Happy Halloween, Lovelies! Welcome to Rebecca’s extra gory Halloween Special! If you haven’t yet, head over to our Listen page to find places to listen to this week’s episode! We hope all of ya’ll are enjoying this joyous time of all things spooky and witchy. Below you’ll find links to the extra special drink Rebecca chose for this occasion, information on the podcast featured during this week’s drink break, information on our Patreon if you’re interested in more content from your favorite Ladies, and (finally) Rebecca’s notes and sources!
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This week’s cocktail of choice was the Half Blood Prince by the Half Baked Harvest Blog! Click Here to find the original blog post with details on how to make this fruity cocktail. Not only is it the perfect shade to celebrate the season, but it is absolutely delicious. (But when is bourbon not, seriously)
Disclaimer: Much of this story is legend, with details varying and many unable to be verified, and some claiming this story is myth
Little is known about the early life of this legendary character, but it is believed that Alexander “Sawny” Bean was born in East Lothian in the late 15th century (this story occurs in the 15th or 16th century Scotland, during the reign of James I).
Some say Sawny learned from his hardworking father, who was a hedger and a ditcher and raised Sawny to be the same. Other sources say Sawny was a tanner by trade.
When he married Agnes Douglas, he and his new bride relocated to Ayrshire, Scotland and set up their home in Bennane Cave, located near Ballantrae.
It’s worth noting that some sources say that Agnes was accused by her hometown of being a witch, conjuring demons, and sacrificing humans.
Like many caves found in North Georgia, Bennane Cave was imposing, with tunnels worming their way through the rock for over a mile.
The cave itself is hard to reach. The entrance, which is down by the water line and blocked by an enormous boulder, requires the scaling of treacherous rocks to visit.
The cave also featured a lot of side passages, which was important to the young couple since the caves could accommodate a growing family over the next 25 years.
One thing to note is that, in addition to being an excellent place to raise a family, this cave came with a water feature. Twice a day at high tide the cave’s entrance was flooded for several hundred meters.
In order to support his new wife Sawny fell to robbery. This made sense since he was located near barren, narrow roads that travellers would frequent between villages.
After a while, Sawny had a great idea. In order to prevent these disappearances from being tracked back to him he should murder his victims. Sawny was also resourceful, deciding that, in order to reduce trips for supplies, trips that also involved the disposing of evidence, he decided to start butchering the bodies.
This high protein diet seemed to be exactly what Mrs. Bean needed, as she eventually had 14 children (one article called them Beanie Babies), all with the same taste for bodies as their parents.
It’s worth noting that in 15th century Scotland it’s highly unlikely all children survived to adulthood, with mortality rates being 14% in the first year of life. That being said, some reports say they were able to raise 8 sons and 6 daughters.
As the children grew up, a clan was born… as was a taste for incest as Sawny Bean’s children started having children of their own. Some accounts state that the children not only bore children of their own, but also bore children with their parents. This caused their numbers to increase exponentially, with one source stating they produced 18 grandsons and 14 grandaughters, resulting in three (would it really be 3?) generations living together in these caves. 48 family members total.
Over the 25 years that the Bean clan lived in the Beannane Cave, the clan honed their skills in being able to not only murder but create cannibal cuisine… a skillset that included the now (thankfully) lost art of salting and pickling human flesh.
A component of pickling and preserving is storage, so the Beans used many of the rooms in their caves for this. It’s said that when their storages got too plentiful, they would toss extra into the ocean. This eventually resulted decaying body parts that shows signs of preservation started showing up on the surrounding beaches.
It was by this point that authorities had a list of missing persons that rivaled the length of a CVS receipt, with some sources stating that the Bean clan killed and ate nearly 1,000 people.
Many mass searches were conducted but were always unfruitful. One popular rumor that stemmed at the time was that it was the innkeepers performing the robbing and murdering, causing some to leave to prove their innocence and stay out of the spotlight.
Another portion of the grape vine believed that a variety of beasts and monsters roamed the area, with the most common suspect being the redcap. A redcap is an evil and goblin like creatures that lives in old castles where blood has been shed. Redcaps are known for preying on travelers, thus feeding into the rumors.
Curiously… No one thought about searching the Bennane Cave. One reason being they believed that the daily flooding of the cave entrance made it accessible.
The Bean Clan’s size would eventually be its downfall. The more mouths you have to feed the larger your grocery bill becomes. Their grocery trips became a whole operation. The Bean clan became skilled at ambush, taking down as many as a half a dozen victims at a time that would then be taken home to be carefully prepared by the women.
This of course was unsustainable, but how they were discovered was a bit of a surprise
One day, while the Bean Clan was grocery shopping, they came across a man and wife who were making their way home from a local fair.
Unfortunately, the group was able to pull the woman from her horse, strip her down, and have her completely disemboweled before they were able to wrestle the man off of his horse. Some reports say that the wife started to be eaten right then and there.
Like what typically happens in these types of life threatening situations, fight, flight, or freeze kicked in, and this man FOUGHT by driving his horse into and over his attackers.
While this whole thing was going down, another group of about 20 making their way home from the same fair came upon this gruesome scene.
The group helped and, after a brief but violent exchange, the Bean tribe found itself at a disadvantage and quickly retreated back to their cave to reassess the situation… leaving behind the mutilated woman, a crap ton of witnesses, and one very pissed off husband.
The husband/man was taken before the Chief Magistrate of Glasgow. After listening to his story and looking at the list of missing persons AND looking at the reports of the pickled body parts that were just randomly showing up on beaches the Chief Magistrate decided to take this straight to the top.
King James I quickly arrived in Ayrshire with an army of 400 men (an article defined this as a small army), a pack of tracker dogs, and local volunteers, launching one of the largest man hunts Scotland has ever seen.
They started along the Ayrshire countryside and coastline but, like before, nothing was discovered until the dogs picked up the smell of decaying flesh near the mouth of a water logged cave.
The troops entered Bennane cave by torchlight with swords drawn, bracing themselves for the mile long trek deep into the cave.
Nothing could have prepared them for the scene. The caves stank. The walls of the cave were lined with limbs and body parts as if it were a butcher shop. Other areas of the cave served as storage and contained bundles of clothing, piles of watches and rings, and discarded bones. Some sources say the Beans used clothing from their victims to decorate their home.
After a brief scuffle, all 48 of the Bean clan were arrested and taken to Tolbooth Jail in Edinburgh by the King. Their crimes were so heinous that the current justice system, which was renowned in Scotland at the time, was thrown out the window and everyone was just sentenced to death.
The next day, the men of the clan had their legs and arms cut off before being left to bleed to death as their women and children watched watched from stakes. Afterwards, they were then burned like witches.
During the entire process none of the beany clan showed remorse, with some reports stating that the beans heckled and shouted obscenities at their captors.
Today, you can tour the infamous cave and find all the… leftovers. The Edinburgh Dungeon puts people face to face with Sawney Bean along with other dark tales with origins in Scotland.
The tale of Sawney still effects people today. Originally released in 1977 with a remake in 2006, The Hills Have Eyes was based off of the tale of the Bean family, with the Scottish caves being replaced with the American West.