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The Real Story

How Accurate is the Movie?

Photo of the real Alferd Packer
Photo of the real Alferd Packer

Cannibal! The Musical is based on the true story of the only convicted cannibal in American history, Alferd Packer. On this page, you will find a very basic breakdown of the accuracy of the film.

There was in fact a reporter at the Denver Post named Polly Pry who helped Packer. Packer was not known to have ever owned a horse named Liane (this was simply a dig on Trey's ex-fiance). Packer had never actually been to Colorado Territory, but he did (falsely) claim to be familiar with the area to earn some extra cash by leading the men on their expedition.

Packer originally left with a group of 21 miners, while in the movie there were only six men who left. None of the miners were known to be singers.

A few weeks into their trip, the miners had run out of food, but luckily happened upon some Indians who brought them to their camp to provide food and shelter during the winter storm. The Indians were in fact Utes, not Nihongin (Japanese). The 21 miners stayed at Chief Ouray's camp for a couple weeks. Despite the chief's warning to wait until spring, Packer continued his journey with five other anxious men - Shannon Wilson Bell, Israel Swan, Frank Miller, James Humphrey, and George Noon (all of which are accurate in the movie).

None of Packer's stories include Swan being shot by Bell (nor for that matter, Bell getting his leg caught in a bear trap and causing him to lose his shpadoinkle). Packer did, however, say in first confession that Swan was the first to die and the others did partake in his flesh.

Skull chip from one of the victims
Skull chip from one of the victims
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According to Packer and in the movie, while the men were "on their last legs," he went up the mountain while the others stayed at their small fire. When he came back, he found three of his men had been murdered. The fourth, Bell, was going to attack him with a hatchet, but before he could, Packer shot him in the stomach. He then took Bell's hatchet and hit him atop the head, thus killing him. Unlike the movie, Packer did not have to keep "killing" him over and over.

When Packer arrived in Saguache, he said he did not know where the others were, that they had left him behind. This is what he originally did say that he had lost the others. In May of 1874, he was put in prison in Saguache, Colorado. After the victims were found, Packer escaped from jail (reportedly, someone gave him a key). Like the movie, he escaped to Wyoming. But he actually lived there for nine years until he was discovered by Jean "Frenchy" Cabazon. Frenchy was French (hence the nickname).

Judge Gerry's death sentence in the movie, ", then and there, be hung by the neck until you are dead, dead, dead, and may God have mercy on your soul," is nearly the exact wording of the real death sentence.

Alferd Packer's Grave
Alferd Packer's Grave
© Copyright

Unlike the movie, there was no hanging day. In October of 1885, two and a half years after Packer's sentence, the Colorado Supreme Court reversed the death sentence due to "grandfather clause." On August 5th of 1886, Packer was sentenced to forty years in his second trial in Gunnison, Colorado.

At the end of the movie, it says, "Due to the continued efforts of Polly Pry, Alferd Packer was eventually released from prison in 1901," which is true. On January 8th of that year, Packer was paroled by Colorado Governor Thomas.

On April 23rd of 1907, Packer died of natural causes. He was buried at Prince Avenue Cemetery in Littleton, Colorado.

In the movie, Trey Parker played the lead part of Alferd Packer. However, he used the pseudonym of "Juan Schwartz", which is the somewhat-Spanish version of the pseudonym Alferd Packer used when he escaped to Wyoming, "John Swartze."

Ballad of Alferd Packer

Click Here for the lyrics and a clip of the song.



Thanks to Roadside America for the images seen on this page.

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Last update: Thursday, January 29th, 2015

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