Anecdotal tales of people staving off hunger by eating dogs, cats, rodents, reptiles and even leather abound in records of seventeenth century America. Written accounts of colonists eating their dead also exist, which have laid the foundation for chilling tales of suffering and ghoulish behavior.
A Jamestown colony leader named George Percy described people digging up corpses for food when nothing else was available in the "world of miseries" that was the winter of 1609 to 1610, also known as the "starving time" by colonists.
"Nothing was spared to maintain life," Percy wrote.
Captain John Smith, Jamestown's most fabled leader, documented similar accounts, including the execution of a man who had killed, salted and feasted on his pregnant wife.
"One amongst the rest did kill his wife, powdered her, and had eaten part of her before it was known, for which he was executed, as he well deserved," Smith wrote. "Now whether she was better roasted, boiled or carbonado'd, I know not, but of such a dish as powdered wife I never heard of."
Despite these stories, researchers remained skeptical about the validity of the tales and struggled to uncover tangible proof of such atrocities. That changed when archaeological teams stumbled upon the remains of a 14-year-old girl in the summer of 2012.
The girl's bones showed clear signs of cannibalism, marked by crude hacks to the body and head, which were made after her death. Forensic investigators said the indications of post-mortem chopping and systematic dismemberment were consistent with cannibalism.
But anthropologists at San Narciso College in California disputed the idea that cannibalism in Jamestown was atypical behavior and undertaken only during times of severe desperation.
On Wednesday, Dr. Snarling formally announced his team's findings: cannibalism was widely, though not frequently, practiced as a cure for homosexuality or perceived homoerotic tendencies.
"We owe the scientists at the Smithsonian a huge debt for establishing the groundwork for our studies. Without their tireless efforts to prove incidents of cannibalism, our own work would never have come to fruition," Dr. Snarling said.
"And although exhuming and dining on corpses took place during periods of drought and starvation, cannibalism in Jamestown was more commonly used, when it was used, as a highly effective ritual for curing gay urges," he added.
Snarling said colony alchemists and physicians would feed suspected homosexuals the flesh of freshly deceased females in hopes of "balancing their ill humors" and turning them straight.
"To put it rather simplistically, it was a case of 'you are what you eat' to some extent," explained Snarling, himself imbibing a bygone Jamestown libation made primarily of vinegar and water.
"The homosexuals already had a taste for man meat, so by getting them to partake of the fairer sex, the thinking was that they would develop a healthy appetite for women, like a wild animal first tasting blood," Snarling said.
Historical records uncovered by Snarling show that only men who had already aroused suspicion for being effete partook of the human remains. In all instances, these men were perceived by the townsfolk as "womanish" or "matronly." They had reputations as poor hunters, good singers, sharp dressers and were often employed as school masters. They also demonstrated subdued levels of puritanical fanaticism during church services, and they were unusually sparing with the beatings they administered to their wives and daughters.
"Some of the more hopeless cases never beat their women at all," Snarling said.
The research team also produced journal entries taken from Jamestown digs and nearby excavations. One such account, according to Snarling, clearly shows the curative effects of cannibalism on a known deviant.
The children had always been quite fond of Mr. Fuzzy Face, the womenfolk too, but the men grew agitated with his lack of purpose, his begging for food, his overtly affectionate displays at their feet and -- atrociously -- upon their startled laps, and his aberrant nocturnal proclivities. Indeed, Mr. Fuzzy Face expressed neither shame nor sense of decorum when chasing after and mounting males and bitches alike. Countless nights, our sentries came upon Mr. Fuzzy Face attempting his inconvenient couplings with members of his own making -- these unholy unions thwarted only by a goodly dousing of frigid well water. His unnatural tendencies for homogeneous coital congress were made all the more impure by his refusal to work and contribute alongside his peers.
He would not hunt, would not fetch, would not obey when called or ordered to stay. Yet even during the starving season, our god-fearing men refused to abandon the deplorable Mr. Fuzzy Face. Seeing the decomposing husk of a goodly girl naked and hollow in the streets, they allowed the wretched cur to feast upon her remains. Once doing so, he developed an immediate and insatiable yearning for more. Weeks later, so taken with the lust for this flesh, Mr. Fuzzy Face attacked many of the colony's women and had to be put down by the tanner.
Snarling believes this early documentation offers incontrovertible proof that feeding female flesh to a known homosexual will instill more natural, albeit dangerously aggressive, heterosexual desires.
Experts on Jamestown have accused Snarling of grossly misinterpreting historical information from the site. They attempted to clarify for Dr. Snarling's group that the Mr. Fuzzy Face referenced in the journal was a stray dog known to the colony.
Snarling roundly dismisses this notion, and his ongoing studies in curing homosexuality through cannibalism have attracted the attention of prominent Republican lawmakers who are disappointed with the failures of modern conversion therapy.
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