Words by Jakob von der Lippe
Illustration by Camilla Eustance

In December 1777, George Washington camped 12,000 men of the first and only Continental Army at Valley Forge. In doing so, he overcome not only the first great struggle of the American Revolution, but also history’s longest and most awkward work Christmas party. By June 1778, around 2,500 of those men had died of starvation, disease, and exposure, brought upon by a remarkably hard winter and a remarkably huge fuck up. Washington forgot that people need food and shelter, since not everyone is as much of a freedom fuelled, liberty spewing, democratic demigod as he was. Well, more accurately, it’s hard to feed 12,000 people (some of whom are wounded and dying already) when you’re in the middle of a war against, y’know, the entire British Empire (who are pretty much the King Kong of 18th century geopolitics— totally wrecking New York). It probably didn’t help that the Continental Army was also pretty wrecked at this point, having won a costly victory at White Marsh weeks prior, and were dragging along a whole lot of sick and wounded dudes into the Valley Forge encampment.

Historically, the winter at Valley Forge was a turning point in the revolution, a moment in which the drive towards secession and liberty overcame the elements, disease, and the shittiness of camping. Supply lines were resumed in February, however the desertion and death toll up until June 1778 remain remarkably hard to pin down in contemporary records. This smokescreen of missing information is pretty convenient, given the historical importance of Valley Forge, and the presence of a major figure like Washington. The big question is: where did the food they lived on through winter come from? I’m going to wrap this one in tin foil and say I’m pretty sure they started eating people, because there is nothing more suspicious than a man with wooden teeth, and logical responses are a job for real historians.

Bentley Little, a pretty good horror writer, suggested in the early ‘90s there was cannibalism at Valley Forge, but he was nowhere near serious. I am. It does answer a lot of questions that absolutely nobody would ever ask. George Washington going all Hannibal Lecter out of necessity is at least plausible, since there are a lot of discrepancies regarding the exact number of soldiers at Valley Forge, a lot of contradictions regarding desertion rates, and a lot of men simply disappearing in the (literally) logistical stew. Since battlefield medicine in the 18th century was basically butchery anyway, why not remove the middle man? Amputation fixed pretty much everything, including hunger. It’s not like cannibalism is itself outside of the American experience: Jamestown provides a historical precedent for cannibalism in the American colonial setting, illustrating harsh necessity in the even harsher North American winter.

Accounts of the winter point to a diet based heavily on bread and meat, which is consistent with the difficulties of foraging in a frozen climate, but these do not explain the source of the mystery meat found in the “pepper broth” served at the camp. Sufficient meat for 12,000 people would have to have been sourced in bulk from somewhere. Wherever this was, it isn’t immediately apparent, as local farmers were actually holding out on supplying the Continental Army. From the Army’s starting supplies of a few barrels of pork, it’s hard to see how they could find enough meat to keep at least 10,000 people alive. Washington was desperate, his troops were hungry, and hundreds of men were already dying of disease and malnutrition. Before I start sounding too serious, just remember we’re talking about a dude who could never tell a lie, but had those bone-crunching wooden teeth.

Essentially, 12,000 men walked in, and 10,000 men walked out again. Either Thunderdome’s efficiency rate has gone right down, or starvation, disease, and exposure took their toll on the Continental Army at Valley Forge. Amid the chaos of the Revolution in crisis, thousands of men disappeared, and thousands more were fed from a source of meat that could have come from anywhere, or anyone. There’s something beautifully democratic about a revolution fuelled by cannibalism: for the people, of the people.

Soylent Red White and Blue is Patriots.

Words by Jacob von der Lippe
Illustration by Camilla Eustance

1938 was a big year for Hitler. He won Time magazine’s person of the year, invaded Czechoslovakia, doomed the world to the bloodiest conflict in human history, and also decided to hunt down the fucking Abominable Snow Man. Apparently, world domination isn’t enough unless you have some kind of Bond-villain-esque plan to back it up. To be honest, Nazi Yeti shock troops sound exactly like the kind of thing you’d expect from a man who styled himself like Charlie Chaplin’s evil twin.

Most likely stemming from his own receding hairline and clearly sinister moustache, Hitler had what in historical terms we would call an ‘insanity boner’ for determining whether or not the majestic fur and mane of the mythical beast was included in the Aryan genome. Quite seriously, Hitler wanted to back up Charles Darwin by proving the German people were descended from the Yeti, and that it was the missing link between apes and man. Some kind of Master Apes, if you will. (I apologise for that pun.)

So, because all historical evidence points to the Third Reich being the playground of a man who thought naming a nation wide children’s club after himself wasn’t a bit creepy, somebody had to actually go find the goddamn Yeti. That man was Ernst Schäfer, a zoologist, and owner of a mad beard.

Officially, the reason for Schäfer’s expedition to Tibet was given as zoological research, sanctioned by Heinrich Himmler, head of the SS and the Ahnenerbe (essentially, the Nazi Ghostbusters). The Ahnenerbe, a society founded by Himmler to scientifically prove Nazi pseudo-history, were quite literally that crazy. Himmler gathered up some of the best and brightest scientific, historical and anthropological minds Germany had to offer, and systematically wasted their time on perpetuating his own warped version of history, kind of like this column.

If we apply conspiracy theory logic, this gross misallocation of money and effort must have meant there was something shady going on. Since the Ahnenerbe had made official inquiries into witchcraft in Finland, demonic rock carvings in Sweden and were known to steal Stone and Iron Age artefacts, it’s entirely possible they were some kind of front for the occult activities of Hitler’s Germany. Basically, Himmler had a system of spiritual and mystical beliefs that make even my theories look legitimate.

It’s probably also worth taking into account that according to Himmler’s beliefs, the Aryan race had conquered much of Asia in “ancient times” (read: “times that never happened”), meaning that even if the expedition failed to bring back any Snow Man, abominable or otherwise, they still might uncover some useful pseudo-data supporting Nazi racial ideology

Because arguing with your boss is never a good idea, Schäfer pretty much just copped the absurdity on his chiselled, Aryan chin. The Yeti hunt set out under the cover of a scientific expedition, fighting not only the harsh climate of the Himalayas, but also the harsh silence during awkward conversations with the local Tibetan people, who the Nazis undoubtedly weirded out in their quest for arcane knowledge. I don’t think “Hey, have you guys seen a big white man-ape around here recently?” works well in pretty much any situation that doesn’t include a hunt for Phillip Seymour Hoffman.

Unsurprisingly, Schäfer had no luck finding the Yeti, or, if he did, the Yeti just wasn’t that interested in right wing politics. Pretty understandable – living at the top of a mountain and eating tourists seems pretty left wing – just sayin’. Whether or not we’re dealing with some kind of Abominable Snow Marxist, Schäfer couldn’t go home empty handed. So he did what any respectable member of the Nazi Ghostbusters would do: he started stealing priceless artefacts, including a 1000 year old statue carved out of a meteorite that probably hit and killed the real Yeti. Twelve years later, Ron Perlman would be born, and the mystery of the Yeti solved forever.

Please spay and neuter your mythological entities.