An American adventurer embarked on a journey into one of the most remote jungles on Earth to uncover and investigate a particularly terrifying tribe of cannibals living there. Drew Binski arrived alone in Papua New Guinea, where the Korowai people live in isolation, much like our ancestors from the Stone Age. They wear very little, if any, clothing and hunt with bows and arrows.
Until 1974, when anthropologists left the Indonesian provinces of southern Papua, the Korowai did not know any more people on the planet. Drew spent much time among the Momona tribe, neighbors of the Korowai, who shared stories about their terrifying cousins. He discovered that this tribe practices cannibalism as a form of punishment.
"I learned that the Korowai don't eat humans for pleasure or their nutritional value," he explained. "It's simply a form of punishment. If you steal something, you're burned at the stake and eaten."
Evil demon: Hakua
The Korowai people also believe in an evil demon called Hakua, who can possess a person's body, "eat" them from the inside and turn them into sorcerers. To them, it's common sense that someone possessed by Hakua should be killed and eaten.
"The Korowai believe that mysterious deaths, such as illnesses, are due to Hakua or evil demons taking human form," explained Drew. "The Hakua are said to disguise themselves as friends or family members in an attempt to gain the trust of the tribesmen so they can kill them later.
Performing cannibalistic rituals is part of the Korowai tradition to protect the tribe members as part of their justice system based on revenge."
What they don't eat
The tribe members eat every part of the human body except the hair, nails, and genitals. Children under 13 are not allowed to consume human flesh, as the Korowai believe eating Hakua carries the risk of contracting a disease. One jungle guide named Cornelius gained the trust of the previously isolated tribe. They said, "One night, they gave him a meat pack and told him it was human. If he ate it, he could stay with them; if not, he would have to leave. He ate it and thus became very close to them."
Researchers estimate that about 4,000 members of the Korowai tribe live in impressive houses high in trees within the dense jungle. These houses protect them from attacks and arson from battles with neighboring tribes. Women and children in the community are regularly kidnapped by enemy tribes and sold into slavery. The tribe members protect their families by building unique wooden houses and living at high altitudes.
The Korowai people still maintain their way of life and culture, attracting adventurers and tourists. In a 2007 BBC documentary called "First Contact," footage from a 1999 encounter with the Korowai shows their belief in a "white ghost" that signifies the coming of the end of the world.