Abuse of Corpse
Some people prefer the company of the dead.
Recently, the bones of a nearly complete skeleton were discovered in the home of a 37-year-old Swedish woman. Allegedly, she was using them as sex toys. Along with the bones was a CD labeled “My Necrophilia,” which supposedly provided the evidence. Apparently, photos depict this woman licking skulls. Among her effects were documents about people who enjoyed having sex with corpses. She was charged with “violating the peace of the dead.”
Here in the States, we call this abuse of corpse. This can range from corpse mutilation or rape, to corpse storage to mere exploitation. A man in Cincinnati, Ohio, for example, convinced morgue workers to allow him to take photographs of corpses posed with objects like sheet music and syringes. Into the hands of a deceased young girl he placed a copy of Alice in Wonderland.
When I was writing Cemetery Stories, I found plenty of material on the erotic attraction to corpses. The most common motive cited by psychologists is an attempt to gain possession of an unresisting or nonrejecting partner, although I’ve met a few people “half in love with death” who reject this shallow analysis.
During my research, my contacts in the funeral industry told me I’d never get these people to admit to anything. On the contrary, I found a few who were quite willing to describe why they find decomposition, skulls, and bones so erotic. As long as I could stomach it, they were happy to talk.
One female apprentice embalmer claimed that during the first four months of her employment, she’d had sex with an average of ten corpses a month. She admitted that she couldn’t achieve satisfaction with the living, in part because she’d been molested as a child and later raped. She could sexually express herself without fear, she insisted, only to corpses.
A self-styled vampire told me he liked drinking blood from the dead. He called himself Anubis and said that as a boy he got to watch an embalmer at work. “I wanted to taste the blood,” he said, “because I thought it would save their memory.”
Drs. Jonathan Rosman and Phillip Resnick list three basic types of “true” necrophilia:
1: Necrophilic homicide, or murder to obtain a corpse for sexual pleasure
2: Regular necrophilia, the use of corpses already dead for sexual pleasure
3: Necrophilic fantasy, envisioning these acts but not acting on them
In their study of 122 cases, most fit into the second category.
The Swedish woman’s bone-eroticism doesn’t surprise me. In fact, it’s quite tame compared to other acts of necrophilia. Over time, I’ve collected stories from clinical sources and arrest reports. Among them are the following:
Police psychologist J. Paul de River documented the case of an Italian gravedigger who grew aroused whenever he buried a beautiful young woman. In time, he began having sex with the dead. When caught with his mouth on the genital area of a decedent, he admitted to having violated hundreds of corpses.
In 2006 in Wisconsin, three young men were caught digging up the grave of a 20-year-old female accident victim. Their intent had been to have sex with the body. The proof: they’d stopped on the way to buy condoms. (The same state produced Ed Gein, who dug up graves to make himself a bodysuit from female parts, and Jeffrey Dahmer, who abused corpses in extremely vile ways.)
And necrophiles aren’t always male. Karen Greenlee was to deliver the body of a 33-year-old man to a cemetery for a funeral, but instead she abducted it. She was charged with stealing a hearse and interfering with a funeral. Into the casket she’d put a letter that detailed her erotic episodes with what she estimated had been between 20 and 40 male corpses. Calling herself a “morgue rat,” she said it was an addiction.
During the 1840s, Sergeant Francois Bertrand dug up fresh corpses with his bare hands in several Parisian cemeteries in order to have sex with them. His youngest had been only seven. He, too, claimed he’d been compelled beyond his ability to control it.
Henri Blot was 26 when he began digging up graves in France. A ballerina had died and he pulled her body from the grave to rape it. When he was finished, he fell asleep, waking only when the groundskeeper discovered him. After his arrest, he reportedly said, “Every man to own taste. Mine is for corpses.”
Victor Ardisson, a mortician, reputedly had sex with over 100 corpses in his care. He sometimes dug them up and took them home. It was there that police found the decaying body of a three-year-old girl. Ardisson had heard that she was ill and had fantasized endlessly about her corpse. When she died, he’d stolen her from a graveyard and had performed oral sex in the hope of reviving and restoring her. He kept her next to him when he slept. He also possessed the head of a thirteen-year-old girl, which he kissed and called “my bride.”
Abuse of corpse is a crime, stipulated according to what would outage normal family and community sensibilities. In most cases, these acts are misdemeanors. However, some states have much stiffer penalties for necrophilic sexual acts.
Dr. Katherine Ramsland has published 46 books and over 1,000 articles. She teaches forensic psychology and her area of specialization is serial murder. Her latest book on the subject is The Mind of a Murderer.