Sawney Bean’s Cannibal Clan, 16th Century

A tale hard to distinguish fact from fiction, yet there is undoubtedly some truth behind Sawney Bean and his massive family of incestuous cannibals who may have devoured hundreds over the decades and terrorised the locals. Read on to discover his terrible fate.

The tale of Sawney Bean is a gruesome tale from Scottish history.

The man was born in the 16th Century and fathered by a ditch digger but quickly gave up on following in his father’s footsteps. Marrying a like-minded woman named “Black” Agnes Douglas, together they became a couple of real savages.

Incredible though it sounds, they went on to head an incestuous family of 45 cannibals.

They started out as simple robbers and made a home in a deep cave on the coastline. Its entrance would flood at high tide which explains how they lived undiscovered for the next 25 years. The two quickly turned to eating their victims whose discarded possessions began to quickly pile up amongst dismembered limbs, bones and flesh. Their eight sons and six daughters grew up feral, and bred like rabbits, their numbers multiplying until they were more of a warband than family.

They would ambush locals as they travelled between nearby settlements, their numbers quickly overwhelming their prey before they could escape or defend themselves. The steadily growing tally of missing did not go unnoticed but the Bean clan stayed well hidden, only coming out at night.

Their luck eventually changed. Riding back from a fayre nearby, a couple on horseback got ambushed. The young wife was quickly unhorsed and disembowelled as the husband fought desperately for his life. He was a skilled duellist, however, and deftly fought off the savages with sword and pistol before a large party of fayre goers arrived on the scene.

For once outnumbered, the fiends fled back to their cave, this time leaving behind witnesses and a very vengeful husband.

The locals went at once to Edinburgh to report to the King of Scotland himself no less, James VI. Hearing the terrors this family had committed, he personally led a small army of 400 men with several tracker dogs and finally discovered the cave entrance.

The King’s soldiers discover the Bean clan’s gruesome sanctuary (

Horrified by the gory sight inside, they subdued the family, taking them back to the capital to devise a suitable fate for such heinous people.

The entire family was executed. The males first were dismembered like their victims as the women were made to look on and then the females were burned at the stake. And so passed into lore the story of the Sawney Bean Family.

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