Are There Cannibalistic Urges Lurking Inside You?

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These days, more and more reported murders seem to also involve at least a little cannibalism. No longer is it enough for psychopaths to simply kill their victim "” for some reason, feasting on human flesh has become inexplicably fashionable among the criminally insane. The question is : What provokes one human to devour another, and WHY does cannibalism appear to be on the rise?

A few weeks ago, a horrific incident happened in Indiana: A man, Joseph Oberhansley, released two years prior from prison after serving 12 years for manslaughter, brutally murdered his fiancé. But this time, after stabbing his victim to death, Oberhansley proceeded to devour portions of her brain, lungs, and heart. 


Mug shot of convicted murderer and cannibal, Joseph Oberhansley, Clark County Jail

While this story is absolutely ghastly, it's hardly an isolated incident. I'm not talking about cannibalistic practices among ancient tribes-people. Right here (in the U.S and other developed nations), right now (in the past five years alone), people are eating other people, seemingly more and more often.

  • In 2009, a man in India was convicted of killing and eating 20 women and children during his reign of cannibalistic terror.

  • Earlier this month, a former New York City police officer was sentenced to 10 years in prison for scheming to kill and eat specific individuals. Believe it or not, this is actually the second NYPD officer to be convicted of a murder/cannibalism plot. In 2012, Gilberto Valle was arrested after getting caught for his elaborate, graphic plan he'd been working on to nosh on his girlfriend after slowly roasting her alive in an oven.

  • Meanwhile, a police officer in Germany went on trial in August for killing and dismembering a "willing volunteer" he'd met on a cannibalism Website.

  • In 2012, a Baltimore man was arrested for killing his roommate "” then eating the victim's organs.

  • In 2012, a Swedish college professor managed to eat human flesh without killing anyone: In a fit of jealousy, the man cut off his wife's lips. Then he ate them "” allegedly in an effort to make sure they "couldn't be sewn back on."
This is just a handful of examples.

So what drives a human being to eat the meat of his fellow man? Is it a desire that lies deep down within all of us, but is awakened in only the homicidal few? Or are cravings for flesh a psychological anomaly that go against human nature?

Well, while some modern day acts of cannibalism are committed for no other reason than clinical insanity, experts agree that most cannibals are not psychotic. In fact, they know exactly what they're doing and go about it in a very calculated manner. 


So this guy is a little more realistic than you thought, Dino De Laurentiis Company

It is widely believed that cannibals are driven by the euphoric thrill they get from cutting into another person's skin. They get off on the sense of power and rush of excitement that goes along with the act, precisely because they themselves know it to be one of, if not the biggest, social taboos. 

For these individuals, the act can be just as addictive as many other highs. Rather than getting addicted to the meat, it's the whole process of murder, dismemberment, and then eating that cannibals find irresistible. 

In some cases, believe it or not, people turn to cannibalism as a very depraved means of staving off loneliness. In 2003, a cannibal in Germany admitted he'd always wanted a younger brother and by eating another person it gave him a "similar" sense of closeness between him and his victim "” or as he put it, he ultimately longed for "someone to be part of me."


Cannibal Armin Meiwes just wanted a brother, Getting Images

Since the motive varies, researchers who consider cannibalism to be a legitimate mental condition have broken it into four sub-categories:

  • Sexual cannibalism:
    A sexual disorder that causes people to view cannibalism as a twisted form of lovemaking.

  • Aggression cannibalism:
    An anger issue that causes people to take their frustrations out by not only killing, but also eating whomever wronged them.

  • Ritual cannibalism:
    In which people experience a spiritual connection to whatever higher power they worship by feasting on sacrificial human flesh.

  • Nutritional cannibalism:
    An eating disorder that causes people to have an insatiable hunger for human meat and believe they can't properly function without eating it. 

And...Freudian cannibalism? Dino De Laurentiis Company

Experts suggest cannibalism may be the result of trauma, being over-nurtured as a child, or separation anxiety "” but these are still nothing more than educated guesses. No single theory has yet been proven as the end-all explanation for cannibalism.

Though science is still out on what causes cannibalism, some mental health professionals actually refuse to acknowledge it as a real psychiatric condition, believing it to be a symptom of other mental illnesses. For instance, it has been established that many "” though not all "” cannibals have a history of schizophrenia. However, this doesn't mean that cannibalism and schizophrenia go hand in hand. 

Basically, no one really knows the exact combination of factors it takes for someone to do what most human beings inherently perceive as unthinkable. 

Cannibalism could also possibly be attributed to poor choices driven by morbid curiosity and sadism. As for why there seems to be a sudden resurgence of cannibalistic murder cases in civilized, modern nations "” blame that on detachment and desensitization. Today's society may be growing more advanced in some aspects, but it is regressing in others. We've created synthetic drugs, such as bath salts and PCP, which cause psychosis. Doctors are over-medicating their patients with dangerous combinations of psychotropic pills. 

But worst of all, thanks to the anonymity of the Internet and social media, people are becoming increasingly detached from reality. Human beings have far fewer in-person interactions than we used to, so it's not surprising that our senses of empathy and compassion have weakened. We have become desensitized to violence and suffering as a result of violent movies, video games, YouTube videos, torture-porn, and images on the news. We are constantly shown the act of someone getting killed, but rarely the consequences of death. 


Pictured: Future Cannibals, Miles Willis / Getty Images

So even if people with "normal" psyches are no longer fazed by the sight of violence and loss of life, it makes sense that regular old murder would no longer be enough to satisfy the bloodlust of those who are criminally insane. They can see a lifeless corpse or watch a man die anytime they want "” which is why it now takes more to curb their urges. Hence, they've started resorting to dismemberment and cannibalism to get their fix of cruelty. 

Like with any drug, the body develops a tolerance over time, so you have to keep increasing the dose in order to feel the same effect. So it really isn't surprising that violent crimes are now becoming more gruesome. The question is "” what will maniacs turn to if and when cannibalism becomes commonplace? 

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