Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Alfred Packer - Colorado's Cannibal

Photo courtesy: Lake City Museum.

As part of my latest book Hidden History of Denver, (due for release in November 2011), I included the story of Alfred Packer and his ill fated journey. On November 8, 1873, a twenty-one man party left Bingham Canyon, Utah for Denver, attracted by the lure of gold. Each looking to make his fortune, they hired Alfred Packer as their guide after he boasted, “The Colorados, I know ‘em like the back of my hand.” After a disastrous trip, the group arrived at Chief Ouray's camp in Montrose, Colorado. Ouray advised the men to wait until the spring before continuing their journey, but Packer and five companions decided to take a chance.

Two months later, on April 16, 1874, a dishevelled but otherwise well nourished Alfred Packer walked into the Los Pinos Indian Agency. Over the next few days, he told various accounts of the demise of his party...but never denied the fact that he used their remains to sustain himself. He said, "I could only eat a little at a time." The newspapers nicknamed him "the ghoul of the San Juan’s."