In 1977, Wes Craven’s terrifying and realistic film “The Hill in Eyes” was released, telling the story of the Carter family, who took the desert road to California. But something happens and they find themselves prey to a family of particularly sadistic and incestuous cannibals. The film was a commercial success and shocked public opinion, then gave rise to two sequel and a remake of Alexander Aja in 2006. The story is inspired by a real fact in 17th century Scotland with the Bean family…
(Image : etching by Sawney Bean)
It all began with the publication of The Newgate Calendar, a magazine that identified the worst crimes that existed at the time. It tells the very grim story of the Bean family, who were sentenced to death for crimes of cannibalism and murder.
Alexander Bean was born in the 17th century near Edinburgh. His father was a farmer and sacrificed everything for his son who did not have the same character: Alexander whose best-known nickname (Sawney = the Scotsman) wanted to live on the margins of society and he already had dark vices with resentment towards the inhabitants of the surrounding villages. There were rumours that he was then the victim of mockery and intimidation.
He met his future wife (his name is currently unknown). Then, they left near the Galloway coast to find themselves in a dark and humid cave, almost 1500 meters deep. The entrance to the cave was dark at first sight and in the rock, no one could believe that people lived in this very gloomy place. Not having the means to find a home to live together, the couple then decides to use it as habitat and landmark at the same time.
Alexander thus began to gradually trap people who passed not far from his cave and on the coast to steal them. But the money collected during these flights was not enough to feed the family that was beginning to grow. People are often penniless travellers and do not want to sell stolen items for fear of being caught. We also had to find a solution for the corpses. It was then decided to feed on the corpses so as not to lose the meat.
(Image : Sawney Bean, source Real Unexplained Mysteries)
The couple had eight sons, six daughters, eighteen grandsons and fourteen grandchildren, the result of incestuous relationships between family members. Children grow up in the cave without the slightest education put up by theft and cannibalism.
But some bodies were so damaged that they got rid of rotting pieces of bodies. The authorities could not at that time estimate the dates of death but, above all, the identification of the bodies was impossible because only limbs or pieces of flesh were found. Nevertheless, the list of missing persons was beginning to grow sufficiently for the authorities to ask questions.
For 25 years the Bean clan reigned an immense terror with a meticulous organization while hiding to never get caught. The terror ended when, once too often, the family members came upon the wrong people: on that day, it was a couple leaving the fair in the neighbouring village. The man who by chance fought against his assailants only had a break when the carnies arrived who had heard the man’s cries of despair. However, his wife did not survive his injuries.
The Beans were unmasked and on the orders of James VI, an armed group of between 100 and 300 men, then surrendered to hunt Sawney Bean and his family. Thanks to the dogs that smelled blood and decomposition, they discovered the cave. So they eventually found the place and clear evidence of their guilt: bones, corpses, pieces of flesh, clothes and objects that belonged to their victims.
The family was taken to Toolbough Prison in Edinburgh and then to Glasgow where they were executed without trial. The men were castrated and bled to death while the women and children had to watch before being burned alive.