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As It Was: Purported Cannibal’s Diet Sickens Church Audience

Lectures were an early form of entertainment in America and charismatic speakers sometimes took advantage of people’s credulity.

The Cottage Grove Sentinel reported in September 1911 that one speaker overdid himself and got kicked out of town.  The speaker claimed to be a cannibal from Port-Au Prince, Haiti. 

The man showed an audience at the Advent Church some credentials that purportedly proved he had traveled the world.  He identified himself as David John Henry Allen Zamboss Swackhammer, named, he said, after the first names of the first five men of his tribe who had given their lives for freedom.

Swack, as he was called for short, started off speaking about his adventures around the world, but really caught everyone by surprise when he began describing his tribe’s purported culinary habits.  He said the tribe only ate men, never women, and wouldn’t eat a tobacco user for fear of disease.  A 200-pound man made about four meals for the tribe, he said. 

Finally, someone stood up and asked the so-called cannibal to stop.  Swack was escorted outside and run out of town. 

Source:  "His Graft Fails To Work: Cannibal "Swack" Invades Church of Adventists." Cottage Grove Sentinel, 1 Sept. 1911, p. 1. Historic Oregon Newspapers, oregonnews.uoregon.edu/lccn/sn96088073/1911-09-01/ed-1/seq-1/. Accessed 16 June 2019.

Lynda Demsher has been editor of a small-town weekly newspaper, a radio reporter, a daily newspaper reporter and columnist for the Redding Record Searchlight, Redding California. She is a former teacher and contributed to various non-profit organizations in Redding in the realm of public relations, ads, marketing, grant writing and photography.