At What Cost: Superstition Leads To Slaying Of Albinos In Tanzania

Imagine being hunted for your body parts, by those who would carry them as lucky charms.  If you lived in Tanzania, and had albinism, this could be your reality.

I was stunned by the news of horrific albino slayings sometime last week.   The chilling nature of these events inspired me to start writing a short story based, in part, on the terrors of being a Tanzanian albino.  To this day, these people are being hunted for their body parts.  Their organs, especially the genitals, limbs, breasts, fingers and tongue, are sold to witchdoctors for a substantial sum.  These parts are then used in the making of potions and good luck charms, which are believed to bring about prosperity of the buyers.  In recent years, these items are experiencing a surge in popularity, particularly among miners and fishermen, leading to a massive outbreak of attacks and albino murders in Tanzania and neighboring countries.

It seems that albinos, with their conspicuous and unusual appearance, are considered mystical, ‘ghostlike’ beings in Tanzania, and are often suspected of witchcraft by the rural populace.  Nonetheless I find it hard to believe that so many people are willing to purchase the body parts of slain human beings in some kind of superstitious ‘get rich quick’ scheme.  This speaks volumes on the terrible greed of humanity.  Fortunately, this sort of thing is rare enough to shock and horrify most of the world.

If you’d like more information on this crisis, here are some links to news stories:

BBC News: Tanzania Fear Over Albino Killings

Ground Report: Superstitious Albino Killings In Tanzania Must Stop

Now Public: Albino Killings In Tanzania

ABC News: Journey To Tanzania: Reporter Exposes Epidemic of Albino Killings

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I just learned of this & wonder if there’s anything left to see at the site. 

From the Canton Repository on September 15, 2009…

Woman tells police she burned down her house because it was haunted

MASSILLON —

A woman who watched her house burn from a few hundred feet away told police she set it afire “because she was sick of living there, and it was haunted,” Stark County Jail records said.

Kristine M. Hambuechen, 41, of 19 Penberthy Pl. NE, was arrested at Eighth Street and Lincoln Way St. E at 5:37 p.m. Monday and charged with aggravated arson. She also goes by the last name of Pritchett, according to Massillon police reports.

Her home was destroyed.

Firefighters arrived at 5:12 p.m. Monday to find smoke coming from several windows, said Assistant Fire Chief Stephen Collins. Bystanders told them Hambuechen was already out of the house, he said.

Collins said the fire, which started in the bedroom and the living room, had destroyed the house by the time firefighters forced their way in. He estimated damage at $10,000 to the structure and at $5,000 to its contents.

Police reports said the home is owned by R&G Rentals, 4509 Forest Glen Ave. in Massillon.

The police reports said Hambuechen called police from a pay phone at a nearby Fill and Go gas station to report the fire.

She told arriving officers that she lit her house on fire by piling clothes in the bedroom and living room and then lighting them with an orange and black lighter.

“She stated that the house was haunted and that the walls were moving, and that she wanted to be free of the  home and the demons,” according to a report filed by Patrolman Brian Muntean.

Investigator Ron Winters of the Fire Department reported that the smoke detectors inside the house had been removed from the ceilings and placed on a chair.

Witnesses told police that Hambuechen left the house and sat on a lawn chair in the middle of the road directly outside of the house, appearing “to be watching it.”

Hambuechen remained in jail Tuesday morning, pending a hearing in Massillon Municipal Court. She was held in lieu of $50,000 bond.