As the legend goes, Alexander “Sawney” Bean grew up in a town just outside of Edinburgh, Scotland. With no interest in making an honest living, he ran away with a woman to a one-mile-deep cave in the mountains. There they would produce their infamously large, incestuous family of cannibals.
The family supported themselves by robbing and murdering travelers, and even the locals. They would butcher their victims and pickle the flesh to be eaten later. Unwanted limbs were thrown into the sea and occasionally washed up on nearby beaches.
After nearly 25 years of killing and eating innocent travelers, the Beans were discovered when a man and woman traveling from a local fair were ambushed by the family. The woman was quickly murdered and had her innards eaten by the females. The man, however, fought back and was saved when a larger group of fair travelers passed by and came to his rescue.
The travelers reported to King James IV what had happened. The King then sent nearly 400 men and bloodhounds to the Beans’ cave, where they found barrels of pickled flesh, limbs hanging from the ceiling, and piles of money collected from the victims. The Beans did not fight back upon being found and were taken to Edinburgh where they were to be executed.
The death of the Bean family was brutal and gruesome, much like the way that they killed their victims. The men had their arms and legs cut off and were left to die in agony. The women were forced to watch the execution of the men and were burned alive afterwards.