Leopard Society Garb – New York, New York - Atlas Obscura
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New York, New York

Leopard Society Garb

Recovered suit of a cannibalistic West African gang. 

Hanging inauspiciously in a dark corner of the American Natural History Museum is a mysterious figure covered from head to toe in the coat of a leopard. Although easy to miss, the dark mannequin is actually sporting the dress of the Leopard Society, a 19th century gang of sorts that clawed unsuspecting travelers and fed upon their flesh.

Hoping it would make them stronger, the Leopard Society roamed Sierra Leone, Liberia and Côte d’Ivoire preying upon strangers and distributing the meat from their bodies amongst their tribe. Society members would wear the skins of leopards, and fashioned weapons from their claws and teeth.

Legends of the Society grew much larger than the real impact of its members after a report in the Royal Journal of Africa, and depictions of the warriors in a Tarzan novel. Despite rumors that the society was still active throughout the 1980s, the last remaining trace of the Leopard Society hangs quietly above ignorant museum-goers in New York City.