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No Evidence Of Feral Cannibals In National Parks

Rebecca Bowen Rebecca Bowen
13th July 2021
No Evidence Of Feral Cannibals In National Parks
Top causes of deaths in state parks include drownings and falls (Getty Images).

The Claim

Feral people live in national parks and abduct people, with the intent to eat them.

Emerging story

Earlier this year, the question, “What’s a thought that freaks you out the more you think about it?” was trending on TikTok. One user responded that the idea of feral cannibals in national parks terrifies her. With the video being liked over 990,000 times and shared more than 50,000 times, the idea spread from Tik Tok to other platforms. Users began researching the phenomenon and reporting their findings. “

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Misbar’s Analysis

A study conducted by the National Institute of Health found that heart disease, drowning, and falls are the most common causes of death in the wilderness. The Washington Post rated drownings and vehicle accidents to have the highest fatality rates but emphasized that national parks are incredibly safe. Around 120 to 140 people typically die in U.S. national parks each year, out of 28 million visitors. That's about one per every two hundred thousand.

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The leading causes of death at national parks were drownings and vehicle accidents (Washington Post).

The myth about feral people stems from a real story of a boy who disappeared on a 1969 camping trip in the Smoky Mountains. While a group of children was attempting to scare their parents, 6-year-old Dennis Martin mysteriously vanished from view. The group scoured the area for the boy in the red shirt. Rangers were brought in but a storm came with them. A massive search party ensued, and some speculate that the size of it along with a previous storm destroyed any meaningful evidence. Only one shoe and a sock were found, though they could not be verified as Dennis’s, along with a few footprints of a boy with one foot bare and one shoe. Dennis was never seen again. 

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A family that had been hiking nearby came forward later with a story: The father, Harold Key, described how he and his family had heard screaming and saw what they first thought was a bear, but then claimed that it actually looked like a feral man. The myth began that a feral man had snatched Dennis Martin: intent on turning him into a meal.

The ensuing search for Dennis Martin caused a lead to new developments in search techniques, and officials believe he most likely got lost and died of exposure. Though there is not a database kept of people that go missing in National Parks, users claimed that at least 1,600 individuals have disappeared. The number was originally reported by OutsideOnline, but no citation or accounting is given of how that number was reached. Heart disease, drowning and falls were the most common causes of death

Like Bigfoot and the Chupacabra, no verifiable evidence of feral cannibals living in national parks has ever been found. 

Misbar’s Classification


Misbar’s Sources

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