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In the winter of 1873, a small band of prospectors lost their way in the frozen wilderness of the Colorado Rockies. Months later, when the snow finally melted, only one of them emerged. His name was Alfred G. Packer, though he would soon become infamous throughout the country under a different name: “the Man-Eater.” After the butchered remains of his five traveling companio In the winter of 1873, a small band of prospectors lost their way in the frozen wilderness of the Colorado Rockies. Months later, when the snow finally melted, only one of them emerged. His name was Alfred G. Packer, though he would soon become infamous throughout the country under a different name: “the Man-Eater.” After the butchered remains of his five traveling companions were discovered in a secluded valley by the Gunnison River, Packer vanished for nine years, becoming the West’s most wanted man. What followed was a saga of evasion and retribution as the trial of the century worked to extricate fact from myth and Polly Pry, a once-famed pioneering journalist, took on the cause of Packer. Man-Eater is the definitive story of a legendary crime—a gripping tale of unspeakable suffering, the desperate struggle for survival, and the fight to uncover the truth.


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In the winter of 1873, a small band of prospectors lost their way in the frozen wilderness of the Colorado Rockies. Months later, when the snow finally melted, only one of them emerged. His name was Alfred G. Packer, though he would soon become infamous throughout the country under a different name: “the Man-Eater.” After the butchered remains of his five traveling companio In the winter of 1873, a small band of prospectors lost their way in the frozen wilderness of the Colorado Rockies. Months later, when the snow finally melted, only one of them emerged. His name was Alfred G. Packer, though he would soon become infamous throughout the country under a different name: “the Man-Eater.” After the butchered remains of his five traveling companions were discovered in a secluded valley by the Gunnison River, Packer vanished for nine years, becoming the West’s most wanted man. What followed was a saga of evasion and retribution as the trial of the century worked to extricate fact from myth and Polly Pry, a once-famed pioneering journalist, took on the cause of Packer. Man-Eater is the definitive story of a legendary crime—a gripping tale of unspeakable suffering, the desperate struggle for survival, and the fight to uncover the truth.

30 review for Man-Eater: The Life and Legend of an American Cannibal

  1. 4 out of 5

    Kristin

    "I never met a meal I didn't like" I mean seriously, the man is buried somewhere close to where I live apparently, how can I not be curious. "The bodies were left at the campsite; however, the following August the remains were discovered by Harper’s Weekly Magazine Artist John Randolph on a bank above the Lake Fork of the Gunnison, just up from Lake City. Randolph reported the finding and, after being examined by the Hinsdale County Coroner, the skeletons were buried in a shallow grave near w "I never met a meal I didn't like" I mean seriously, the man is buried somewhere close to where I live apparently, how can I not be curious. "The bodies were left at the campsite; however, the following August the remains were discovered by Harper’s Weekly Magazine Artist John Randolph on a bank above the Lake Fork of the Gunnison, just up from Lake City. Randolph reported the finding and, after being examined by the Hinsdale County Coroner, the skeletons were buried in a shallow grave near where they died. In 1989 Dr. James Starrs, forensic scientist and Professor of Law at George Washington University, decided to come to Lake City and exhume the bodies to try to determine exactly what happened on that cold winter night. The grave site was supposedly located on Vickers Ranch just outside Lake City. Perk Vickers was sure this was the burial site but Joel Swank, another Lake City old timer, wasn’t so sure. Byrne Smith was called in with his backhoe and the digging began. On the second swipe with the hoe shouting was heard, the first bones had been found. Shovels and brushes were used from then on and all the bodies were found. After Professor Starrs' team excavated the graves of the five victims and examined the bones in an anthropology lab, they found cuts on arm and hand bones possibly indicative of defensive wounds, as well as nicks that supported the account that the men had been defleshed. But the question still remained: who used the ax? Packer, in his second conviction, served 15 of his 40 year sentence for five counts of manslaughter but was paroled after a Denver Post reporter convinced of his innocence got the governor involved. He lived out his days near Littleton, Colorado and is buried there."

  2. 5 out of 5

    Montzalee Wittmann

    Man-Eater: The Life and Legend of an American Cannibal by Harold Schechter is a true story about a crazy character from the wild west! The author did a wonderful job with the research and presenting it without boring the reader to death. The book revolves around Parker who claims he ate his buddies because he was starving. This book goes through all the craziness about Parker, the justice system, and newspapers article's effect on the stories Parker tells. Very interesting on a creepy subject! Man-Eater: The Life and Legend of an American Cannibal by Harold Schechter is a true story about a crazy character from the wild west! The author did a wonderful job with the research and presenting it without boring the reader to death. The book revolves around Parker who claims he ate his buddies because he was starving. This book goes through all the craziness about Parker, the justice system, and newspapers article's effect on the stories Parker tells. Very interesting on a creepy subject!

  3. 5 out of 5

    Mauoijenn

    This is the stuff that movies are made of. It was a very interesting book. Opened my eyes a bit and made me think twice about some things. I wouldn't read this if you had a weak stomach. This is the stuff that movies are made of. It was a very interesting book. Opened my eyes a bit and made me think twice about some things. I wouldn't read this if you had a weak stomach.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Steve

    I received this from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Interesting true-life tale of Alfred Packer, a man known as the American Cannibal. The book was obviously well-researched, providing an incredible amount of detail not only about the case, but about various other cases of cannibalism in the 1800s. The one downfall of this book is that it got really tedious about halfway through the book.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Rick Goldsmith

    Not very filling. Could have used some side dishes

  6. 5 out of 5

    Fox

    Man-Eater: The Life and Legend of an American Cannibal follows the life of Alfred Packer as best it can manage. This man lived at the tail end of the 19th century, fought in the civil war, worked as a tracker, had horrible epilepsy, and ultimately may have murdered and eaten five of his travelling companions in the Colorado mountains. May have. But the evidence is pretty damning. So, let's name a grill after him. The book is extremely accessible. It's easy to read, even with the subject matter at Man-Eater: The Life and Legend of an American Cannibal follows the life of Alfred Packer as best it can manage. This man lived at the tail end of the 19th century, fought in the civil war, worked as a tracker, had horrible epilepsy, and ultimately may have murdered and eaten five of his travelling companions in the Colorado mountains. May have. But the evidence is pretty damning. So, let's name a grill after him. The book is extremely accessible. It's easy to read, even with the subject matter at hand, and tells the story with ample reference back to the source material. While it has no pictures, somewhat disappointing considering the number of woodcuts referenced, the author does an admirable job of describing all that he wishes to convey. The court cases themselves were interesting. I enjoyed the high number of quotations, the rich vocabulary, and the ample history given not simply of the figures themselves, but of the towns they grew up in. The murders that took place happened at a time when the West was still being settled, and Harold Schechter conveys the changing America spirit well. The frontier days are done by the end, and it's amazing how quickly such a change can take place in national character. While I would be slightly hesitant to recommend this book to just anyone by virtue of its subject matter alone, I would feel slightly better doing so knowing that the main source of reference I had for this historical event was Cannibal: The Musical. So, if you ever want to know the true story behind that - or are simply interested in cannibalism for some reason, this is a wonderful book containing not only story of Alfred Packer but quite a bit more tales of madness from those frontier days.

  7. 5 out of 5

    April Cote

    I found this very interesting. Who doesn't want to hear the details of a man eating his fellow travelers? I gave it three stars because it was very repetitive. I found this very interesting. Who doesn't want to hear the details of a man eating his fellow travelers? I gave it three stars because it was very repetitive.

  8. 5 out of 5

    DAISY DISNEY

    One of my favorite true crime books was written by Harold Schechter. It's called Deviant & it's about the life and crimes of Ed Gein. So you can imagine my excitement when I was given the opportunity to read one of his new releases! I find the era in which bold text: Man- Eater took place to be very interesting. I think life was much more simpler in many ways. I guess I never really thought about murders taking place during the Wild West days though. This book will make you realize that people we One of my favorite true crime books was written by Harold Schechter. It's called Deviant & it's about the life and crimes of Ed Gein. So you can imagine my excitement when I was given the opportunity to read one of his new releases! I find the era in which bold text: Man- Eater took place to be very interesting. I think life was much more simpler in many ways. I guess I never really thought about murders taking place during the Wild West days though. This book will make you realize that people were coo koo even back then! My only complaint was that my copy of the book on Kindle did not have pictures. I love to see pictures in my true crime books. I am not sure if this was because it was an advance copy or not, but that would have made a huge difference to me. The story of Alfred Packer was an interesting read. It was gory so it is not for the weak of stomachs. If you love history and true crime then this is just the book for you. I personally do think Alfred Packer ate his fellow companions out of desperation. Nothing surprises me about what humans are capable of any more. Copy provided by Publisher in exchange of a review

  9. 4 out of 5

    ♥ Marlene♥

    Listening to my second )3rd) audiobook. As I mentioned in my review yesterday this makes doing chores in my house less of a choir and more fun. Love this reader. He sometimes talks like they used to in the South. At first I was not sure if I could keep on listening. My stomach was making a pirouette when he described what the Anasazi did with their prisoners. Cut them all apart drank their blood Oh I cannot even think of it and had to stop for a bit (I was going to have dinner but had to postpone Listening to my second )3rd) audiobook. As I mentioned in my review yesterday this makes doing chores in my house less of a choir and more fun. Love this reader. He sometimes talks like they used to in the South. At first I was not sure if I could keep on listening. My stomach was making a pirouette when he described what the Anasazi did with their prisoners. Cut them all apart drank their blood Oh I cannot even think of it and had to stop for a bit (I was going to have dinner but had to postpone lol) Update: I do not know why but I can't stomach this book. I have read many cruel stories but it is not even the cruelty but that it is described how humans were eaten. It makes me feel sick. Especially how the indians ate them while they were still alive. That being said I think if I would have to eat human meat to survive I think I probably would. Never understood the anger the Andes boys received after they were rescued. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1972_An...

  10. 5 out of 5

    Simply Sam ツ

    For a story about an infamous cannibal known as "The Man Eater" this book was pretty boring and tedious to get through. RTC later. For a story about an infamous cannibal known as "The Man Eater" this book was pretty boring and tedious to get through. RTC later.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Jane

    This review originally appeared on the Historical Novel Society website. Alfred (or possibly Alferd) Packer was a former Union soldier turned drifter who sought his fortune in Colorado by prospecting for silver. He joined up with a group of men in 1873 and was one of six prospectors who decided to brave the winter snows and strike out into the wilderness. The following spring only Packer emerged, having subsisted on the bodies of his companions. The question of whether Packer had murdered the othe This review originally appeared on the Historical Novel Society website. Alfred (or possibly Alferd) Packer was a former Union soldier turned drifter who sought his fortune in Colorado by prospecting for silver. He joined up with a group of men in 1873 and was one of six prospectors who decided to brave the winter snows and strike out into the wilderness. The following spring only Packer emerged, having subsisted on the bodies of his companions. The question of whether Packer had murdered the others for their money or whether his version of events was true—he never denied the cannibalism, but claimed self-defense—kept lawyers and journalists busy until his death in 1906 and he is still a Colorado legend. Harold Schechter’s entertaining and lucid account of the Packer case, set against the background of a swiftly changing American West, paints a vivid picture of evolving frontier justice and the shifting of public opinion over the years. Filled with detail and stocked with entertaining stories of murder and riot, this is nonetheless a serious study with a good bibliography and will be a keeper on my research shelf.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Matt

    Who knew cannibalism, prison breaks, and sensational trials could be so boring? I hate not finishing books, but after weeks of finding reasons not to keep reading this book I had to give up. The material is interesting, the writing got tedious very quickly.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Julie E. (Bookshelf Adventures)

    DNF - did not finish due to so many redundancies and boring moments in what promised to be a very interesting novel. Full review: http://bookshelfadventures.home.blog/... DNF - did not finish due to so many redundancies and boring moments in what promised to be a very interesting novel. Full review: http://bookshelfadventures.home.blog/...

  14. 5 out of 5

    berthamason

    3.5 stars.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Katherine Addison

    I first heard of Alfred Packer in The Thin Man. For reasons that I admit aren't entirely clear to me, Hammett interrupts his own narrative at one point to provide the complete precis of Packer's crimes given in Duke's Celebrated criminal cases of America. According to Schecter, Hammett's claim was that he did it to pad an overly skinny book, which I don't believe for a second. Gilbert asks Nick more than once about what you might call hidden crimes like cannibalism and incest. Which may, now tha I first heard of Alfred Packer in The Thin Man. For reasons that I admit aren't entirely clear to me, Hammett interrupts his own narrative at one point to provide the complete precis of Packer's crimes given in Duke's Celebrated criminal cases of America. According to Schecter, Hammett's claim was that he did it to pad an overly skinny book, which I don't believe for a second. Gilbert asks Nick more than once about what you might call hidden crimes like cannibalism and incest. Which may, now that I'm thinking about it, have some relevance to the thing that happened to Gilbert's sister Dorothy when she was a child, the thing she wants to confess to Nick, and Nick won't let her. (I love Nick for this, because Dorothy is clearly trying to shift both the attention and the genre of the narrative away from Nick and the detective novel and toward Dorothy herself and the gothic or the romance, with Dorothy as the heroine of a Mary Roberts Rinehart novel, and Nick just says, nope, not right now, and keeps going.) However. This is not a discussion of The Thin Man. Duke's version of Alfred Packer is, not surprisingly, wrong in many of its particulars, and Schecter's principal goal is to correct this and many other versions of Packer's story. One of the problems he runs into is that Packer's story is much too malleable (Packer himself told at least three different versions) and there's very little hard evidence: enough to prove that Packer's companions were murdered and eaten, not enough to prove that Packer, though indisputably the cannibal, was the murderer and not poor Shannon Wilson Bell. Schecter does have the important bit at the very end of his discussion, the piece I always look for in true crime books and only have about fifty-fifty odds of finding, where he pulls back and assesses. Schecter's opinion is that Packer was the murderer, but that there were mitigating circumstances, including the temporary insanity of starvation and the effect of Packer's epilepsy, which is itself hard to assess at this remove. Schecter is competent enough in putting his facts together; my problem with him is that he fails to make Packer in any way interesting. The only life in this narrative is brought there by Leonel Ross Campbell, a.k.a. Polly Pry, and her reprobate bosses at the Denver Post. There does seem to have been a kind of negative charisma to Packer, as even Polly Pry admitted on their first meeting, although she quickly changed her tune, but a book the central events of which are murder and cannibalism should be more compelling than this book, which is competent and certainly readable but which, like Packer himself, remains flat and uncharismatic. It's a book that should be interesting and isn't.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Lori L (She Treads Softly)

    Man-Eater: The Life and Legend of an American Cannibal by Harold Schechter is a highly recommended nonfiction narrative about Alfred (Alferd) G. Packer, a prospector who was accused of cannibalism. Six miners went into the mountains to hunt for precious gold; It was the middle of the winter, the weather was dreadful cold. Six miners went into the mountains, they had nor food nor shack— Six miners went into the mountains, But only one came back. "The Lost Miners"(or the Ballad of Alferd Packer; nineteent Man-Eater: The Life and Legend of an American Cannibal by Harold Schechter is a highly recommended nonfiction narrative about Alfred (Alferd) G. Packer, a prospector who was accused of cannibalism. Six miners went into the mountains to hunt for precious gold; It was the middle of the winter, the weather was dreadful cold. Six miners went into the mountains, they had nor food nor shack— Six miners went into the mountains, But only one came back. "The Lost Miners"(or the Ballad of Alferd Packer; nineteenth century) In 1873 Packer and a group of five other men set off through the high mountains of Colorado to seek their fortune in gold or silver. It was winter, a brutal time to be traveling through the mountains, and the men were lost and starving. Packer was the only man to make it out alive. Though he changed his story several times, it was widely believed that he killed the others and ate them in order to survive. Packer claimed, at one point, that the men were killed by another member of the group, Shannon Wilson Bell, who Packer in turned shot before Bell killed him. Then he did eat the flesh of his deceased companions to ward off starvation. It was also believed that he may have killed the other men to rob them; he did admittedly take money from the dead men. Schechter covers Packer's two trials, along with a plethora of historical information to place the legendary crime story in context. He includes Polly Pry's efforts on Packer's behalf, and the cultural impact of Packer's story. For example, a cafeteria at the University of Colorado Boulder is named after Packer, several films and a musical based on the story have been made, and songs have been written about it. Schechter also discusses James Starr's efforts in to use modern forensic science techniques to resolve the questions surrounding Packer's case. This is one of those books that is simply interesting to read. If you enjoy nonfiction about the late 1800s, prospectors, cases of cannibalism in US history, and sensational historical figures, this may be a good choice for you. Written in 50 short, well organized chapters, the book includes chapter notes and a bibliography. (The spelling of the name Alfred as “Alferd” is because Packer didn’t know how to spell his name when younger and used the alternate misspelling.) Disclosure: My Kindle edition was courtesy of Little A for review purposes.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Leigh

    I really really really wanted to like this book more. The story begins with cannibal factoids, delves into the early history of the United States, ultimately introducing the title character, Alfred (or Alferd) Packer. Then... Well... I feel like ol Harold Schechter got a little caught up in a wheel of repetitiveness. There are more than just a few moments in this story that feel like the same thing over and over and over again, to the point, I did find myself skimming a portions, because I alrea I really really really wanted to like this book more. The story begins with cannibal factoids, delves into the early history of the United States, ultimately introducing the title character, Alfred (or Alferd) Packer. Then... Well... I feel like ol Harold Schechter got a little caught up in a wheel of repetitiveness. There are more than just a few moments in this story that feel like the same thing over and over and over again, to the point, I did find myself skimming a portions, because I already knew what he was going to say. If you like history, you'll find things to enjoy in this book. I learned quite a few new little tidbits, particularly about Colorado, and discovered people like Polly Pry. If you're not exactly crazy about history, avoid this book. There probably will not be enough interesting cannibal stuff to keep your attention. :)

  18. 4 out of 5

    Brad

    An excellent audio performance by Eric G Dove made this a quick listen. But I did find myself growing tired of Schechter's intrusion into the story of Alferd Packer. Rather than simply reporting the information we have on Packer's cannibalism in the post-civil war Rocky Mountains, and the competing contemporary opinions of Packer's innocence or guilt, Schechter passes his own judgement on the case, albeit subtly, and I found myself wondering why this particular case garnered his personal opinion An excellent audio performance by Eric G Dove made this a quick listen. But I did find myself growing tired of Schechter's intrusion into the story of Alferd Packer. Rather than simply reporting the information we have on Packer's cannibalism in the post-civil war Rocky Mountains, and the competing contemporary opinions of Packer's innocence or guilt, Schechter passes his own judgement on the case, albeit subtly, and I found myself wondering why this particular case garnered his personal opinion. It was an unfortunate distraction from a true crime writer I usually enjoy thoroughly. Still, this is work a listen.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Toni

    Really interesting tidbit from the thousands of stories from the American wild west/expansion days. I think the author did a great job in researching the material concerning the life/imprisonment of Alfred Packer. Using today's standard - I believe Mr. Packer was innocent of most of the crimes attributed to him and that he was truthful of the crimes he acknowledges. The evidence at the time (the 1800's) was like a 'snow foundation' which the passage of time has melted away and may have proven th Really interesting tidbit from the thousands of stories from the American wild west/expansion days. I think the author did a great job in researching the material concerning the life/imprisonment of Alfred Packer. Using today's standard - I believe Mr. Packer was innocent of most of the crimes attributed to him and that he was truthful of the crimes he acknowledges. The evidence at the time (the 1800's) was like a 'snow foundation' which the passage of time has melted away and may have proven that Mr. Packer was unfairly judged by history. Makes for great American lore all the same. Recommend reading/listening - worth the investment.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Comtesse DeSpair

    I love true crime books by Harold Schechter. He is so good at cutting through to the details of the case without leaving anything essential behind. Here, he cuts through to the bone of the Alfred Packer case. You remember Alfred? He went into the Colorado mountains in 1873 with 4 other men, but he was the only one who walked out; the rest were found butchered and devoured. Packer admitted cannibalizing the men but insisted that one of the other men had gone crazy and killed three of them while P I love true crime books by Harold Schechter. He is so good at cutting through to the details of the case without leaving anything essential behind. Here, he cuts through to the bone of the Alfred Packer case. You remember Alfred? He went into the Colorado mountains in 1873 with 4 other men, but he was the only one who walked out; the rest were found butchered and devoured. Packer admitted cannibalizing the men but insisted that one of the other men had gone crazy and killed three of them while Packer was away, and that Packer had to kill him in self-defense when he came back to camp. A likely story, and one that was not believed in court. This book also talks about several other famous cases of cannibalism which I will undoubtedly be using for Morbid Facts in the near future. The only less than stellar thing about the book is its primary subject matter. There really wasn't a lot to Packer once you got past the cannibalism, so some of the book drags a bit. But hey, at least we got 'Cannibal: the Musical' out of Packer's primal brutality!

  21. 5 out of 5

    Meg

    This book is very interesting, but very detailed and gruesome. I would not recommend to anyone who is easily grossed out because this book describes the murders and cannibalism in great detail. About halfway the book transforms into detailing the trial and moved a lot slower than I would have liked. The book also provides a lot of background information on other instances of cannibalism the history of it. I would recommend this book to anyone who is a fan of history books or true crime books.

  22. 4 out of 5

    J.M.

    This was surprisingly good. I couldn't put it down. When I started reading it, I thought the guy sounded familiar, so I looked up Alferd Packer -- of course it was familiar, I saw "Cannibal! The Musical!" years ago, which is about him. A fascinating read. This was surprisingly good. I couldn't put it down. When I started reading it, I thought the guy sounded familiar, so I looked up Alferd Packer -- of course it was familiar, I saw "Cannibal! The Musical!" years ago, which is about him. A fascinating read.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Craig

    A thoroughly researched and well-written account. My only real complaint is that it may in fact be too thorough, as Schechter seems to have incorporated every piece of his research, making the book often slow and sometimes repetitive. Also, not nearly as funny as Cannibal! the Musical.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Andrea Winn

    Slow reading. I was not too engaged and had to force myself to plow through. The subject matter is fascinating, but the writing left much to be desired. Sorry, Harold Schechter. 🤨

  25. 4 out of 5

    Connie

    A mystery, for sure, but what I really enjoyed about this book was the historical content of the courts and reporting at this time in history. I loved the language the attorneys and judge used, and even the defendent. I waffled back and forth all thru the book on Mr. Packer’s innocence or guilt, but in the end, finally agreed with the conclusion of the author. Could it be proved in a court of law......not in those days, but one just had to use their common sense, which isn’t grounds for convicti A mystery, for sure, but what I really enjoyed about this book was the historical content of the courts and reporting at this time in history. I loved the language the attorneys and judge used, and even the defendent. I waffled back and forth all thru the book on Mr. Packer’s innocence or guilt, but in the end, finally agreed with the conclusion of the author. Could it be proved in a court of law......not in those days, but one just had to use their common sense, which isn’t grounds for conviction.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Michael

    If I was starving and stranded, and the person or people I'm with die.......I'm eating. I wouldn't kill them(I hope), but I'm gonna eat 'em. Alfred Packer may or may not have cared either way. But, despite what the experts say, none of their arguments can prove whether he killed them or not. Only Packer knew. This being the second book I've read on Alfred Packer, I can only guess. And I think he killed them. The book is pretty good. A timeline type writing that covers each step in the Man Eater If I was starving and stranded, and the person or people I'm with die.......I'm eating. I wouldn't kill them(I hope), but I'm gonna eat 'em. Alfred Packer may or may not have cared either way. But, despite what the experts say, none of their arguments can prove whether he killed them or not. Only Packer knew. This being the second book I've read on Alfred Packer, I can only guess. And I think he killed them. The book is pretty good. A timeline type writing that covers each step in the Man Eater saga as it happened in chronological order. All the way up to the 1989 exhumation of the victims to try to solve the mystery and 1994 re-examination of some of the remains. A little hum drum at moments but overall a good book. All I know is that I saw mention of several other events that NEED to have a book written about them.(I couldn't find any) And I found 2 new books to read from other events mentioned. 3.5 stars for this book.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Simon

    I received a ARC of this book in exchange for an unbiased review. I was first introduced to Harold Schector was through his book Nevermore, which is a murder mystery with Poe as the detective and Davy Crockett as his 'assistant' in the proceedings. I later discovered that Schector seems to have an obsessive interest in the darker area of true crime with all his psycho/serial killer books! All that being said, I do find his books rather interesting and so, when I found a new book of his on Netgal I received a ARC of this book in exchange for an unbiased review. I was first introduced to Harold Schector was through his book Nevermore, which is a murder mystery with Poe as the detective and Davy Crockett as his 'assistant' in the proceedings. I later discovered that Schector seems to have an obsessive interest in the darker area of true crime with all his psycho/serial killer books! All that being said, I do find his books rather interesting and so, when I found a new book of his on Netgalley, I had to read it - maybe, I am a little crazy over serial killers. Man-eater: The Saga of Alfred G. Packer, American Cannibal is a fascinating read to say the least. It is about Alfred Packer, a man who may have committed five murders and then feasted on the corpses. He definitely did eat the men, but he denied killing all of them. The man, himself goes through a number of changes in the book or I seem to think he is characterised in a number of different ways by those he meats and by those who decide to champion his bids for freedom. Packer was a solider, a miner, and then participated in one of the many rushes to discover silver/gold. During one of these rushes, he becomes a guide for party in search of gold and of course, things go wrong because they go off in the middle of winter and then, as the poem at beginning of the book says, six miners went into the mountains, but only one came back! The book is not just about Packer; it uses him as a jumping point to discuss a number of different things. Schector gives us several little pieces of historical contexts, background on various cases of cannibalism - he mentions, the Donner Party and that nautical instances of cannibalism are mostly given a pass whereas those that are land based don't. Also, we are introduced to several different people who are involved, either as witnesses during the trail or who have become enmeshed in the campaign to exonerate Packer. The book is divided into parts dealing with Packer, his trails, then his bids for freedom, and finally, his historical impact. Schector shares his views in a witty way and there is a lot of dark humour in the book. Unfortunately, the book does drag a bit, but only where it goes into the trial; however, I found the last section of the book hilarious. This section talks about the cultural impacts of Packer the Cannibal such as him being the inspiration for a couple of films, namely Cannibal! The Musical and the brilliant horror/western, Ravenous. Overall, I would recommend this book to those of us who enjoy our history through a slightly demented lens. Bon appetite!

  28. 4 out of 5

    David Allen Hines

    The case of Alfred Packer is one of the most imfamous episodes of cannibalism in the Old West. In 1873 in Colorado, Packer and 5 other men got lost and delayed while traveling in rugged winter terrain. Spring came, and only a well-nourished Packer emerged. He admitted to becoming starved and eating the bodies of his 5 associated, after he said, he returned from a reconnoitering hike to find that one of them had become mad, killing the other 3 and coming at him with a hatchet before he shot and k The case of Alfred Packer is one of the most imfamous episodes of cannibalism in the Old West. In 1873 in Colorado, Packer and 5 other men got lost and delayed while traveling in rugged winter terrain. Spring came, and only a well-nourished Packer emerged. He admitted to becoming starved and eating the bodies of his 5 associated, after he said, he returned from a reconnoitering hike to find that one of them had become mad, killing the other 3 and coming at him with a hatchet before he shot and killed him. After an investigation however, Packer was charged with murder and cannibalism. He escaped and was on the run for a number of years before being apprhended. Convicted at his first trial, his murder conviction was later overturned on a technicality when the state legislature amended the murder statute and made a mistake in the writing of the law. He was tried again and convicted of manslaughter, and sentenced to 40 years. While I knew the general story of Packer, I did not know until I read this book that late in his life Packer became an object of sympathy and a pardon campaign was led by a female reporter who had evidently come to sympathize with with. I also did not know that Packer was in fact later released by the Colorado governor to live his last few years quietly. Schechter includes a lot of anectodes and asides that really don't focus on Packer, but I learned a lot of additional history reading them and they do give you a better understanding of the times. You get frustrated when the story drifts from a focus on Packer, but each one of these asides does educate and inform you, so they are not a waste of time. At this remoteness in time from the events, it is doubtful the entire truth about Packer will ever be known. He suffered from severe epilepsy and lied to the point he was delusional, so he may well have had mental problems. Archaeology of the remains of his victims in the late 1980s showed indisputably the men had been killed by repeated viscious blows to the head, but one set of remains showed what could have been bullet holes, which would support what Packer said about shooting a man after he killed the others. An old rusted pistol was also found at the site. But regardless of who killed the men, it is undeniable that Packer spent weeks and weeks carefully butchering and eating them. He admitted to it, and the bones showed signs of having been butchered. If there is doubt whether Alfred Packer killed all 5 men, and not just one, there is no doubt at all that he was a cannibal. This is a very informative, very interesting, very worthwhile book.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Snem

    This was a story I had no previous knowledge of so those are always really interesting to me. Also cannibalism, super gross addition to any true crime story. This was well-researched with a good amount of detail included. This book also does a good job of placing the crime within a social/historical context. No pictures! I don’t know seems like a missed opportunity there. At some point the writing became a little dull and repetitive. I really like Schechter’s books for the subjects and the way he This was a story I had no previous knowledge of so those are always really interesting to me. Also cannibalism, super gross addition to any true crime story. This was well-researched with a good amount of detail included. This book also does a good job of placing the crime within a social/historical context. No pictures! I don’t know seems like a missed opportunity there. At some point the writing became a little dull and repetitive. I really like Schechter’s books for the subjects and the way he describes the crimes, but the writing drops off when it gets to the court cases and aftermath. I recommend this for the true crime and American history fans. Probably avoid if you have a weak or sensitive constitution.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Louis

    Anyone remotely familiar with Colorado history has heard of Alfred Packer and the tales of cannibalism. Packer, like many other figures, has taken an almost larger than life quality, but what really happened? Harold Schechter’s Man-Eater: The Life and Legend of an American Cannibal attempts to sort out truth from fiction regarding Alfred Packer. Some basic facts aren’t in dispute: Alfred Packer was a marginally literate con-man who set out with five others; his party got trapped in the San Juan Anyone remotely familiar with Colorado history has heard of Alfred Packer and the tales of cannibalism. Packer, like many other figures, has taken an almost larger than life quality, but what really happened? Harold Schechter’s Man-Eater: The Life and Legend of an American Cannibal attempts to sort out truth from fiction regarding Alfred Packer. Some basic facts aren’t in dispute: Alfred Packer was a marginally literate con-man who set out with five others; his party got trapped in the San Juan Mountains during winter, and Packer was the only one who survived. Packer’s healthier-than-expected appearance, upon returning to town almost certainly supports the case for cannibalism. Packer was tried for murder and faced execution but was acquitted on a technicality. However, he was re-tried and imprisoned for life, though eventually released. Did Alfred Packer resort to cannibalism as a means for survival or did he commit murder and robbery? Schecter emphasizes that cannibalism at the time was not necessarily considered a grave offense and Packer never denied eating the five—he claimed he killed one in self-defense, whereas the others had either killed each other or died of natural causes. Although inconclusive there are some holes in Packer’s story—namely that the bodies of the other five were eventually found and evidence pointed to murder—and the fact that his story changed periodically over time. However, there were no witnesses—Packer was the only one who emerged alive—and there was a considerably amount of hearsay, sensationalism, and hysteria over the course of his arrest and trial. Furthermore, recent forensic investigations have turned up inconclusive results. Like many other figures in the history of the American West, we may never be able to completely separate truth from myth. On the whole I found this book to be well-written and easy to read, although the author had a tendency, at times, to veer of tangents that were minimally related to the subject matter at hand.

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