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Paging Dr. Lecter: Your Dot.Com Is Here

April 18, 2001|CHARLES PERRY

You may have heard radio talk-show discussions of a company that claims to sell human meat. No more hideous idea could be imagined, but if you can stand the creepiness, you might investigate the ManBeef Web site (http://www.manbeef.com).

Once you get there, you'll find you won't actually be able to order any "manbeef." "We... do not sell orders directly off our Web site," reads a notice, "because we would be unable to meet the demand of thousands of orders a day. Because the supply of high-quality human meat is limited, we have to limit the number of orders we accept."

Thousands of orders a day! Imagine that!

Nor can you write or visit the company, because no physical address is given. You have to register as a buyer, and ManBeef warns that it will then do a background check on you. And even then you won't be able to order because, you'll be told, of the backlog of other people trying to sign up.

The whole thing is a hoax, reports the San Fernando Valley Folklore Society on its urban legends page (http://www.snopes2.com/inboxer/hoaxes/manbeef.htm). The phone number listed in the domain registration belongs to a 16-year-old living in Apex, N.C.

But it is an uncommonly clever and elaborate hoax. The home page has all the trappings of an Internet shopping site--a policies page, an About Us page, recipes, a gift shop for impulse purchases (T-shirts, mugs and mouse pads with the ManBeef logo; aprons reading "Eat the Cook")--all presented in the blandest, most everyday tone. It claims to sell wines suitable for a cannibalistic meal, but they're not Hannibal Lecter's "nice Chianti'; no, they're stratospherically expensive Bordeaux and Burgundies, described in perfect wine-geek prose (some of the descriptions are illustrated with the wrong wine labels, though). There's also a catalog of expensive cookware supposedly suitable for cooking human flesh.

It's when you reach the section for ordering the human meat itself that the illusion falters. The photos obviously show beef. You could never get a round steak that shape off any human being in the world, not even Jesse Ventura.

This kid in Apex is obviously clever and obviously going places. Where those places are, now, that's another question.

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