Sometimes I stumble upon a sentence that is too ridiculous to keep to myself. This is from today’s i newspaper:
“Members of a cult were yesterday accused of killing several alleged sorcerers, eating their raw brains and making soup from their penises.”
On the mention of raw brains I of course thought it was, correctly, New Guinea.
When I was a medical student, we spent a lot of time learning about kuru, a sub viral disease which doesn’t get into the news a lot. But I have just discovered that it was the first encephalopathy, similar to the now famous CJD or mad cow disease, that was shown to be transmissable. The illness was first noticed in the 1950s and when samples of infected brains were injected into chimps they eventually developed it. For this work, Daniel Gajdusek & Baruch S Blumberg won the Nobel prize in 1976.
But back to today’s article, which you just could not make up: Police have arrested 29 people suspected of being involved in the bizarre canibalism and murders. Police claim those arrested have admitted to the crimes as they do not believe they have done anything wrong.
But then the story sort of segues into modern gangster tales, as the victims are accused of being rival witchdoctors who have been allegedly overcharging for services such as casting out evil spirits. Strangely the canibals seem to think that they will gain supernatural powers by these actions.
Full marks for ingenuity though, as they used the traditional long bladed knives, but also rubber hand made guns.
And they are an impressively mixed gang – a 13 year old boy, and a middle aged teacher have been arrested, with several on the run including a local councillor who is accused of being their leader.
Apparently the usual charge for witchcraft services is a pig, a bag of rice and £317 which already seems a lot of money for poor villagers, but they have been demanding sex from the clients’ wives and daughters.
There have been no bodies found as the police claim, “They’re probably all eaten up”
In New Guinea, witchcraft is incredibly widespread.
A government report from 1973 notes:
“The 1971 House of Assembly law follows customary law by making the distinction between good or innocent and bad or evil sorcery. The former is not against the law. The latter is against the law. Also, the courts can give the customary remedy of compensation. In PNG [Papua New Guinea] there are as many types of sorcery as there are languages, tribes, vines, herbs, plants and chants.”