The Ballad of Alfred Packer: A Journey of Shadows

In 1874, a brave sextet ventured into the heart of winter in the Sanan Mountains of Colorado. Their goal: to reach newly discovered gold fields. Two months later, only one man emerged, not emaciated, but oddly well-fed. This is the tale of Alfred Packer, the infamous Colorado Cannibal.

The Fateful Expedition

November 20th, 1873, a group of 20 prospectors, strangers in pursuit of fortune, set forth from Bingham Canyon, Utah. Enter Alfred Packer, an eccentric guide with a dubious past. Despite doubts, the group accepted him, unaware of the journey’s impending perils.

Winter’s harsh grip slowed their progress. The trail, buried in snow, led to desperation and starvation. Alfred’s inadequacies as a guide exacerbated their plight. By January, they were out of food, eating horse feed, and contemplating consuming their own horses.

Encounter with Chief Ur

January 21st, salvation appeared in the form of Chief Ur and the Ute tribe. Despite Chief Ur’s warnings of treacherous conditions, the group, torn between survival and gold, split. Half stayed with the Utes, while the rest, guided by Alfred, attempted the perilous journey to Los Pinos Indian Agency.

Alfred’s Desperate Struggle

Alfred’s version unfolds: snowstorms, failed navigation, and dwindling supplies led to desperation. His party succumbed to hunger and exhaustion. By April, Alfred emerged alone, claiming survival through consuming rabbits, roots, and companions. Skepticism abounded.

The Unraveling Mystery

Investigations revealed a disconcerting truth. Alfred’s comrades were found dead, showing signs of violence. Witnesses, including Preston Nutter, accused Alfred of leading them astray for selfish gain. Alfred’s evolving narratives only deepened suspicions.

Trial and Controversial Verdict

Trials ensued, with conflicting testimonies. Alfred’s guilt oscillated between premeditated murder and desperate survival. He was initially sentenced to hang, but a technicality reduced it to voluntary manslaughter. Public sympathy swayed opinion.

Media’s Impact on Perception

Reporter Paulie Pry’s sympathetic portrayal shifted public sentiment. Alfred became a folk hero, unjustly persecuted by a biased system. Petitions for his release circulated, leading to parole in 1901 after serving only 18 years.

Post-Prison Redemption?

Alfred, post-prison, exhibited a transformed demeanor. He worked for The Denver Post, described as kind and charitable. He bought a copper mine, returning to prospecting. He died in 1907, aged 65, with rumors suggesting a vegetarian lifestyle.

Unanswered Questions

Alfred Packer’s tale remains an enigma. Did he manipulate circumstances for survival, or was he a victim of circumstance himself? The shadows of the Sanan Mountains conceal a story that lingers in the annals of history, inviting speculation and debate.

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