes against humanity. The entire family was found guilty and sentenced to death - even the youngest of the children were executed.
The Beane men were ruthlessly dismembered, as their victims were. Their arms and legs were amputated, where they slowly bled to death before the women who waited their own deaths. The women were then burned to death in several raging fires like the witches they were thought to be.
What lesson can we learn from a story like this? Maybe to realize that there will always be people who wish to hunt and kill others for simple joy - that some of mankind will always be simple-minded animals who act with no consciousness of another's life. Maybe we'll realize that in certain situations we should treat strangers as strangers - not friends - until proven otherwise. If not, you may find your head in the hands of a cannibalistic serial killer while his family disembowels your body for jerky.