Sawney Bean

Sawney Bean at the entrance to his cave

Sawney Bean was a legendary cannibal, who along with his clan is supposed to have murdered and eaten hundreds of people before he was caught and executed.

It is an apocryphal tale and most likely created as a piece of entertaining fiction used to scare travellers. Different sources place him at various points in history, perhaps during the reign of James I, perhaps later during the reign of James VI but there is no hard evidence that he ever existed at all. His crimes do not appear in any official sources and we can conclude he is definitely a fictional character.

The story claims he was born Alexander Bean the son of a labourer in East Lothian and he shacked up with a witch. The two spawned a huge family of inbred psychos, who they brought up as murderers and cannibals. They supposedly lived in a cave and robbed and murdered travellers in the South Ayrshire area. Eventually the disappearances raised suspicion and after a man escaped their clutches and told of his encounter the king led a party out to the cave where they found copious human remains. The clan were rounded up and executed without trial.

Sawney Bean first appeared in chapbooks, popular collections of lurid tales sold to the masses as cheap entertainment. He has obviously provided the inspiration for many horror stories over the years but all attempts to investigate the veracity of the tale have proved fruitless.