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Cannibal Baker and Human Soap Maker: LEONARDA CIANCIULLI

Leonarda Cianciulli was a crafter from hell. She made soaps and cakes to share with her neighbors in the little village of Montella in Avellino, Italy. What her neighbors didn’t know about her creamy soaps and crunchy tea cakes was that Cianciulli’s secret ingredient was people.

In WWII-era Italy, Cianciulli took her anxiety and paranoia to a whole new level. Her son Giuseppe joined the military in 1939, and Cianciulli believed that in order to keep him alive, she would need to sacrifice people herself.

Giuseppe Cianciulli

First, she convinced a local woman, Faustina Setti, that she was going to set her up with a husband who lived abroad. After Setti had finished writing to friends and family about the new man she was going to meet, she had a glass of wine with Cianciulli. The wine was drugged, and when she passed out, Cianciulli bludgeoned her to death with an axe. After dismembering her, Cianciulli had the idea to incorporate Setti’s body into her cakes, distribute them among her neighbors, and even eat some herself.

I threw the pieces into a pot, added seven kilos of caustic soda, which I had bought to make soap, and stirred the whole mixture until the pieces dissolved in a thick, dark mush that I poured into several buckets and emptied in a nearby septic tank.

As for the blood in the basin, I waited until it had coagulated, dried it in the oven, ground it and mixed it with flour, sugar, chocolate, milk and eggs, as well as a bit of margarine, kneading all the ingredients together. I made lots of crunchy tea cakes and served them to the ladies who came to visit, though Giuseppe and I also ate them.

Francesca Soavi was her second victim. Cianciulli told her she had found her a job opportunity teaching abroad, and that she should write to her friends and family to inform them of the trip she would be taking. Again, a celebratory glass of wine. Again, an axe murder. Again, tea cakes.

Her third victim, Virginia Cacioppo, was an opera singer for whom Cianciulli had found an opportunity to go to Florence and work with an impresario. After the letter writing, Cianciulli drugged and murdered her. This time, as she was boiling Cacioppo’s corpse, she was inspired to make her into more than just food.

She ended up in the pot like the other two… her flesh was fat and white, when it had melted I added a bottle of cologne, and after a long time on the boil, I was able to make some most acceptable creamy soap. I gave bars to neighbors and acquaintances. The cakes, too, were better: that woman was really sweet.

Unfortunately for Cianciulli, Cacioppo’s sister in law saw her go into the house the night she had supposedly left for Florence, and called the police when she never heard from Cacioppo. When the cops threatened to arrest Giuseppe, Cianciulli admitted to murder, and was arrested. All of her cannibalistic activities came out at trial and she was sentenced to 33 years in prison. Her murder weapons were sent to Rome to be displayed in the criminology museum.

You never know what you’re getting on Etsy. Just saying.

Now here’s a way better storyteller telling the story of Leonarda Cianciulli:

Written By

Meghan MacRae grew up in Vancouver, Canada, but spent many years living in the remote woods. Living in the shadow of grizzly bears, cougars and the other predators of the wilderness taught her about the dark side of nature, and taught her to accept her place in nature's order as their prey. She is co-founder of CVLT Nation.

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