Atlas Obscura is organizing trips! Join us on an adventure »
Today Only: 50% off Atlas Obscura books and calendars at Barnes & Noble »

Washington, D.C.

Alferd Packer Cannibal Plaque

A brass plaque dedicated to a convicted cannibal hangs in the National Press Club, and that's not even the craziest part of the story. 

Inside the National Press Club’s penthouse bar and restaurant, Reliable Source, a small brass plaque honors Alferd Packer, a man that few if any of the patrons would be able to identify. As chance would have it, Packer was a gold-prospecting convicted cannibal, and that’s not even the craziest part of the story behind the plaque.

The Press Club is actually the Packer plaque’s second home, and it previously adorned the door to the employee cafeteria on the third floor of the United States Department of Agriculture. The $29 brass marker was placed in August, 1977 at the orders of the freshly appointed Ag Secretary Robert Bergland.

In the midst of a battle of bureaucratic tribalism, the General Services Administration was preventing the new Secretary from replacing an unpopular food service contractor inside his own headquarters. The natural reaction to this professional slight was to dedicate the cafeteria to a cannibal, and invite in the media for a public shaming.

Alferd Packer “exemplifies the spirit and the fare of this Agricultural Department cafeteria,” Berland told Barbara Walters and her ABC News viewers. The spectacle was picked up by the Associated Press and reprinted in newspapers across the country. Needless to say, the GSA contract was soon canceled.

His demands met, Bergland respectfully took the plaque down. Afterward a bemused journalist must have taken possession of it, as the plaque today graces the walls of National Press Club across town. On their menu you can find an Alferd Packer certified angus beef burger.