Alferd Packer – 1874

By | November 12, 2016

“There were seven Dimmycrats in Hinsdale County and you’ve et five of them!”


Alfred Packer was never charged with cannibalism


One of the legends of American crime, Alferd Packer (his name is given as both Alferd — the result of a misspelled tattoo — and Alfred) was born in 1842 in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania and fought on the Union side in the American Civil War. He later became a prospector and on 9 February 1874 he and five others —Shannon Wilson Bell, James Humphrey, Frank “Reddy” Miller, George “California” Noon and Israel Swan — set off for Gunnison, Colorado despite a warning of impending bad weather. They were caught by snow in the Rocky Mountains.

By his own account, Packer went to look for food and when he returned he claimed that he found Shannon Wilson Bell eating one of the other men.

When Bell saw Packer he tried to attack him with an axe so Packer shot him. On 16 April Packer finally returned to civilization and said that Bell had gone mad and killed all the others. Packer then admitted that the conditions had been so bad that when the oldest traveller, 65-year-old Israel Swan, died the others ate him. Four or five days later, James Humphrey died and “was also eaten”. Frank Miller died in an accident and also ended up being eaten, as did California Noon. Packer then killed Bell in self-defence.


Rocky Mountains, Colorado, USA


February 1874


On 5 August 1874 Packer confessed that he had killed the others and was jailed, but he escaped and went to ground. According to legend, the judge at his trial said, “Damn you, Alferd Packer! There were seven Dimmycrats in Hinsdale County and you’ve et five of them!” Contrary to many stories told years later, and even today, Packer was never charged with, tried for, or convicted of cannibalism, or crimes related to cannibalism.

On 11 March 1883 he was unmasked while living as John Schwartze in Cheyenne, Wyoming. On 13 April he was found guilty of manslaughter and sentenced to death “until you are dead, dead, dead, and may God have mercy upon your soul”. The verdict was overturned, but on 8 June 1886 Packer was sentenced to 40 years in jail – then the longest custodial sentence in American history. Packer was paroled on 8 February 1901 and died six years later on 23 April 1907.


In 1968 University of Colorado students named their new café the Alferd G. Packer Memorial Grill with the slogan, “Have a friend for lunch!”

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