The name "Kentucky Cannibal" sounds like it might refer to a deranged cousin of Jeffrey Dahmer. However, the Kentucky Cannibal actually refers to a mid-19th century frontiersman from Kentucky who had been raised by a good family but wound up a cannibalistic drifter. Here are some facts about this little-known cannibal from Wild West history.
Boone Helm's family was rather well-regarded in Kentucky; they moved to Missouri when Helm was a young boy. But by the time Helm was a teenager, he was known to be the sort of guy who would pick fights with other men just so that he could show off.
Helm was also a heavy drinker, which may have had something to do with his erratic behavior. He married a 17-year-old woman when he was 20 and became notorious for abusing his young wife. His father eventually interceded when the frightened wife filed for divorce, and he agreed to pay all of the court costs. Helm decided to head west in order to start a new life and try his hand at the Gold Rush.
Before Helm ventured to California, he invited his cousin, Littlebury Shoot, to join him. Shoot was intrigued, but as the departure date drew closer, he got cold feet.
Shoot told Helm that he was going to stay in Missouri and, as a result, Helm became so angry that he stabbed Shoot in the chest and killed him.
While there is no official record of when exactly Boone Helm first sampled human flesh, he encountered a variety of people and apparently killed many of them on his journey to California. As a result, he almost always had law enforcement on his trail.
At one point, he was traveling with some other outlaws when confided in the men by saying, "Many's the poor devil I've killed, at one time or another...and the time has been that I've been obliged to feed on some of 'em."