Story Book

Freaky Friday: Kill One to Save Many

This is a freaky story about a weird coincidence. In 1838, Edgar Allan Poe published his novel, “The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket”. It was about 3 sailors who were stranded after being shipwrecked. To survive, they had to eat their friend. Poe did not know that his story would become reality 46 years later.

In 1884, 3 sailors actually became shipwrecked, and had to eat their friend to survive. In Poe’s story, the character that fell victim to cannibalism was called Richard Parker. 46 years later, when these men are forced to eat human flesh, they kill their friend called… Richard Parker. I kid you not!

Here’s the true story (not novel version) of Richard Parker:

So Richard was a 17 year old working as a cabin boy on an English Yatch known as the Mignonette in 1884. The Yatch was sailing along the South Atlantic when it sank. Parker was left with three other men in a lifeboat. There drifted on the ocean in their open boat with hardly any food and water. Note that when you’re stranded at sea, there are more than one ways to die; aside from drowning, you could die from starvation and/or dehydration, and other things.

Freaky Friday
A picture of the lifeboat they were stranded in. By Unknown – Simpson, A. W. B. (1984) Cannibalism and the Common Law: The Story of the Tragic Last Voyage of the Mignonette and the Strange Legal Proceedings to Which It Gave Rise, Chicago: University of Chicago Press ISBN 9780226759425, Public Domain,


So these people spent days stranded more than 1000 miles from land. They eventually ran out of both food and water in 11 days. Seven days later, they decided to cast lots to decide who should be put to death to save everyone else. They however decided that it would be better to kill the boy instead. On day 12, they did kill and eat him.

Richard Parker's Tombstone
Richard Parker’s Tombstone. By Hethurs at English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0,


The three men were eventually saved by a German ship, 24 days after the shipwreck. Once back home, the sailors were charged with murder and found guilty in court. They asserted that they only killed the boy because they needed to save their own lives. This case established a legal precedent that is now common law found around the world – Legally, necessity is no defense for murder.

Do you think that Poe’s novel somehow predicted the death of Richard Parker, or was it just strange coincidence? Do you think the sailor were justified in killing Richard?

Tweet to Stacey, Mwalimu’s Sidekick: @MissOlendi

Read more Freaky Friday Stories

The True Story of the Silent Twins

The Phone Number that Killed All It’s Owners

The Mystery of the Bermuda Triangle



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