The story of the Donner Party, as it’s been told for well over a century, is like the Xbox version of The Oregon Trail. The pioneers set out in 1846 headed west in a wagon, bound for the Cali sun, but got caught in the Sierra Nevada, slowed by a snowstorm with limited supplies. Then, the weak died and the rest ate them. Or so we thought!
Now, a new paper to be published in the American Antiquity journal is taking all the fun out of the legend:
Victorian Era journalists, who embellished the accounts provided by the 47 survivors, largely fueled the legend of the Donner Party cannibalism. The survivors, 11 men and 36 women and children, fiercely denied the allegations. Although one man, Lewis Keseberg, filed and won a defamation suit, he was still forever known as Keseberg the Cannibal.
Why would someone do such a thing to poor Keseberg the Cannibal? Because they hated Poles, you see: “Racism might have played a part,” said Gwen Robbin, a professor of biological anthropology and the project’s leader. “Keseberg was from Poland, and negative sentiment toward Polish immigrants existed then.”
But if you need another cannibalistic horror story, Poland’s not the place; the spot is one country west, in Germany. That’s where you’ll find Armin Meiwes, currently serving a life sentence for eating a man he found online at The Cannibal Cafe (seriously) with an ad seeking someone looking to be “slaughtered and then consumed.” He found what he was looking for and the results make the Donner Party, whether they’re people or puppy eaters, look like the Cosby family. Meiwes and his victim, uh, started below the belt… together and proceeded from there. Oh, and it’s all on videotape. Welcome to your new nightmare, if you want it.