It all began with a friendly argument. A friend and I were watching The Texas Chainsaw Massacre when the subject of Sawney Beane came up. The legend of Beane, the notorious Scottish cannibal, was the inspiration behind any number of horror stories, from Sweeney Todd to The Silence of the Lambs; Jack Ketchum’s first novel, Off Season (1980), was based on it. My friend insisted that Beane was a real, historical character, but I thought it was just too over-the-top to be believed.
The story goes that Sawney (“Beane” in the oldest accounts and “Bean” in later ones) was a Scottish lad who was too lazy to work for a living. Born in Lothian, near Edinburgh, he left home and set up housekeeping in a deep cavern on the Ayrshire coast in Galloway with a like-minded woman. They waylaid travelers, robbed, and murdered them, and then, to destroy the evidence, ate the bodies.