Feb. 7, 2021

Alferd Packer // Colorado // 49

Alferd Packer // Colorado // 49

In November, 1873, 21 men headed for the gold field in Breckenridge, Colorado.  Their guide, Alferd Packer, ended up being terrible with directions.  The weather was awful and the men ran out of provisions pretty fast.  They began splitting the group up and Alferd was in charge of guiding 5 men through the mountains.  Unfortunately, Alferd was the only one of his group to make it out alive.  He told many stories about his journey and people began noticing the inconsistencies.  Alferd finally admitted that the other men had been killed and even though his story kept changing, there was cannibalism involved.



Alferd Packer was either born January 21st,, January 31st, or maybe even November 21st of 1842 and was one of three children. In the early 1850's, the family moved to Indiana and Alferd's father, James Packer, became a cabinetmaker. Apparently, Alferd didn't have a great relationship with either of his parents and moved to Minnesota in his late teens to be a shoemaker. Alferd ended up serving in the Union Army, during the American Civil War. He enlisted on April 22nd, 1862 in Winona, Minnesota and was assigned to the 16th US Infantry regiment company F. Due to his epilepsy, he ended up being discharged eight months later. Next, he ended up moving and enlisted in the Army in Iowa. He was discharged for his epilepsy again. He had seizures about every two days.

So, Alferd packed up, moved west, and worked many odd jobs for the next nine years. He was a hunter, wagon teamster, ranch hand, and field worker, but his seizures and attitude always got him fired. He also worked as a guide for awhile, but people that knew him, say he was a terrible guide because he always lost his way. Alferd wasn't having a lot of luck with jobs, but he did end up mining for a bit. This also didn't work out amazing for him, because people didn't tend to like Alferd or trust him. He was known for stealing, being difficult, and for getting into arguments. He was described as a pathalogical liar.


In November 1873, 20 men headed for the gold fields in Breckenridge, Colorado. The men were all strangers, but they wanted to make a fortune together and they were bricky. (brave or fearless) During their quest, the group ran into Alferd Packer, about 25 miles from their original starting point. When he heard that the group was headed to the San Jaun Mountains, he was ready to join. He didn't have money or supplies, so the group wasn't overjoyed about taking him along, but he decided to tell a thumper (construct a clever lie) He told them he was a guide and knew the San Juan territory well. Since the group wasn't familiar with the trek, they figured a guide would come in handy. Alferd told stories about his experience as a guide and really talked himself up. The others in the group noticed that Alferd didn't have a rifle with him when the left, he just had a Colt revolver. He was really greedy with the rations and was lazy, whiny, and being a beggar. He began fighting a lot with another member of the group, Frank Miller and the men began referring to him as a whining fraud.

During the quest, the group wasn't making very good progress towards their destination. It was winter and the horses and wagons were causing a lot of difficulties. Everyone was following the Mormon Trail, but when it was snowed in, it was hard to determine where it actually was. This forced the men to rely solely on a compass and it was becoming very evident that Alferd didn't have a clue where to go. The group knew they were lost and they were running out of their rations quickly because the trip was taking longer than they planned for. The men resorted to eating the horse's feed and knew they'd have to consider eating the horses next. On January 21st, 1874, the group came up to an encampment of Chief Ouray known as the White Man's Friend. They didn't know how the tribe would feel about them being there, but they were desperate. 

The chief welcomed the group and supplied them with food and lodging, but it's reported that they scared away the two Utes. (The two hwat? Did you say Utes)

The chief recommended that the group postpone the expedition until spring and warned them that the weather was getting dangerous in the mountains. He told them that no Ute would attempt a journey like this. The chief told the men they could all stay with his tribe until winter was over and he would share all they had with them. They men were surprised by the generosity, but they wanted that gold and knew that miners from all over the country would be after it. They stayed a few weeks with the Utes, but ultimately decided to leave at the beginning of February. Which is typically when winter really ramps up. 

The group couldn't allow everyone to leave, they needed some people to stay with the horses and wagons until spring. They decided to have 11 people continue on. The chief gave the men food for their journey and gave them directions to bypass the mountains. The group headed out and Alferd was a real dick and decided they should go through the mountains as it was a more direct route. Five members of the group wanted to follow the Chief's directions and travel along the river, but Alferd insisted that they do things his way. He got five men to side with him and the group split. Four of them set out to follow the river and the others followed Alferd. 

The group that followed the river, had a rough time. The weather was nasty and the temperatures were freezing. The food rations ran out well before they reached their destination. The men were close to starving and they ended up finding a Government Cattle Camp, where they were given food and shelter and they were like, fuck this trip. They stayed at the camp until after April.

So, back to the other group of men that followed Alferd. On February 9th, Alferd Packer, Shannon Wilson Bell, James Humphrey, Frank “Butcher” Miller, George “California” Noon, and Israel Swan, headed out on a 75 mile journey. They followed the river for awhile and eventually headed towards the mountains. The men were not prepared for this trip at all. They had less than 14 days of food left and they didn't have snowshoes, they didn't have proper clothing for the trip, and they didn't have many matches or even a flint. They headed to the mountains with two rifles, a pistol, a few knives, a hatchet, and a small amount of ammunition.

Six men went in, but only one came out. Alferd reached civilization on April 16th, 1874. He stumbled across a frozen lake and came upon the Los Pinos (LOs PInOs) Indian Agency. The men of the agency were sitting around a table eating breakfast and suddenly, the door flew open. Alferd was in the entrance begging for food and shelter. When he got there, he had a rifle, knife, a steel coffee pot, and a satchel. The men jumped up and got Alferd inside and gave him food. He ended up vomiting and told them men that his digestion had been altered because he had been starved for so long. He took several shots of whiskey and began recounting his tale. 


Alferd told the men that he had been hired by a group of five to be a guide on a journey. At one point, he became snow blind and fell behind the others. Snow blind is a painful eye condition that's caused by exposure to UV rays with insufficient protected eyes. Supposedly, when this happened, he became a burden to the group and they needed to keep moving forward. A member of the group, Israel Swan, gave him a rifle and they ditched him. Alferd said he had to trek through the mountains alone and ate roots and rose buds to survive. The men at the agency listened intently, but couldn't help noticing that something was off. Alferd was saying he ate roots and flowers and was lost for over two months, but he didn't look very malnourished. His face looked bloated and he wasn't as thin as you'd expect in this situation. Alferd let the men know that he was broke and need money desperately. He sold his Winchester rifle for $10, stayed at the agency for 10 days, and headed into town to buy supplies. 

When Alferd got into town, he went to a local Saloon and got a room. The owner, Larry Dolan says Alferd payed around $100 during his stay and spent $78 in the general store. Now this would be quite interesting, because he told men at the agency that he needed to sell his gun because he didn't have money. People saw him with several wallets in his possession and he drank heavily everyday. When Alferd got drunk, he began saying things that were troublesome. He would tell stories about his journey through the mountains and his stories kept changing. The town began gossiping and the stories kept evolving.

Around this time, a few members of the original party, who stayed at the camp with the Utes, began showing up in this town. Remember, they were staying at the camp until the weather got better. These guys show up at the Saloon and found Alferd drinking and telling stories. The men approached him and asked where the rest of the group was. He told them that they all set up camp when the winter storm set in and he started a fire to warm them up and the others went looking for food. The group left him with a rifle in case he ran into trouble while they were gone. He assumed they abandoned him because the men just never came back. He didn't have a choice and had to leave on his own to survive. This group of men also found Alferd's story to be strange. They didn't believe anyone would just abandon him in the mountains and he looked well-fed. They also wondered why Alferd would be handed a rifle if he was just watching the fire. The rifle would be needed by the men that were hunting.... Also, Alferd had originally started the journey with a Colt revolver, where was that? Where did the drinking money come from? It was also noticed that Alferd had a knife with him and it belonged to Frank “Butcher” Miller. 

This was all too much, one of the men just flat asked Alferd how he got the knife. He said that Butcher put the knife in a tree and walked off. This sounded ridiculous and the men began to believe that something sinister was going on. They began recalling all of the weird things Alferd had said or done since this whole journey began. One of them was just sick of the shit and suggested hanging Alferd. He knew it was time to move on from this town, he had clearly overstayed his welcome. 

Back at the Agency, two men from the group that followed the river, showed up. A few days later, the other three men from their group arrived. The men at the Agency told this group all about Alferd and what happened to him the men he was with. They immediately called bullshit. They knew the men in Alferd's group would NEVER abandon him in the mountains. They pretty much said, look, this guy can't be trusted, something bad obviously happened. When the agency group mentioned the Winchester rifle, they were like wait a minute, that belonged to an elderly man from the group. The men easily convinced the agency that something needed to be done. An officer was sent to get Alferd for questioning. The officer claimed that they just needed him for a search party so they could go look for the missing men. Alferd was in the process of gathering his belongings, so he could leave town, but the officer told him he was joining the search party and that's that. 

The officer brought Alferd back to the agency and he came face to face with the five men who followed the river and he hadn't seen them for months. The agency officer walked in and told General Adams, dude, I've got a story you may be interested in. He basically laid out all of the gossip that had been floating around town, and mentioned that Alferd somehow spent hundreds of dollars during his six week stay and he even bought a new horse and saddle. He was like, also, Alferd has several items that belonged to the missing men. How could he have all of this money, when he started the original journey with none? Everyone agreed, this was getting strange. So, the group told Alferd they needed an explanation.

Alferd pretty much told them, you guys, it's not what it looks like. He spewed the same story that he had been telling everyone all along and added that he was genuinely concerned about the missing men. He said that he actually received a cash loan from a man in town. The group says alright, you shouldn't mind staying here then, and we can dispatch an officer to verify the story. Alferd immediately agreed. 

It was settled and the officer was dispatched to see if the story checked out. It didn't take long for the officer to return and reported that several sources saw Alferd with different wallets and he had different versions of the story about his journey. Everyone in town denied giving him any money and said he had plenty when he arrived. A council was formed to settle the matter and as they began the proceedings, two Ute tribesman burst into the agency and they were holding strips of dried human flesh and they referred to this as “white man's meat.” The Utes said they found the flesh on a hill near the agency while they were hunting. Alferd fainted and fell to the floor. When he woke up, he began begging for mercy and said he would give give a full confession. It was dead silent as everyone looked around and Alferd said, “It would not be the first time that people had been obliged to eat each other when they were hungry.” He began crying and started to tell his tale.

Alferd said that his group left Chief Ouray's camp and believed they had a 14-day journey and should have had plenty of food for this. Unfortunately, they didn't have enough provisions and they were getting extremely tired due to the weather and the rough path they were following. They survived for days on roots they dug from the ground, pine gum (which is tree sap), rose buds, and a few rabbits. As the weather was getting worse, they weren't able to find any wildlife and could only find roots to eat. Alferd said things got really awkward at this point. The men all began eyeing each other up in an unsettling way, as their stomach pains grew worse. At one point, he left the camp to get dry firewood and when he got back, he saw an awful scene. Four men were around the slain body of Israel Swan who had been struck in the head with a hatchet and was dead. The four men were butchering Swan and Alferd joined them. He said they found several thousand dollars on Swan and the men divided this evenly. They all ate Swan, packed up some parts for later and headed out. 

It only took two days for the five men to run out of meat. Alferd says he met in secret with Bell, Humphrey, and Noon. They decided that Miller would be the next one to go because he was a stocky man and they felt that he had a lot of soft flesh. Side note, I don't ever want to be described that way. He claims Miller was killed with a hatchet blow to the head, while he was stoopped over to pick up wood for the fire. He was butchered and consumed and they all split his money.

I'm sure you're sensing a theme here, the boys needed more meat. Humphrey was next to go, then it was Noon. It was just down to the last two, Bell and Alferd. He says they both swore on Almighty God that they wouldn't eat each other. They both had their own rifles and a couple thousand dollars. They decided to tell everyone that the four men had perished due to the elements and were buried with dignity, and they vowed to never speak of cannibalism. They knew that people wouldn't believe them, that it was necessary to eat the others.

The two continued on their journey and ate their roots along the way. They eventually set up camp next to a large lake and one day, Bell jumped out of his blanket and began screaming that he couldn't take it anymore. He said one of them would need to die for food and he went for his rife and attempted to bash Alferd's skull in. Alferd was able to get away and struck Bell in the head with a hatchet and he ate him. He ate as much as he could and packed some to bring with and took the rest of the money. When he saw the agency, he decided to throw the remaining strips of Bell's flesh and figured an animal would find it. He was a little torn up about this because he confessed that he had grown quite fond of human flesh, and he particularly liked the part around the breasts because it was especially delicious.

Chaos erupted as everyone tried to figure out what to do next. The five men that had traveled with the group on the journey didn't buy the story for a second. They knew that Bell was the type of man to lay down his life for another. A search party was assembled and they planned to search the areas that Alferd described in his story. The search party had the agency clerk, the five miners, a few agency officers and their guide, Alferd. The group searched for two weeks and Alferd claimed he was lost. They hadn't found anything and the group called Alferd a liar and a murderer and wanted him to be hung. They began their trek back to the agency and Alferd decided to attempt a little murder. He hid a knife under his clothes and went after the agency clerk. He was caught, restrained and arrested, and jailed. 

When Alferd was jailed, he basically told them everything he said at the agency was a lie. He said there was a huge blizzard and they all got super lost on the trip and couldn't retrace their steps. They quickly ran out of food and had to carry hot embers in a steel coffee pot to light fires. They roasted and ate their shoes and the men entered a pact and decided if one died, their meat would save the others from starving. He said Swan died first due to hunger and exposure to the elements. He signed his confession:


“Old Man Swan died first and was eaten by the other five persons about ten days out of camp. Four or five days afterwards, Humphrey died and was also eaten; he had about one hundred and thirty three dollars. I found the pocket book and took the money. Some time afterwards, while I was carrying wood, the butcher was killed-as the other two told me accidentally-and he was also eaten. Bell shot “California” with Swan's gun and I killed Bell. Shot him. I covered up the remains and took a large piece along. Then traveled fourteen days into the agency. Bell wanted to kill me with his rifle-struck a tree and broke his gun.” 

This story was later changed again and Alferd claimed that the men were at the Ute camp and went more than 10 days without enough food. So, they started their journey very hungry and the men started dying from the elements.

In August, an illustrator for Harper's Weekly magazine, John A Randolph, discovered the bodies. Five bodies, to be exact. He discovered them at the foot of the Slumgullion Pass, which is two miles southeast of Lake City, Colorado. This is right by the Ginnison River, now known as Dead Man's Gulch. This actually matched the description of the place Alferd originally claimed that he and Bell had their showdown. 

He said his group had abandoned him, but he eventually confessed to a little more. He said he was forced into cannibalism of the dead members of the group to stay alive. Later, he recanted and said he was the only survivor and lived off the flesh of the others. He said the others were victims of another member of the group, Shannon Bell and Alferd had to shoot him in self defense. He was stranded and ate the others and it took him almost 2 and a half months to get out of the mountains. This means, all of the men were within hiking distance of a nearby city. Alferd was their supposed guide and should have known that. The snow that had been covering the bodies had melted and Randolph began sketching the scene as he found it and then he alerted the authorities. Magazines certainly worked a little different at this time. The story didn't come out until two months later and was featured in Harper's Weekly on October 17th, 1874 and included the illustration. 

Law enforcement, the local coroner, and 20 volunteers headed out to find the five bodies and they were in various stages of decomposition. They were left outside with the animals and the elements for four months. The first responders at the scene, noted that there was an awful smell and the men had been hit with extreme violence. Frank Miller's head was missing completely and both his and Israel Swan's corpses had been worked over hard by the animals and bones were scattered all over. Israel's skull had a jagged chunk missing and it was assumed that Miller's head was taken away by an animal. George Noon and James Humphrey were pretty much rotting torsos that were attached to skeletal legs, but the bearded faces were intact. They had both received blows to the head and it looked like it was hatchet shaped. The bodies also had broken bones. Shannon Bell's body may have been the worst. His arms were at his sides and they were cut down to the bones, but his hands were still fully intact with skin. Worst of all, his face was fully intact and looked almost like it was still alive and he had his thick red beard and bushy hair. The lack of decay showed that he was the last man to die and the top of Bell's skull had been ripped open and his brains were on the ground underneath him. 

This scene obviously contradicted Alferd's entire story. The bodies weren't picked off, one by one, and scattered along the way. They were all together. Both Humphrey and Noon had large portions of flesh remaining. If the sole purpose was to kill them for the meat, this should have been eaten before Bell would have gone mad due to hunger, like Alferd claimed in his stories. The men did have cloths attached to their rotting feet, because they ate their shoes when they ran out of food. The group found a path near the bodies, that led to a shelter. There was evidence that they hadn't completely run out of supplies and Alferd had left behind several items that belonged to the murdered men.

The group had a theory about what happened. I kind of think they were still clinging to hope that the men weren't just murdered for nothing. They initially believed that Alferd killed the men before he ran out of supplies and he got snowed in. So, he stayed in a makeshift shelter for a few months and would walk to the campsite to take a slice of meat when it was needed. Either way, they had more questions, than answers. The group decided to head back to the jail and talk to Alferd again. The town didn't actually want Alferd near them, so they made a makeshift jail outside of town and it was a log cabin on ranch property that belonged to the County Sheriff.

Months had gone by at this time and there hadn't been any evidence that a crime was committed and there were no formal charges. The authorities were losing their patience and didn't appreciate the taxpayer dollars being spent on keeping Alferd housed and guarded. It's been rumored that Alferd was passed a tool and some supplies, to make his escape easier. Some people believe that the guard had been bribed to let him go. The local papers picked the story up and gave it constant coverage. They attacked Alferd's character and came up with their own theories about the murders.

It took nine years to find Alferd after his escape. On March 11th, 1883, Jean “Frenchy” Cabazon discovered him in Cheyenne, Wyoming. Alferd was going by John Schwartze and this was the name of one of the original members from the Utah mining party, who stayed at Chief Ouray's camp when winter hit. Frenchy was also a member of the original party of men who stayed at Chief Ouray's camp. Alferd accidentally ran into Frenchy and he reported this sighting. Alferd's true identity was confirmed and he was accompanied by train to Denver for his second confession. The story changed again and Alferd signed his confession on March 16th. 


“I found the red headed man (Bell) who acted crazy in the morning sitting near the fire roasting a piece of meat which he had cut out of the leg of the German butcher (Miller), the latter's body was lying the furthest off from the fire down the stream, his skull was crushed in with the hatchet. The other three men were lying near the fire, they were cut in the forehead with the hatchet. Some had two or three cuts. I came within a rod of the fire, when the man saw me, he got up with his hatchet towards me when I shot him sidways through the belly, he fell on his face, the hatchet fell forwards. I grabbed it and hit him in the top of the head.”

Alferd says he dropped his revolver deep in the snow, moments after shooting Bell. He made a shelter for himself and waited for the winter storm to pass. He was sitting in his hut, starving, and made a decision. 

“I went back to the fire. Covered the men up and fetched to the camp the piece of meat that was near the fire. I made a new fire near my camp and cooked the piece of meat and I ate it. I tried to get away every day, but could not, so I lived off the flesh of these men, the bigger part of sixty days.”

They asked Alferd why he hadn't told this story nine years ago and he said, “I was excited, I wanted to say something, and the story, as I told it, came first to my mind.”

The prosecution argued that the only logical reason for Alferd to attempt this journey, knowing they didn't have enough supplies, was for the sole purpose of leading the men to the wilderness and killing them. At the beginning of the story, I mentioned that Alferd headed on this journey with nothing. He didn't have money and had very little possessions. Some of the other men, had much more. For example, Israel Swan. He left with $6k, which would be over $130k now days. He also had a Winchester rifle, which was pretty valuable. It's possible that Alferd may have talked the others into murdering Swan first, to take his money and then he betrayed them later.

On April 6th, the trial began and Alferd plead not guilty. There were seven days of testimonies and at the end, he was found guilty of premeditated murder for Israel Swan and was sentenced to death by hanging. This was scheduled for May 19th, 1883. The investigation showed that Swan's death may have occurred on March 1st and there were signs of a struggle. The other men appeared to have been killed in their sleep. 

A local newspaper received a quote from the presiding judge, M.B. Gerry, which said:

“Stand up yah voracious man-eatin' sonofabitch and receive yir sintince. When yah came to Hinsdale County, there was siven Dimmycrats. Buy you, yah et five of 'em, goddam yah. I Sintince yah t' be hanged by the neck ontil yer dead, dead, dead, as a warnin' ag'in reducin the dimmycratic populayshun of this county. Packer, you Republican cannibal, I would sintince ya te hell, but the statutes forbid it.”

The court records show that Judge Gerry's sentence didn't actually make him sound like a pirate and was perhaps, a bit more educated. Here's what he actually said,

 “Alferd Packer, the judgement of this court is that you be removed from hence to the jail of Hinsdale County and there confined until the 19th day of May, A.D. 1883, and that on said 19th day of May, 1883, you be taken from thence by the sheriff of Hinsdale County to a place of execution prepared for this purpose, at some point within the corporate limits of the town of Lake City, in the said county of Hinsdale, and between the hours of 10 AM and 3 PM of said day, you, then and there, by said sheriff, be hung by the neck until you are dead, dead, dead, and may God have mercy upon your soul.”

The town was so confident that Alferd was going to hang for his crimes, so they ordered the lumber to begin building the gallows and they sent out invitations to attend the hanging.

Alferd didn't receive the death penalty in the end. His lawyers discovered that the murder statutes on the books for 1874 had been repealed and replaced with a “savings clause”. He got off on a technicality based on the ex post facto law. The government couldn't sentence a man to death for a crime, if it occurred before Colorado officially became a state, not a territory. Also, the murders happened on Ute Indian Reservation land, which technically wasn't under territory law.

The murder charge was overturned and Alferd had a second trial set up at a different venue. He again plead not guilty, but was convicted of five counts of voluntary manslaughter and sentenced to 40 years in prison (8 years for each count and this was the max allowed). At the time, this was the longest sentence in US history. At this second hearing, they brought in local hunters to make statements. They agreed that the winter of 1874 was one of the worst they had seen in a long time, but the area the bodies were discovered, had plenty of large wild game. The locals also stated that hiking the mountains in the winter, is basically suicide. He had been given a safe route near the water and chose to force his group to take a route where the snow depths can exceed six feet of snow in a single downfall. And that's not to mention the freezing temps and awful wind. The route Alferd took, was almost identical in length to the recommended route, but far more dangerous.

Alferd did take the stand in his own defense and he said he would take the 40 years, but only for the death of Shannon Bell, because that's the only person he killed. This request was denied. Alferd went on to say that Bell killed all of the men while he was away from the campsite. He came back and killed Bell in self-defense and afterwards, he saw the piece of meat that Bell had been cooking over the fire. He said, “but I could not eat it.” By morning, he was too weak to stand, so he took a bite and said, “And right there was my last feeling. I gave up to it. I ate that meat, and it has hurt me for nine years. I was perfectly happy and can't tell how long I remained there.” 

Over the years, he filed many appeals and sent letters to the local newspapers stating that his conviction was unfair. He served 18 years of his sentence and was paroled on February 8th, 1901. Alferd caught the attention of a controversial reporter for the Denver Post, Polly Pry. She liked all of the chaos his story stirred up and she decided to spin things in a different way. Polly Pry used Alferd's service in the Army to portray him as a common man that got himself into a terrible situation and he was a victim that did what he had to, to survive. Clearly, this girl was good at her job. Suddenly, local businesses were having a change of heart and people began petitioning to have Alferd released. The Colorado Governor, Charles Thomas, decided to parole Alferd, but said he wouldn't pardon him. Under the agreement, Alferd couldn't profit from the story either.

After Alferd was paroled, he got a job at The Denver Post. He died on April 23rd, 1907 at age 65. The cause of death was Dementia or a stroke and it's rumored that he became a vegetarian and was a well-liked and charitable man. People say he would tell children stories about being a trapper and a scout and he would give them candy. Apparently, he was very charming. He was buried in Littleton, Colorado, with a full military burial. His original grave marker was stolen and has been replaced. The headstone actually lists his name as Alfred, not Alferd. He is known to have gone by both in his life. There is a story that claims he got a tattoo of his name, but the artist spelled his name as Alfred and he decided to embrace this, no regerts. In 1973, Alferd's grave was cemented over to deter grave robbing and vandalism. It was believed that the corpse was intact when they poured the cement, but Edward Meyer, Vice-President of the Exhibits and Archives for the Ripley's Believe It or Not! Museum, claims they are in possession of Alferd's dissected skull. They claim they bought this from an anonymous party for $20k. There hasn't been a statement regarding the authenticity of the skull, but they claim the seller's information regarding the origin was sufficient. It's believed that Alferd's head may have been removed shortly before or after burial and his brain was dissected and removed to be studied.

On July 17th, 1989, 115 years after the five men were murdered, their bodies were exhumed. The remains were examined and there were signs of blunt force trauma to the skulls of two men. All of the skulls had some damage and there were fabric fibers in the skulls, suggesting that the heads were covered with blankets at the time of death. Two of the skeletons had puncture wounds in the pelvic bone, which looked like possible bullet wounds. Some people believe that two of the men were bludgeoned in their sleep by Alferd, maybe the other three woke up and Alferd had to shoot them in the hips, before killing them. The team examining the bones, reported that there were cuts to the arms and hands that showed defensive wounds. A researcher at the Arizona lab reported there were, “marks which were consistent with defleshing.” “On these bones – on the forearms and in the fleshy parts of the leg, there are scrape wounds, Can you say filets? Some of the flesh was systemically removed from the fleshier parts of these arms and legs on these guys.”

In 1994, David P. Bailey, from the Museum of Western Colorado, began his own investigation. They have a collection of firearms, including the Colt revolver that was found at the scene of the crime. They pulled records from the time of the trial and a Civil War veteran that visited the scene, stated that Shannon Bell had been shot twice and the other victims were killed with a hatchet. Bell had a severe bullet wound to the pelvic area and his wallet had a bullet hole through it. This almost corroborates Alferd's claims that he only killed Bell. David Bailey discovered the forensic samples from when the bodies were exhumed in 1989. Lead fragments in the soil were found under Shannon Bell's remains and they matched the bullets remaining in Alferd's pistol. We know for sure, Bell was shot, but we still don't know if it was self-defense.

In 1968, students at the University of Colorado Boulder named their cafeteria grill the “Alferd G. Packer Memorial Grill” and their slogan was, “Have a friend for lunch!” On the menu was El Canibal beefburger and on the wall, they had a map that outlined Alferd's travels through Colorado. They have renamed it to the Alferd Packer Restaurant and Grill. Supposedly, the school used to celebrate Alferd Packer Days which included a raw meat tossing contest.

There is a musical comedy that is loosley based on this story, called Cannibal! The Musical. A folk song was also written, called, “The Ballad of Alferd Packer”. A death metal band called Cannibal Corpse released a song called Eaten Back to Life and released the following statement: “This album is dedicated to the memory of Alferd Packer, the first American Cannibal.” Another metal band released a song about him called, In the Mountains from their Morbid Campfire Songs album. A band in Kansas is called the Alferd Packer Memorial String Band and they have two songs about his cannibalistic tendencies.

If you're into exercising, there is an Alferd Packer Cannibal Fast Food 5k or 10k and you pass by the grave. Lake City has Al Packer Days that they celebrate and there is a Packer Saloon and Cannibal Grill in town. You could also grab a drink at the Restless Spirits Saloon or nap at the Cannibal Cabins.

In 1984, an article was posted in The Washington post and the opening paragraph said, “In the days before bean sprouts and granola, when the West was raw and men ate men, Packer chewed his way into the hearts of Coloradans by devouring five gold-seeking companions.”

Alferd may be known as the Colorado Cannibal, but he was never found guilty of cannibalism......because there wasn't technically a federal law against this.


Alferd Packer

Alferd Packer - Wikipedia

Alferd Packer Massacre Site-Lake City

Alferd Packer Massacre Site – Lake City, CO (uncovercolorado.com)

Bone appetit: The story of Alferd Packer, Colorado's most infamous, yet beloved, cannibal 

Bone appétit: The story of Alferd Packer, Colorado’s most infamous, yet beloved, cannibal (thedenverchannel.com)