Horror - Knife

The Story Of The 19th Century Forgotten Cannibal

A subject that remains taboo to this day is cannibalism. Somehow serial killers that commit repetitive scenarios are unforgivable, but if we add cannibalism to their title, somehow, they become another kind of evil. But this one slipped through the cracks.

The Forgotten Ones

From murders to mass shootings, our history knows its fair share of serial killers. Many of them hope to reach the ultimate glory of having their name remembered, such as Ted Bundy and Richard Ramirez.

Over time, some slip through the cracks of history pages and become an afterthought. Some have minimal information about them and what they did is unknown to the public.

One of those killers is Prussian-born Karl Denke.

The Polish Of The Nineteenth Hundreds

Born in August 1860, Karl Denke, who also holds the name The Forgotten Cannibal, is from the Kingdom of Prussia. Now we know it to be part of the European country of Poland.

Karl Danke Wrocław
Karl Danke Wrocław

Karl Denke is part of the criminal record as one of history’s first modern serial killers. His childhood remains a mystery, aside from being part of a wealthy family owning a farm in Prussia.

As a boy, Denke was shy and softly spoken, but a problematic child. He ran away from his home when he was twelve years old. He hoped to become a landscaper when leaving his home and becoming an apprentice to a gardener.

Taking Over The Family Business

When learning of his father’s passing, Denke returned home at twenty-five and took over the family farm. But Denke wasn’t an outdoor person and wasn’t good at farming or landscaping, for that matter.

He sold his family home and bought a house to rent. Most of his tenants were people passing through town. It created the perfect hunting ground for Denke. The news wouldn’t reach his village for a while. After all, who would notice the disappearance of travellers?

Karl Denke House

Loved by the community, Denke had an excellent reputation among its eight thousand town residents. The community referred to him as ‘Vater’ as he was a generous man and a father figure to the population. He would help the homeless and travellers by having them stay at his rental house.

Denke even went to church and played the organ at mass, making him a religious person. At the time, it made people easier to trust and, most often than not, a ‘good person.’ It made it easier for the villagers to forget the people he had helped disappeared.

The Murder House For Rental

The details of Denke’s murders are hard to find, but some information remains. In fact, rumours of Karl Denke’s murders go up to approximately thirty people. 

His first murder occurred in 1909, when he was forty-six years old. He killed a twenty-five-year-old woman named Emma Sander

In December 1924, a homeless man called Vincenz Oliver turned up at the local police station covered in blood. He claimed that Karl Denke attacked him, trying to kill him.

The police officers laughed it off when hearing the name of the kind-hearted Karl Denke. After all, he was beloved and had a good reputation. But Vincenz didn’t give up and managed to convince the authority to interview Denke.

Placed in jail for the night, Karl Denke committed suicide by the deadman’s noose and was found dead the following day.

It’s Always The Kindest Of Them All

With Karl Denke’s death, the authorities moved their search to his property. They found not the house of a kind and gentle man but the little shop of horror.

Reports of carved-up human meat, a shed of human bones and appendages, and a wooden barrel containing a mixture needed to dispose of human remains. 

Karl Denke Murder Accessories
Karl Denke Murder Accessories

The police officers found shoelaces made of human skin and clothing accessories, such as belts and suspenders, among other items made of human flesh. The findings they made could easily rival today’s, Ed Gein.

A Cannibal Like No Other

Denke wasn’t just any cannibal because, unlike Ed Gein, he didn’t stop at using the victims’ bodies to make meals for himself and his accessories. He went one step further, cooking the meat and passing it as ‘pork special’ to serve to his community at various events.

Ed Gein
Ed Gein

The villagers enjoyed his ‘pork special’ that he would bring to church gatherings or serving to the homeless. They would even buy the meat for their own meals. 

Karl Denke was on a pedestal as a kind and loyal citizen. He was someone who had the villagers’ respect. Imagine the horror in the eyes of the community when they found out that the most trustworthy person in the town served them human flesh. 

The End To A Tragic Nightmare

It turned out that Karl Denke killed between thirty and forty people, ate them, turned them into daily clothing accessories, and turned them into ‘pork special.’ 

Der Kannnibale Karl Denke nach seinem Suizid am 22. Dezember 1924 im Sarg. Die Aufnahme entstand in der Gerichtsmedizin Breslau.

Although what he did is unspeakable, it is a little sad we will never know why or how he became the town’s, Sweeney Todd. He knew it was over when his victim escaped but did he let him run, wanting to end what he was doing? Or was he looking for a reason to end his life? We will never know.

Decades later, Karl Denke remains a mystery and probably always will. His reasons and mental condition are well gone by now. If you wish to know more, maybe dig deeper by typing Karl Denke, The Forgotten Cannibal.

Paula Phillips

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.