Zombie Apocalypse Hysteria

13 June 2012

Recent cannibal attacks have pushed the media into a swirl.  Since I have known more real cannibals than any non-cannibal I know, a few words are in order.

Some context:

In 2002, during travels through Asia, I stumbled across some Aghori cannibals in India.  I had never heard of them and they sounded dangerous.  I picked up the trail.  The journey and the pursuit lasted two years, and took me six times around the world.  I have sat by the fire at midnight on the full moon, surrounded by Aghoris, me alone, as they drank whiskey from human skulls.

I have tracked them through India, Nepal, Thailand, Italy, Germany, France, Hawaii and California.  I have read everything on Aghoris that was available in libraries and bookstores in India, The Royal Library, and the Library of Congress.  If you can find it, I have probably read it.  I broadened that study to include cults, black magic, and cannibalism worldwide.

Before it was over, I made thousands of photos and maybe a hundred hours of video.  I started a book called Mother River, choosing that working title because many of the Aghoris that I talked to called the Ganges River "Ganga Ma," or Mother Ganga.

Despite my travels in approximately 65 countries (most of it unrelated to this research), and my long war slogs in Iraq and Afghanistan, my days and nights tracking the cannibals remain the most unbelievable and incredible journey that I have ever experienced.  But then I got "dragged" into the wars and so most people who know me think that I am just a war correspondent with an increasingly bad attitude.

I never finished Mother River, but I knew that if I survived the wars that I would one day return to the manuscript.  And so even now, every day, through Google Net Alerts, I read stories of Aghoris, cannibals, human sacrifice and black magic.  Believe it or not, it happens around the world constantly.

And so when these latest cases popped up in Miami and Montreal, I just read the stories and I moved on.  They sound like your normal psycho-cannibals. Nothing more, and nothing special, unless you are a victim.

Today, there is wild and nutty speculation about a zombie apocalypse, or about mass cannibal hysteria unfolding.  Psychologists and cops and everyone else has opinions.  Most are off-base.  The possibility of copy-cat cannibals is real, of course.

My opinion on the zombie apocalypse: go to bed and pull the covers over your head if it disturbs you.  Don't sweat it.

Of course, I could be wrong.

I wrote this short article for a magazine during a break from the wars:

American Aghori: An Introduction to Kapal Nath

main large-1000Gary Stevenson, aka Kapal Nath, drinks from a human skull and is quick with a knife. He was once arrested in Varanasi, India while trying to kill a man. Stevenson told me that he shot and killed a man in San Francisco. (Authorities refused to investigate the claim, though I was able to confirm the purchase of the pistol he said he used.)


The fundamentals of Aghor—perhaps the most extreme religion in the world—are fantastically simple, though nonetheless repugnant to most. Repugnance, or rather the quest to overcome it, is in fact a central tenet of this belief system. Aghor is an extreme sect of Hinduism. Its adherents principally worship Shiva, the Hindu god of destruction. Aghoris live by a simple creed: 1. The gods are perfect. 2. The gods create everything: Every thought, every action, every bird and diamond, every birth and every death. 3. Since the gods are perfect, and everything is made by the gods, everything—everything—is perfect.

2-350Gary Stevenson, a descendent of Robert Lewis Stevenson (author of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and Treasure Island), legally changed his name to Giridas Rama Sitanatha in Honolulu. (He kept his old initials.) I traveled twice to Hawaii to research his life there, and found the legal document for his name change. His address was listed as a local Hare Krishna ashram.Since everything is perfect, being repulsed by anything or forbidding any behavior as taboo is tantamount to rejecting the gods. While this accounts for the willingness of more moderate Aghoris to work with lepers and other so-called untouchables, it also explains why some ardent Aghoris aim to overcome some of the more gruesome targets of revulsion. In my travels I’ve met Aghoris who would just as soon pluck an eyeball from a rotten human corpse and pop it into their mouths as eat chicken. He or she might carry a rotting dead dog over their shoulder for a week, or have sex with a dead cow (holy to other Hindus) or with a rotting human corpse. One Aghori in northern India ate part of the rotting penis of a bloated, vivisected corpse on the banks of the Ganges, engaging in this “sacred ritual” in full view of onlooking police. I’ve got pictures.

3-1000Stevenson has extreme charisma for some. A beautiful French author once spent three days and nights with him in a cremation ground. In this photo, Stevenson chats up Italian travelers in Thailand

Aghor has murky roots. It most likely originated in India, which continues to be the sacred center for Aghor adherents worldwide, although that country has outlawed some of the more extreme rituals followers have engaged in, like human sacrifice. A good deal of Aghoris do, however, still practice human sacrifice. In India, some Aghoris are found in and around the cremation grounds in Varanasi. But there are Aghoris in America, Germany, Italy, Russia, and Australia. In fact, once I learned that Westerners were among the devout, I traveled around the world six times researching this strange belief system. I lived with Aghoris in their ashram in Sonoma, California, and visited with a sect in Mezzago, Italy.

4-1000GI managed to get hold of his passport and make a detailed spreadsheet of his travels from the stamps and visas. Stevenson lived in California, Hawaii, Thailand, Sri Lanka, India, and Nepal.The most severe Aghori I came across was born in Texas. A typical American kid from a typical if affluent family, Gary Stevenson’s life first veered off the normal path when he was stricken with polio as a child. A troubled youth and rebellious adolescence coincided with the Age of Aquarius and Gary set off on a spiritual path that took him to San Francisco, Hawaii, and finally into India and Nepal in an ever-deeper slide into the extreme. Along the way he shed his identity, legally changing his name to Giridas Rama Sitanatha as he sought a magical path to immortality and enlightenment. Eventually, he turned to Aghor and its dark tantric rites. As he studied and excelled at his new religion, his guru christened him “Kapal Nath,” and he became lost in a lifestyle of grave robbing and cannibalizing the bodies to consume the Shakti (life energy) of the dead. Today, Gary Stevenson is a free man—completely free as an Aghori.


+2 # loss of 4000 yearspeter 2012-06-14 14:27
In my opinion, it is a loss of 4000 years of civilization. It is a step back to barbary, something the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are out to prevent. Terrorism by another word is saying I can hurt whoever I want and it doesn't matter. Shame on them.
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+2 # RE: Zombie Apocalypse HysteriaANTICRIME 2012-06-14 15:08
:-x PUUUUKE ~ HOW LOST can people be???!
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+1 # stevenson thailandrobin yates 2012-06-14 15:18
I bumped into this Ahole in northern thailand some years ago.He gives Americans a bad name,A total prick!
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+2 # Re: yuckLeyla Najma 2012-06-14 15:50
:eek: This was gross beyond belief. It's amazing what people think and do based on a belief. :-x
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# RE: Zombie Apocalypse HysteriaBobby 2012-06-14 16:41
[Comment removed due to profanity: Webmaster]
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+2 # RE: Zombie Apocalypse HysteriaJustLurkin 2012-06-14 16:49
The fundamentals of Aghor—perhaps the most extreme religion in the world—are fantastically simple, though nonetheless repugnant to most. Repugnance, or rather the quest to overcome it, is in fact a central tenet of this belief system. Aghor is an extreme sect of Hinduism. Its adherents principally worship Shiva, the Hindu god of destruction. Aghoris live by a simple creed: 1. The gods are perfect. 2. The gods create everything: Every thought, every action, every bird and diamond, every birth and every death. 3. Since the gods are perfect, and everything is made by the gods, everything—ever ything—is perfect.
Well, so much for the golden rule, the rule of law, private property ownership, honoring contracts, etc. I really can't tell the difference between this and what the extreme hippie/summer of love disciples in SFO practiced, or for that matter the occutards. I guess if these people are among us underground, they are ok. But if they offend and are caught, and it is found that they believe anything goes and willingly act that way, they should be given harsher sentences and a vegetarian diet while in prison -- heh.
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# Mrs.Sandra 2012-06-14 19:05
Pretty disgusting and amazing at the same time. Amazing in how these kinds of religions get going and keep enlisting followers. That should be some book Michael, and if the truth of this sect were incorporated into a fictionalized story it would be a best seller and a movie waiting to happen.
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+1 # RE: Zombie Apocalypse HysteriaC Good 2012-06-14 20:41
Had been wondering how you first got into researching cannibals & cults. Hope you get a chance to finish your book & get it published, sounds very fascinating (if a bit disturbing, as others here have pointed out).
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# RE: Zombie Apocalypse HysteriaW.M. Mott 2012-06-14 20:59
Looks like he's wanted for murder in India, now... See this story:

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# T.LumTim Lum 2012-06-14 22:32
I don't think this guy would do too well in the Bronx, or any other pond with fish not guppies. Deviant predator and obviously hearing the voice of God. When you speak to God you are praying. When God talks to you...It's schizophrenia. And I just had lunch.
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# RE: T.LumW.M. Mott 2012-06-14 22:45
He wouldn't last long in the deep south, either. We do have plenty or roadkill he can root around in, though. Roadkill doesn't fight back, after all.
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# HE looks like...Violette 2012-06-15 13:57
Just a kind of Bin Laden ! !
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+1 # He has a watch?TJ 2012-06-15 19:09
If everything's perfect you leave at the perfect time and get there at the perfect time, so you need a watch for...?
Very interesting reading (in a makes your skin crawl kind of way), Mr. Yon. I would love to read the book. I appreciate the war reporting very much but would certainly keep reading and wouldn't mind at all if you decided to change your focus!
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+2 # Donner PartyMatt 2012-06-15 21:58
Donner, party of 4! Donner, party of 4.....
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+1 # Excuse SystemZombie Apocalypse 2012-06-18 18:19
I came here looking for something about the upcoming zombie apocalypse but got scared even more.

This isn't a religion or a belief system, it's an excuse system!

Zombie Apocalypse
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+1 # VNAFFrederick 2012-06-20 00:07
Can't we all just get along with one another?
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# Research. and Cannibal HunterRod Lewis 2013-11-04 17:02
To many coincidences with the Hinduism
Myself have found an ancient connection.
Keep up the good work.
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