This Remote Island in York, Maine, Was Once Home to a Crew of Cannibals
With 65 lighthouses along the coast of Maine, each one has its own story.
Some boast histories of bringing sea lovers together, some are home to beautiful museums, one was featured in Forest Gump, and one was home to one of the first cases of cannibalism in the United States.
You weren’t expecting that last one, were you?
Standing at 133 feet tall, Boon Island Light is the tallest lighthouse in New England, according to Atlas Obscura. If the walls could talk, they would have brutally dark stories to share.
The light flashes every 5 seconds thanks to the US Coast Guard installing solar power back in 1980 to ward off any shipwrecks, visitmaine.net stated. They were successful in their endeavors, but it was too late for those who had already experienced the harsh environment and rocky horror of Boon Island.
Located a mere 6 miles from the shores of York, Maine, a rocky land 700 x 300 feet rests in the Gulf. Most Mainers don’t give Boon much thought; we have thousands of islands off the coast of our state, what could be special about this one?
Mutiny, death, and cannibalism.
According to the New England Historical Society, in 1710, the ship Nottingham Galley was on its way to Ireland from London. They traveled through the Newfoundland coast and hit a sleet storm as they rounded the Gulf of Maine on December 10.
The next day, the ship crashed into a rocky ledge, split into pieces, and the crew scrambled onto the desolate island, the historical society stated.
The shores of York teased the crew in sight just 6 miles away. With no way to reach the land, the harsh cold immediately took the life of some of the crew members in a matter of days, according to the historical society, and the surviving men were sustained for a short period of time by mussels, cowhide, and seagulls.
But it wasn’t enough.
When the cold killed the heaviest of the men, an idea dawned on them… maybe it was the extra fat on the crew member, or perhaps it was the lack of consistent gulls for dinner.
Whatever it was, they reportedly decided to cut the plump man up and eat him.
The crew claims it was Captain John Dean’s idea, per the historical society, but Dean’s narrative claims he was the only one that objected.
I’ll let you decide… but John Dean was a butcher in New England… just saying.
The historical society noted that as a skilled butcher, the captain knew the most ethical way to eat their brethren: chop off the head, the feet, and the hands, so it doesn’t resemble a human as much. He reportedly wrapped the pieces in seaweed, cleaned it off in water, and served his crew human sushi.
I’m going to stop here real quick because I know what we are all may be thinking… yeah, if I was desperate and going to die, I might resort to cannibalism.
However, the only weird vibes I get from this story is the fact that a ship had wrecked on Boon Island back in 1682, according to visitmaine.net, but the survivors lived for a month eating fish and bird eggs, not each other.
These Galley guys reportedly started snacking on each other within days.
Anyway, one of the crew members was turned off enough by the cannibal action that he built a raft and tried to make it to the shore, according to the New England Historical Society. Little did he know, he actually sacrificed himself for the others. His body was found by a York county coroner tangled up in seaweed on a beach in Wells, Maine, the society noted.
The discovery of his body led to the rescuing of the last seven men, including Capt. Dean, on January 4, 1711, according to the New England Historical Society, and the survivors were carried off the island and brought to the Portsmouth tavern to feed on a meal not made of human flesh.