LEXINGTON, Ky. (FOX 56) — As the Netflix show “Dahmer-Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story” incites a renaissance in serial-killer fascination, you may find yourself wondering about other serial killers and cannibals. You don’t have to search too far to find one right here in the Bluegrass State known as the “Kentucky Cannibal”.
Early life of Boone Helm
Levi “Boone” Helm was born on Jan. 28, 1828, in Lincoln County to what was described as an honest, hardworking family. His family moved to Missouri while he was still young and Helm was raised between a wild, savage frontier and civilization.
As a boy and a young man, Helm delighted in showing his feats of strength and agility. He reportedly loved to goad men into fights and show off for people by throwing a bowie knife into the ground and retrieving it while riding full speed on horseback.
Hough described Helm as, “… bad, and nothing in the world could ever have made him anything but bad. He was, by birth and breeding, low, coarse, cruel, animal-like and utterly depraved, and for him, no name but ruffian can fitly apply.”
According to ancestry reports, Helm was not fond of authority. He was said to defy the sheriff’s attempts to arrest him and even walked his horse into the courtroom of a courthouse and aggressively lectured the judge while court was in session.
When he was in his early 20s, Helm married Lucinda Francis Browning and was said to have fathered a child with her. Helm, who was said to be a heavy drinker, would routinely beat his wife.
The violence got so bad that Lucinda asked for a divorce and Helm’s father, Joseph Helm, covered the costs of the divorce. The divorce was so expensive that Joseph wound up going bankrupt and Helm decided to head out west to California to join the gold rush.
Becoming a killer
Helm spoke to his cousin, a man named Littlebury Shoot, about joining him in his venture out west. Shoot initially agreed but later attempted to back out, which did not sit well with Helm.
Enraged by Shoot wanting to back out, Helm fatally stabbed him in the chest.
Helm proceeded to head out west alone but was pursued and captured by Shoot’s brother and friends. While in captivity, Helm’s behavior landed him a spot in an asylum for the mentally deranged.
While at the asylum, Helm befriended a guard and manipulated the trust he had built with the guard, allowing him to escape during a walk in the woods. He proceeded to continue his trek to California.
Hough wrote he continued living his life in the same lawless, violent manner.
Helm encountered many men on his journey there and was more than willing to duel with weapons. Hough said it is unknown how many men Helm killed this way, but his thirst for violence continued until he reportedly committed premeditated murder.
This murder finally caught the ire of the miners he was with. Helm was forced to flee from the West Coast to avoid arrest and vigilante justice.
He picked up six companions along the way and he was said to have confided his crimes to them, including his first reported act of cannibalism.
“Many’s the poor devil I’ve killed, at one time or another … and the time has been that I’ve been obliged to feed on some of ’em,” Helm told his companions.
Reports of violence and cannibalism increase
In the 1850s, Helm and his companions were attacked by some Native Americans while traveling from eastern Oregon and, according to Hough, they escaped to Soda Springs on the Bear River in Idaho.
Their escape did not come without a cost.
Short on provisions, the crew was forced to eat their horses to survive. Their journey proved to be rough and the party of six dwindled to two, Helm and a man named Burton.
Eventually, Burton could go no further and was left in an abandoned cabin. Helm attempted to continue but was forced to turn back due to a lack of food. Helm said he went back to where Burton was to find him dead from a self-inflicted pistol wound.
He proceeded to eat Burton’s leg before he wrapped up the other leg in an old shirt and took it with him.
Continuing his travels, Helm killed multiple men and became a fugitive of the law, forcing him to flee to San Francisco. While in California, he reportedly killed a rancher who had befriended him and took him in.
Helm traveled to Oregon where continued robbing people for a living, frequently murdering them.
In 1862, Helm was arrested by authorities after gunning down an unarmed man in a saloon. However, Helm’s brother, “Old Tex” reportedly paid off witnesses against Helm and he was released from prison.
End of the road for Helm
Helm traveled to Texas with his brother where he continued his old ways, killing multiple men in the process. Helm was eventually apprehended in Montana after teaming up with a man named Henry Plummer and his gang.
Helm, who Hough said was apprehended by vigilantes who closed in on him while he was in the street talking, said “If I’d had a chance, or if I had guessed what you all were up to, you’d never have taken me.”
Helm swore in court, after kissing the Bible, he had never killed a man in his life. The court was not moved by his testimony.
After being incriminated, Helm cooly said, “I have looked at death in all forms and I am not afraid to die.”
Hough wrote around 6,000 men gathered in Virginia City, Montana to see Helm and his fellow criminals executed.
Helm told one of his fellow criminals, Jack Gallager, to “stop making such a fuss. There’s no use being afraid to die.”
George Lane, another who was sentenced to be executed jumped off his box with a noose around his neck.
Helm responded by stating “There’s one gone to hell.”
He then proceeded to tell the executioner who was about to execute Gallager to “Kick away, old fellow.”
Helm suddenly decided it was his turn next and said, “My turn next. I’ll be in hell with you in a minute!”
Hough wrote that Helm, who was a bitter Confederate, shouted “Every man for his principles! Hurrah for Jeff Davis! Let ‘er rip!” before leaping from his box.
Helm died on Jan. 14, 1864, the way he lived, with reckless abandon and no regard for human life.