Alferd Packer Massacre Site sign.

Alferd Packer Cannibal Massacre Site

Field review by the editors.

Lake City, Colorado

Alferd Packer, "The Colorado Cannibal," and five fellow prospectors tramped into the snowy San Juan Mountains on February 9, 1874. Packer emerged 66 days later, spending his companions' money and looking surprisingly well fed.

Drawing of half-eaten bodies.
The bodies looked like this when they were found in 1874.

When the half-eaten bodies of the other men were discovered on August 20, Packer was arrested, but he escaped and wasn't brought to trial until nine years later. A Lake City jury found him guilty and the judge ordered him hanged -- but Packer was granted a re-trial in a different town, found guilty again, and sentenced to prison instead of death. He was freed in 1901, and spent his final years living quietly outside of Denver. He insisted that he didn't murder people, but he never denied that he ate them.

Skeletons.
The bodies as they appeared when they were dug up in 1989.

The Alferd Packer Massacre Site, helpfully identified by a large sign, is just a five-minute drive south of the Lake City miniature golf course. The site looks much as it did on August 1, 1928, when the Ladies Union Aid Society installed posts, a protective railing, and a plaque on a rock to honor the dead, then held a fish fry next to the mass grave (Lake City is known for its mountain trout). Only a few embellishments have been added since then, such as five little crosses for the five dead men, and an explanatory sign. Visitors sometimes leave animal bones on the grave as ghoulish offerings.

The Ladies' 1928 plaque mentions nothing about cannibalism, but the modern sign fleshes out the story with many meaty details, and features an 1874 illustration of Packer's half-eaten companions.

Alferd Packer Cannibal Massacre Site

Address:
Hwy 149, Lake City, CO
Directions:
From downtown Lake City drive south three miles on CO-149. Just after the road veers left and crosses a little bridge, look on the left for the large "Alferd Packer Massacre Site" sign. Turn left. Just past a house on the left, you'll see the site.
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August 19, 2019

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