The demon barber of Fleet Street has gone down as one of pop culture’s most terrifying figures but what if all the rumors were true? While Sweeney Todd first sprang into the popular imagination in the Victorian literature series The String Of Pearls, the man behind the barber’s knife might have been inspired by a real person who dates back a whole lot longer.
Sweeney Todd as he is known and feared was a fictional barber who lived in London during the 19th century. In a bid to up his profits and get rid of a few of the local population, the character infamously cut the locals’ throats, using their flesh in a collection of meat pies. So far, so gruesome. The real “Sweeney Todd”, however, might have been even worse, doing away with tourists to help balance his baking business.
To get to the heart of the matter, we need to journey back to 14th century France and wind our way through the streets of Paris. In the midst of a busy thoroughfare near the Notre Dame, a local baker was doing good business, putting out a series of meat pies that drew in the crowds from miles around. Strangely enough, the bakery in which these pies were created was located just next door to a barber, the owner of which was connected to a string of strange local disappearances.
What was unclear soon became evident, however, as police were pulled closer to the area of the crime. Drawn to the barber’s shop by a stray dog, the police discovered that the owner of the barber’s shop was a man who was already known to them, having fled his wife and home. The stray dog outside was the missing man’s own, attracted to the area by the scent of his long lost master. After police searched the area for the man, they are reported to have stumbled across a great deal more than they bargained for, uncovering piles of human bones and remains beneath both the barber’s and baker’s shops.
Taking matters into their own hands, police discovered that, indeed, the barber and baker were in business together, serving up a collection of “locally sourced” meat pies. The duo had been at their job for as long as 3 years before police found them, doing away with tourists and stray wanderers of the streets.
After being found guilty, both men faced execution, burned at the stake for their collection of crimes. In fact, the area was so caught up in the crime that many of the local shops and buildings were burnt, too, only to be restored to their current glory in the mid 19th century. Today, the building stands as something a little different and while you can still visit the site, it rests in a Parisian Police Department motorcycle garage.
While today, the streets in the area of Paris stand as if nothing ever happened, they were once the home of something a lot more sinister. All you need to do is look a little deeper into the history books to find the real event that inspired the chilling tale.