Has there ever been a real case of Sweeney Todd's (without the musical of course)?

As it seems a really non cost effective way of running a shop, similar stories pop up in few different cultures (as far as I have been able to verify), but with no actual real backing.

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    Can you provide notability for this? Does anyone actually believe there are cannibalistic butchers?
    – Sklivvz
    Jul 28, 2011 at 10:19
  • @Skilvvz : Can you please change the tag to Urban-Legends? Non of the tags have anything with the intended motivation. It is an archipycal idea that has surfaced enough that movies have been made for it. If people can question the cryptids why not roots of Urban Legends like Sweeny Tod? Thank you
    – jimjim
    Jul 28, 2011 at 10:31
  • urban-legends is a blacklisted tag, as it is a meta tag and also it already presumes falseness. See meta.skeptics.stackexchange.com/questions/486/…
    – Sklivvz
    Jul 28, 2011 at 10:40
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    Yeah - there's been an urban legend sweeney todd was an actual person for more 100 years. Wikipedia gives a good overview of this IMO en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sweeney_Todd#Alleged_historical_basis
    – NotJarvis
    Jul 28, 2011 at 11:14
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    It's also notable that the Crime Library reports the Urban Legend as Fact, so i think the claim's pretty notable :) crimelibrary.com/serial_killers/weird/todd/index_1.html
    – NotJarvis
    Jul 28, 2011 at 11:19

1 Answer 1


There seem to have been several people rumoured to be serving human meat down the years, but some such as Fritz Haarman, never had the accusation proved (although the brutal murders were).

However theres a few items which seem pretty well established of human meat being provided to unknowing customers in a butcher shop—for example.

The first I found was Adloph Luetgert, which seems to be a well established story. This chap only did it once though as a way to dispose of his wife's body

More recently the there was this story, of human meat being sold in a shop in Moldova. Supposedly though - they got the body parts from a local clinic.

The last story indicates a little bit of the problem with the idea of a demon butcher who slaughters people for sale, as in that tale they were illegally using parts from a clinic.

To provide a constant supply of meat for your shop by other methods would be clearly difficult.

I guess you would not get more than 40-50kg or so meat from each person killed (a Hog tends to make about 70% of its body mass into meat apparently, and I would be surprised if your yield from a corpse was greater).

Even a slowish shop would get through that in a week I guess (can't find average for this), so you would need to kill a person a week or two to keep your small shop adequately stocked.

Such a murder spree would be unlikely to be sustainable long term, if you are in a country with a police force.

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