American Folk Figure. Known as the "The Colorado Cannibal." His name is often misspelled as "Alferd," an error that stems from his own illiteracy. His victims were Frank "Butcher" Miller, Israel Swann, James Humphreys, George Noon, and Shannon Wilson Bell. Born in Pennsylvania, he enlisted on April 22, 1862 in the 16th Minnesota Volunteer Infantry during the Civil War, and was mustered out at Fort Ontario, New York on December 29, 1862 suffering from epilepsy. On June 10, 1863, he reenlisted again, in the 8th Iowa Volunteer Cavalry Regiment, and was mustered out again just ten months later in Cleveland, Tennessee, again due to his epilepsy. In 1873, he was in Provo, Utah, looking for gold in the rich Utah hills. In November 1873, he was with a party of 21 that left Provo for Colorado, to attempt to find gold in the Rocky Mountains. In early January 1874, the party met with Cheyenne Chief Ouray at the Indian encampment near Montrose, Colorado. On February 9, 1874, he and five others decide to push on for gold, leaving the others behind in the Indian encampment. Two months later, on April 6, Alfred Packer arrived alone at the Los Pinos Indian Agency near Gunnison, Colorado. A month later, he wrote his confession, stating that Bell killed the other men, and he killed Bell in self defense. Since there was no food, and they had brought inadequate provisions, he lived by eating the dead men. (A second confession, written in March 1883, gives more detail, and a third confession, written on August 7, 1897, is even more detailed. However, each confession contradicts the earlier confession in numerous details as to how the men died, and who killed whom. The only consistent "facts" are that Packer admits to killing Bell after Bell attacks him, and that he ate some of the dead men's flesh due to starvation hunger). A search party that was dispatched to the site found the bodies as described. Alfred Packer escaped from jail, and went into hiding under the alias "John Schwartze." In March 1883, a former fellow miner, Frenchy Carbazon found him hiding out in Cheyenne, Wyoming. He was arrested and returned to Colorado, where he was tried and sentenced to death. In 1885 his death sentence was reversed by the Colorado Supreme Court due to a "grandfather's clause," and he was retried and sentenced to forty years in prison. In January 1901, Colorado Governor Thomas, convinced by newspaper muckraker Poly Pry, granted Packer conditional parole, and he was freed from prison but not allowed to leave the state of Colorado. Upon release from prison, he moved to Deer Creek, Jefferson County, Colorado, where he lived for the rest of his life, as a vegetarian. He died in Phillipsburg, Colorado. In 1980, the story was made into a movie, "The Legend of Alfred Packer," and a folk song was written about the incident by Phil Ochs.
Bio by: Kit and Morgan Benson