Credibility is pretty thin in the halls of The History Channel. I had several of my fans reach out to me to tell me that their new show, True Monsters, was going to cover Sawney Bean. Sure enough, their second episode, Cannibals and Killers, covered the legend of the notorious Bean clan.
Now, this caught my attention for a few reasons. One, this year, my book, Sawney Bean – Dissecting the Legend of Scotland’s Infamous Cannibal Family, was published by FontHill Media. Sawney Bean – Amazon.com. It’s the first new book on the Bean’s written in decades and I really sink my teeth (pun intended) into the myth from a true crime perspective. I spent several years doing research and traveled to Galloway Scotland to walk the trail of these purported killers.
For those of you that don’t know the folklore – the Bean’s were an alleged incestuous family of 40+ murders and cannibals that roamed the Galloway region of Scotland. They supposedly killed a thousand victims, devouring their flesh to survive. When they were sloppy with one of their murders, the King and an armed band tracked them down, took them prisoner, and executed most of them. The story was the basis for such films as The Hills Have Eyes.
I did a lot of research into this bit of local lore only to find that while the story had some elements that could be traced to Scottish history, it was most likely little more than a legend that has taken root in the present. I found the real Alexander Bean from the period, but he cannot be connected at all to the myth. It was a lot of fun exploring where this story came from and how it evolved over the centuries.
I have two criticisms of the True Monster’s representation of the tale. First, they gave it credibility with their “experts” in the field. They did have one expert that said the story was propaganda by the British during the Jacobite Rebellion (The ’45) but the other speakers all treated the story as if it was based on facts. It isn’t. Trust me, I’ve been to the cave location(s) where the Bean’s allegedly lived and they couldn’t have supported a family of half that size. Also there is not one piece of evidence in writing or otherwise that validates the Bean story.
Once more The History Channel has distorted the facts to garner ratings. It makes me wonder how much of the rest of the series of based on hearsay and speculation.
My other gripe is purely ego-based (and somewhat justified at that). I hate saying this, but I’m one of about three experts on this subject out there and none of the folks I know who are experts were consulted or brought in on this. It is as if the History Channel didn’t even try to find objective historians on this subject. Some of their experts, I found, are little more than web-masters on horror web sites. I know I sound a little bitter, but I am. If you’re going to air a show on a subject, why not talk to someone who wrote the only book in decades on the subject?
It’s a sad day when The History Channel’s level of historical accuracy is Ice Road Truckers. For shame History Channel…