If you are looking for a chilling tale of horror and bloodshed, you might want to read about Sawney Bean, the legendary Scottish cannibal who terrorized the countryside with his clan of inbred murderers.
According to the legend, Sawney Bean was born in the 16th century in East Lothian, Scotland. He was a tanner by trade, but he soon abandoned his honest work and ran away with a woman named Agnes Douglas, who was accused of being a witch. Together, they settled in a coastal cave in Bennane Head, near Ballantrae in Ayrshire.
Sawney and Agnes did not want to work for a living, so they resorted to robbing and killing travelers on the nearby roads. They would ambush them at night, drag them to their cave, and butcher them for food. They also preserved some of the flesh by salting and pickling it in barrels. They threw the bones and unwanted parts into the sea, where they would sometimes wash up on the shore. The couple had many children, who also engaged in incest and cannibalism. Over the course of 25 years, the clan grew to 45 members, all living in the cave and feeding on human flesh.
The disappearances of so many people did not go unnoticed by the authorities and the locals. Many innocent people were suspected and executed for the crimes, but the real culprits remained hidden. The Bean clan was careful to avoid detection, staying in their cave by day and hunting by night. They also killed everyone they encountered, leaving no witnesses or survivors. However, their luck ran out one night when they attacked a married couple returning from a fair. The husband was a skilled fighter and managed to fend off some of the attackers with his sword and pistol. He also had a horse that kicked and bit at the assailants. His wife was not so fortunate and was dragged off and disemboweled by the cannibals.
They reported the incident to the local magistrate, who then informed King James VI of Scotland. The king was outraged and decided to lead a massive manhunt for the cannibals. He assembled a force of 400 men, along with bloodhounds and trackers. They searched the area and eventually found the cave, which was littered with human remains, clothes, jewelry, and weapons.
The Bean clan was caught off guard and offered little resistance. They were captured alive and taken to Edinburgh for trial. They did not plead for mercy or show any remorse for their crimes. They were condemned to death without trial, as they were considered to be subhuman and unfit for society. The men were castrated, disemboweled, and dismembered, while still alive. The women and children were burned at the stake. The whole clan died screaming in agony, ending their reign of terror.
The legend of Sawney Bean has been retold in various forms over the centuries, including books, plays, films, and comics. Some historians doubt its authenticity and suggest that it was a propaganda tool used by the English to demonize the Scots during their wars. Others claim that there is some truth to it, based on historical records and oral traditions. Whether fact or fiction, the legend of Sawney Bean remains one of the most gruesome and fascinating stories in Scottish folklore.
© Colin Lawson Books