Legend of Sawney Beane

Southwest of the burgh of Giran, Scotland, it is said that a curious spate of disappearances began to occur during the early and middle 1500s. Villagers here, as well as those in locales nearby such as Ballantrae, had begun to note the disappearance of people with time, and searches throughout the region imparted little of the whereabouts of the missing. During one search however, the entrance to a coastal cave was discovered near Bennane Head, the entrance to which became covered with ocean water at various parts of the day with the rising tide. Surely no one could have lived in this place — let alone any human being — and thus, the legend tells that the cave at Bennane Head was disregarded as having any relation to the disappearances.

Some time thereafter, a number of fairgoers returning from festivities after dark were startled to discover a gruesome scene along the rural trail which led between villages: a married couple had been attacked on their way home, with the husband dead, and his wife merely clinging to life. Most terrible of all, they were not alone: the attackers were in midst of their business with the couple, apparently startled by the fairgoers in midst of brutally mauling their woman captive.

The attackers, now revealed to be cannibals in equal measure, fled the scene of the murder. Following official notice of their presence, legend tells that King James I of England issued a search into an unexplored cave at Bennane Head. Equipped with bloodhounds the King and a posse of 400 men made their way to the scene of the slaughter and the hunt began. To a depth of more than 60 meters below the earth, the searchers followed the cavern downward, ever deeper into its recesses, discovering the littered remains of human corpses along the way.

Image Credit: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sawney_Bean#/media/File:Sawney_beane.jpg

The bloodhounds get all the credit for the capture of Sawney Bean: the King's men did not notice the well-hidden cave but the dogs could not ignore the strong smell of flesh that surrounded it. The men entered the cave and found a horrible scene: dried parts of human bodies were hanging all from the roof, pickled limbs lay in barrels, and all around piles of money and trinkets from the pockets of the dead lay in piles. 

Eventually, the object of their manhunt was also revealed: deep within the cave, hidden for more than two decades, had been the family of one Alexander “Sawney” Beane (Bean), who along with his kindred (mostly the product of incest) had existed by living off of their murderous habit of killing and cannibalizing local villagers by night. The Beans made no attempt to escape all were caught alive and brought to Edinburgh in chains, where they were incarcerated in the Tollbooth, and the next day taken to Leith.

According to The Newgate Calendar, Alexander Bean was born in East Lothian during the 1500s. His father was a ditch digger and hedge trimmer, and Bean tried to take up the family trade but quickly realized that he had little taste for honest labour.

He left home with a vicious woman who apparently shared his inclinations. The couple ended up at a coastal cave in Bennane Head between Girvan and Ballantrae where they lived undiscovered for some twenty-five years. The cave was 200 yards deep and during high tide the entrance was blocked by water.

The couple eventually produced eight sons, six daughters, eighteen grandsons and fourteen granddaughters. Various grandchildren were products of incest. Lacking the inclination for regular labour, the clan thrived by laying careful ambushes at night to rob and murder individuals or small groups. The bodies were brought back to the cave, where they were dismembered and eaten. Leftovers were pickled, and discarded body parts would sometimes wash up on nearby beaches.

The legends tell that Beane and all of the male members of his family were executed in a most unsettling way without trial (in keeping with laws pertaining to treason at that time), while Beane’s wife and daughters were burned after being allowed to watch. Further legends tell that one of Beane’s daughters who left the cave dwelling savages was later discovered living in Giran, and upon being revealed as part of the group, faced death by hanging.


No comments

Powered by Blogger.

Hi, we noticed that you're using an Ad Blocker

We depend on ads to keep our content free of charge. Please consider disabling your Ad Blocker while visiting this website.

If You Already Disable Adblock Reload This Page