Most of Haven has no doubt heard of the urban legend of 'Cannibal Joe' who was trapped underground for eight days and how he consumed his workmates to persevere and live, and the ghosts of the deceased that still yet haunt the forests, searching for lost hikers to eat. But it is something we so readily dismiss as being little more than fiction. Something we tell our children to keep them out of the forest, or threaten them with if they're naughty.
And while most urban legends are more fact than fiction, this one is at least partially woven from truth. Erased from most historical records on the topic, little can be found on the Old Wilson Diggings gold prospect site located west of Haven. It's not till you talk to the locals, and view their pay slips and other mementos of great grandparents long since passed away that the truth starts to come out of its existence.
Mildred 97, tells of her father, who use to work in the mines sharing with her one drunken night that Joe didn't just survive, when he left the mine, he had put on weight. And that the desire for flesh never quite left him. Young children often went missing around Haven after that, and while he was never convicted, local gossip at the time, blamed Cannibal Joe.
Norman 91, had a father that worked in the mines and shared with us a couple of old newspaper articles that have been handed down through his family. The headlines read: "Four Men, Presumed Dead, Lost in Old Wilson Diggings", "Found! Joe Murphy, Risen From the Dead?", "Tragedy in Old Wilson Diggings", and "Joe Ate His Friends to Survive!"
Another local, Addie 95 speaks of a cousin, who went missing shortly after Joe's rescue from the mines. "She was just a wee thing, not more than eight. But she liked to wander. Always playing hide and seek in the forest. And one day, she just didn't come back. Her remains were found years later, and there were -human- bite marks on the bones. They all knew it was Cannibal Joe."
This week we acknowledge the 100th anniversary of the collapse within Old Wilson's Diggings and Cannibal Joe's rescue eight days later, and locals around town leave out bloody pick axes in front doors and in store fronts to both remember those lost and celebrate this not quite so 'urban legend'.
by Sua Swann