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The legend of Sawney Bean is perhaps one of Scotland's most memorable ghost stories, one that whilst being dismissed as fantasy by historians is very much a part of the nation's folklore and has spread across the world as a dark and disturbing tale of the depravity some humans are capable of.
Many places in Britain claim to be connected to Sawney Bean, often to try and lure in tourists but the cave where the clan were said to reside is Bannane Head.
This cave in itself is a haunting place and although it has become a tourist attraction there is no denying the power of this cave to spark the imagination of any who are interested in the strange, paranormal or ghoulish.
About one-hundred-and-fifty feet below a car park is a cave that is thought to run almost one mile into the hillside.
The young Sawney (who originated from Edinburgh) and his girlfriend supposedly set up home in this cave after running off in search of an easier life. They soon began robbing passers by to fund their new life of leisure. The easiest way to rob someone traveling along the trail that ran above the cave was to throw them over the cliffs. This soon led to Sawney and his wife realizing the mangled bodies were a good source of food.
Sawney and his wife soon became addicted to killing - legend stating they claimed hundreds of passers by over the following two decades. Their family, through incest, grew to eight sons, six daughters, eighteen grandsons and fourteen granddaughters. The ever-increasing amount of people disappearing around the area led to many a search but nothing could ever be found.
This is believed to be because the entrance to the cave is a narrow slit in the rock face, barely visible at the best of times and becoming even harder to locate during a high tide as the sea cuts off any access from the beach.
The Bean’s were said to have finally been captured after botching a robbery. They attacked a husband and wife traveling along the coast on horseback, cutting the woman's throat. Her husband lived to tell the tale as he managed to fight off the horde of cannibals.
The story of his escape soon led to an army being sent to carry out another search of the coastline. After bloodhounds used in that search found the cave, a gruesome sight met the soldiers that entered. Limbs were hanging on hooks being dried whilst other body parts were being pickled. The Bean family were soon rounded up and taken to Edinburgh where they were thrown in the Tollbooth.
With their crimes being so heinous and the evidence overwhelming, they were refused the right of a trial. The following morning at Leith, the men were executed by having their limbs cut off so they would bleed to death. The women were supposedly treated with a little more respect as they were burned to death.