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Classification: Serial killer
Characteristics: Rancher who fed farmhands to his prize hogs
Number of victims: 12 +
Date of murders: 1880 - 1902
Date of birth: c.1850
Victims profile: Homeless men and transients
Method of murder: ???
Location: California, USA
Status: Sentenced to life in prison in 1902. Died in prison in 1903

Joseph Briggen (1894-1902) was a 46-year old rural California hog farmer who always had blue ribbon prize pigs at the state fair. Sleek and plump, his pigs always drew the highest prices at auction. He said "it's all in the feeding". He also complained of an inability to keep ranch hands, so he took to recruiting down-and-outs from the streets of San Francisco.

It turned out he had been killing the ranch hands, grinding their bodies up for hog feed, when one of his ranch hands found some body parts and reported it to police.

The police uncovered at least 12 skulls buried on the grounds. Joseph explained that his pigs needed a steady diet of human flesh, and that he would kill the ranch hands when they started demanding their back pay. In 1902, he received a life sentence.


"It's all in the feedin"


For Joe Briggen life was pretty fucking hard. He worked hard to scratch out a living. But he had bad crops, but the one good thing he did have to show for himself was his prize Berkshire Hogs.

Every year Briggen's pigs were favorites to win honors at the Sacramento State Fair. The pork from the beast also sold for top dollar, so much so that other breeders pestered the guy for his secret. But Joe wasn't giving anything away, all he said was that his hogs received the best care, and ate the absolute best food.

It was the this feed that was Briggen's best kept secret. He made many trips to San Francisco where he would find homeless men to come and work for him. He promised room and board, which was enough for most. After a few weeks the new laborer would become tired of working for nothing more than a place to live, and would demand a wage. But Joe didn't go for that shit. Instead of getting their 'wage', the worker went missing. And the hogs got their "special diet."

For Joe, and the hogs, this recipe was discovered in early 1902. Briggen's got lazy, and didn't clean the workers quarters out properly. When the latest worker/victim, Steven Konrad, went to bed one night he noticed something down the side of the bed. Upon closer inspection it was found to be two severed fingers. No doubt Konrad was a little bothered by this and went to the police. When they did a proper search the next day they found a full skull and various other human bones in the pig sty - Briggen's time was up.

Briggen's was found guilty of murder, with police suggesting to know of twelve victims, but suspecting of a lot more, and he was sentenced to life in prison.

Life wasn't a particularly long though. Joseph Briggen died shortly after going to prison in San Quinten.

The Wacky World of Murder


Briggen, Joseph

Born around 1850, Joseph Briggen was a product of farming stock and he followed in the family tradition, working hard to scratch a living from his remote Sierra Morena Ranch, in northern California. 

All things considered, he had little to show for his labor. Briggen's crop was invariably poor, and the effort might have been a complete waste of time, except for his prize Berkshire hogs. 

So perfect were his swine, that Briggen soon became the odds-on favorite for winning honors at the annual state fair in Sacramento. His pork brought top dollar, and every year Briggen was pestered by questions from envious breeders. In answer, he would only say that his stock received the finest possible care -- and the best feed -- available. 

The feed, in fact, was Briggen's specialty, although he dared not share the recipe. For years, the rancher made repeated, periodic trips to San Francisco, touring the Embarcadero district in a search for homeless men and transients. These he hired, throwing in a pledge of room and board. Sometimes the new employees lasted weeks, before they grew suspicious and demanded something more than food and lodging for their pay. When cash was called for, Briggen simply killed his latest victim, chopped the body up, and fed it to his hogs. In Briggen's mind, the "special" diet was responsible for his success in raising swine, and he was not prepared to change a winning system. 

In early 1902, Briggen hired a young man named Steven Korad, the latest in a series of expendable employees, but the rancher's carelessness was showing. Checking out his room that night, before retiring, Korad found two severed fingers on the floor behind his bed. The young man slipped away to notify authorities, and excavations at the ranch unearthed an estimated dozen victims in the next few days. 

A human skull and other bones were found inside the sty itself. Authorities did not suggest that Briggen's body-count was limited to twelve or thirteen victims, but they had enough to win conviction. Tried in August, Briggen drew a term of life imprisonment and died a short time later, in San Quentin. The identity and final number of his victims stands as an enduring mystery.

Michael Newton - An Encyclopedia of Modern Serial Killers - Hunting Humans



MO: Rancher who fed farmhands to his prize hogs.

DISPOSITION: Life sentence, 1902; died in prison.



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