This listing is an excerpt form our 5 Real Life Killers Who Inspired Movie Mad Men article on our main Pop Nonsense page.
The tale of Sawney Bean and his family of inbred cannibals has been used to scare the children of Scotland for centuries. Alexander “Sawney” Bean was born in East Lothian in the 1500s and married “Black” Agnes Douglas and soon after they set up home in a cave in Ballantrae, South Ayrshire.
They had children, who then had children, who then had children. Story has it that there were three generations of inbred Beans living inside the cave.
The Bean clan attacked and devoured over one thousand people during their reign of terror. They would attack and kill travellers who passed the nearby roads and then eat their victims. Only one person was lucky enough to evade the onslaught. A couple were travelling the back roads of Ayrshire when they were attacked by the sadistic family. The husband fought for his life while he watched his wife murdered in front of him. Fellow travellers heard the screams of the couple intervened. It was at this point King James VI marched a thousand strong army across Scotland to capture the family. The families crimes were so horrific and so dreadful that the court decided to ignore the law completely and have the Bean’s executed immediately. The males of the Bean family had their arms and legs cut off while the women watched only to be burned at the stake like witches after having witnessed the demise of their husbands, fathers and brothers.
Wes Craven said that he used the story of Sawney Bean and his cannibal family as the main source of inspiration for the 1977 film “The Hills Have Eyes.” Craven pretty much lifted the story from the Scottish coastal caves and dropped it off in the deserts of Southwest America. Originally the film was going to be called “Blood Relations” a nod to the inbreeding of his characters and Sawney Beans family. Producer Peter Locke hated the title and so it was changed. The grotesque executions of the Bean clan is credited as the inspiration for the Carter Family who choose to become as disgustingly aggressive as their attackers when seeking out their revenge.
However the Bean Clan may be completely fictitious for a number of reasons. Sawney’s cannibalistic endeavours happened in the 1500’s but the story never surfaced until 200 years later in the 1700’s when it showed up in The Newgate Calendar, the catalogue of crimes from London’s Newgate Prison. There are no official records whatsoever of the incidents which King James VI was directly involved in and that would be strange considering the King personally marched his army to Ayrshire from Edinburgh. There is also very little in the way of evidence that the Bean Clan had been executed for their crimes.
This is an approximate location.