America's Favorite Cannibal
One sure way to gain immortality -- no matter how hopeless your social and monetary strata -- is to eat somebody else. The man who did this best was Colorado's Alferd Packer, and the Centennial State has accordingly embraced Alferd to its mountainous bosom. He is celebrated in song, in musicals, and in a string of sights along Colorado's Cannibal Trail.
California lobbyists howl that they, too, had a cannibal -- several, in fact -- but a quick visit to the Emigrant Trail Museum in Truckee will show you that these starving pioneers only ate people who were already dead. Alferd, on the other hand, was far from famished and preferred a hot lunch.
Colorado shows its appreciation of its favorite son at the Alferd Packer Memorial Grill, which lies below the main floor of the Memorial Center at the University of Colorado in Boulder, directly beneath the Glenn Miller lounge. A small, marble bust of Packer, unveiled by Colorado governor Roy Romer, sits on a pedestal at the hub of the grill. El Canibal is Boulder's biggest burrito, and the Calypso pork is a student favorite.
The Alferd Packer Massacre Site, a remote wilderness in 1874, is now only five minutes south of the Lake City miniature golf course, and a very popular spot with shutterbugs. A big sign directs visitors to the spot, complete with cartoon caricatures of two mountain men, mouths agape in horror and shock as (we are left to imagine) an ax is driven into their skulls. A small rock marks THE spot, complete with a plaque listing the victims. Five tiny white crosses form a defensive line in front of it. Free brochures fill a metal box adjacent to the site, chock full of juicy tidbits about Alferd's ghastly doings.
In downtown Lake City stands the Hinsdale County Museum, which boasts the most extensive collection of Packer memorabilia known. Included is a skull fragment from one of his victims, a pair of shackles used on Alferd when he was in the Lake City jail, and a number of buttons from the clothes of the five men he eventually ate. Sadly, the butcher knife found sticking in the thigh of Frank Miller (a Packer entree), has disappeared.
Alferd spent some time in the old prison that is now the Museum of Colorado Prisons, Canon City. After he was released -- on a technicality -- he became a vegetarian, made a modest living selling autographed photos of himself, and died. You can visit Alferd Packer's grave, complete with its original, tiny tombstone, in Littleton Cemetery.
Note: There is some debate about the correct spelling of Packer's first name. His gravestone reads "Alfred," and there is an Alfred Packer listed in the census documents of the time. But most current references, including those on such impeccable sources as postcards and museum signs, say "Alferd." For now, we're sticking with the tourists...
More on the spelling: Actually, the story goes that Alfred got a tattoo which had his name. The tattooist misspelled his name "Alferd" and Packer sort of took to it, and used it except for on official documents and such.