Friday, August 3, 2012


The Ultimate Ghoul

Ed Gein stands in court.
Ed Gein stands in court.
Ed Gein, a shy and outwardly ordinary man, inspired the characters of both Norman Bates in Psycho and Buffalo Bill in The Silence of the Lambs. During the 1940s and 50s, he lived on a secluded farm in Plainfield, Wisconsin. Within the isolation of his family, no one noticed how odd he was, but left to his own devices, his weird and deadly proclivities began to emerge.
Ed was devoted to his mother, who was quite demented and thoroughly disgusted with sex. She thought it the world’s greatest evil so she preached to her two sons that they were to keep themselves pure. Ever vigilante for signs of carnal desire, she kept after them. When her husband died, she had even more influence, and then Ed’s brother died, leaving him alone with this delusional woman. Mildly retarded and mentally unstable, he was completely dependent on her. When she suffered a stroke that paralyzed her, he nursed her even as she verbally abused him. Sometimes he crawled into bed with her to cuddle.
Then when Ed was 39, his mother died. He could hardly bear it. He kept to the farm and spent his time doing odd jobs and reading magazines about headhunters, human anatomy, and the Nazis. He also contemplated sex-change surgery so he could become his mother—to literally crawl into her skin.
Then one day he spotted a newspaper report about a woman who had just been buried not far from his mother’s grave. He decided to go out and dig her up so he could have a look at a real body—a female one. He got a friend named Gus, a gravedigger, to help him open up the grave. Over the next decade, he continued to visit the cemetery for more bodies, usually under a full moon. Sometimes he took the entire corpse and sometimes just certain parts. He later claimed that he had dug up nine separate graves in three different cemeteries. (Police did not believe him until they went out to exhume the bodies and discovered that some weren’t there.)

A True Necrophile

Ed apparently just loved bodies. He was a true necrophile (also called a necrophiliac). Body parts excited him and he had no trouble having them in his home, no matter what their state of decomposition. From the bodies he dug up, he cut off the heads and shrank them, putting some on his bedposts. He also formed lampshades from the skin. Storing the organs in the refrigerator, and possibly cooking them, he made things like soup bowls out of the bones for his own use. Sometimes he had sexual contact with these bodies (though he denied it), and eventually he just went ahead and dug up his own mother. Rather than get a sex-change operation, he simply made himself a female body suit and mask out of the skin, and he would wear this outfit to dance around outside. Sometimes he even donned it to dig up a grave.
Finally, when it was clear that the skin would harden and crack, he decided to get bodies that were more pliable. That meant someone really fresh. In 1954, Gein shot a woman, Mary Hogan, who resembled his mother in size and brought her to his farm. No one suspected a thing. Three years later, he did it again to Bernice Worden, and this time the police decided to have a look.
What they found was a house of horror. Inside, they discovered numerous body parts: four noses, several bone fragments, nine death masks, a heart in a pan on the stove, a bowl made from a skull, ten female heads with the tops sawn off, human skin covering several chair seats, pieces of salted genitalia in a box, skulls on his bedposts, organs in the refrigerator, a pair of lips on a string, and much more. It was estimated that he had mutilated some fifteen women and kept their remains around him.
Policeman in Ed Gein's kitchen
Policeman in Ed Gein’s kitchen
In the barn they found the corpse of Bernice Worden, hung from the ceiling feet first. She was headless and slit from her genitals to her neck, gutted and with her legs splayed wide apart. Her head was found beneath a mattress inside the house with nails in her ears.
At his disposition hearing (since he was judged incompetent to stand trial), Ed Gein was found to be insane. He seemed not to be aware that what he had done was wrong, and he died in 1984 at the age of 78 in a psychiatric institution. Since he never had actually hunted for deer, neighbors wondered what had been in the packages of fresh venison that he’d so generously brought them.
While Gein fails to display the compulsive lust characteristic of many necrophiles, he does represent the type of person who enjoys the company of the dead, sexually-speaking, as did the pair of killers we’ll look at next.

What’s Done in Secret — Nilsen

Human Skulls
Human Skulls
Jeffrey Dahmer and Dennis Nilsen, like Gein, were both ordinary people who became quiet killers, merging their growing sexual excitement over corpses with an intense loneliness that they wanted to alleviate.
Dennis Nilsen
Dennis Nilsen
Dennis Nilsen lived in London and picked up his victims in pubs.  As Brian Masters, author of the definitive biography of Nilsen put it, he was “killing for company.”  Before he ever killed, he’d experienced an erotic attraction to death, so he would spend hours lying in front of a mirror, pretending to be dead.  There was something about the vulnerability that stirred in him an intense hunger.  He also invited a few lovers to role-play his fantasy, but then things got more serious.
His first murder occurred in 1978.  He strangled a man he barely knew with a necktie, completely caught up in the eroticism of having this kind of power over another, and then placed him beneath the floorboards of his apartment.  Once having tasted the climatic pleasure of this activity, he found ways to repeat it.
He continued to invite men to his home, strangling them, bathing the corpses, sometimes taking them to bed, usually attempting sexual contact, and finally butchering them or storing them in various places in his apartments.  He especially loved the first night with them when he could have them in his bed before decomposition made them smelly and messy.  He was enraptured with the fact that they couldn’t get up and leave.  That meant that he was in total control.  Sometimes after he bathed them, he’d then soak in the same water and then he would decide their fate: store them, sit them in a chair, or cut them up and distribute the parts.  With experience as a butcher, he had no trouble dissecting them and boiling the flesh from their skulls.  To him, the entire procedure was a loving act, the last that these men would know.  That idea gave Nilsen a great deal of satisfaction.
Often he flushed parts down the toilet, which eventually proved to be his undoing.  When the septic system clogged in the building, an investigation led to Nilsen and without hesitation, he pointed out a closet where police found the dismembered parts of two different men.  Another torso was found in his tea chest, along with a number of old bones, and he was arrested.  He then confessed to killing 15 men over a period of five years, partly because the idea of them leaving his apartment made him feel alone and partly because he simply enjoyed it. In prison, he made drawings of their corpses and body parts.

What’s Done in Secret — Dahmer

Jeffrey Dahmer
Jeffrey Dahmer
Similarly, Jeffrey Dahmer in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, was arrested in July of 1991 for the same horrifying scenarios, only his had a more sadistic twist.  He managed to murder 17 men before one near-victim ran away in handcuffs.  The police went to Dahmer’s apartment and noticed the smell of decomposition.
A look inside the refrigerator revealed human heads, intestines, hearts, and kidneys.  Around the apartment they found skulls, bones, rotting body parts, bloodstained soup kettles, and complete skeletons.  There were three torsos in a tub of acid.  Numerous Polaroid snapshots showed mutilated bodies, and what was going on there came clear with the discovery of chloroform, electric saws, a barrel of acid, and formaldehyde.  Dahmer was killing men and preserving their parts, and then cutting off pieces and dissolving them in acid.  In all, investigators were able to find the remains of 11 different men, but Dahmer’s confession added six more.
Steven Mark Hicks
Steven Mark Hicks
His first murder happened when he was only 18 years old, according to American Justice’s “The Mystery of the Serial Killer.”  His parents had abandoned the family home, going their separate ways, and Dahmer lived there alone for a few weeks.  He wanted company, so when he spotted an attractive hitchhiker named Steve Hicks, he lured the man home with the promise of getting high.  Hicks stayed a few hours and when he decided to leave, Dahmer smashed a barbell against the back of his head and then strangled him. “I didn’t know how else to keep him there,” he later said during an interview with former FBI profiler Robert Ressler.  He discovered that he was aroused by the captivity of another human being, just as he’d been aroused as a boy over dissecting road kill, and then when he cut the body into pieces for disposal, he was excited all over again so he masturbated over the body.
That day a necrophile was born.  Having done it once without consequence and with the resulting sexual high, he was bound to seek opportunities to repeat it.
Although Dahmer moved in with his grandmother, he felt the urge to get near a corpse once again.  He tried to just dig up a fresh body, but thwarted in that, he picked up a man and brought him back to Grandma’s house. There he drugged and strangled him, and then had sex with the corpse. After that he dismembered the victim, and then he repeated this experience again three more times.  His grandmother had no idea that he was cutting up bodies down in her basement.
The psychiatrist for the prosecution, Park Dietz, later said that Dahmer got conditioned toward sexual excitement over corpses from sexual fantasies surrounding the mutilation of animals.  What might have started as a boy’s curiosity about road-kill became a young man’s obsession with death on a larger scale.  Such is often the case: if the developing sex drive gets associated with death, the person has a greater chance of having an erotic attraction to corpses.
Once Dahmer got his own apartment, he stepped up both his killing and his cruelty.  He wanted to create a zombie to do his bidding, so when he’d drug a victim into unconsciousness, he’d drill holes into his head and inject acid or boiling water.  Usually they died, but one actually survived for a while and walked out into the streets.  Dahmer would photograph his work as he dismembered his victims, and sometimes he’d try out body parts from one victim on the torso of another.  He also cut off the faces of his victims to preserve them as masks, but they soon deteriorated.  Even more macabre, he designed an altar made of skulls that he hoped to build one day when he’d killed a sufficient number of men.  This was all part of his fantasy of surrounding himself with parts of his victims.  It was his long-term plan, his life’s single ambition.  Death meant more to him than life.
And it’s not just males who develop this macabre attraction.  Let’s examine the cases of some women.

The “Weaker” Sex

Among funeral workers, there have been a few females who performed their own erotic rituals, and one of the most famous is Karen Greenlee.  She didn’t kill men to get the corpses, but she certainly had an attraction to them once they were dead.
In 1979 in California, Greenlee was to deliver the body of a 33-year-old man to a cemetery for a funeral, but instead she drove off in the hearse, abducting the corpse to keep for herself.  She was found and charged with stealing a hearse and interfering with a funeral, and apparently it wasn’t the first time she’d felt such a sexual attraction to the dead.  Into this casket she had put a long letter that detailed her erotic episodes with what she estimated had been over 20 male corpses.  Calling herself a “morgue rat,” she didn’t understand why she felt so compelled to touch dead bodies, but it was an addiction she couldn’t seem to break.
Because the letter was found, Greenlee was kicked out of the profession.  In an interview later with Jim Morton, she told him that the erotic moment involved the entire atmosphere: the aura of death, the smell, the funeral home, the mourning, and all the trappings.  It wasn’t just about sexual stimulation, it was about a complete mindset.  She enjoyed the odor of the freshly embalmed corpse of a male in his twenties, and even the blood that might come out of his mouth as she got on top of him.  She admitted having broken into some mortuaries and tombs in order to pursue her habit, and once she was nearly caught with the goods. Ashamed at first, she’d later accepted her desires.
“That’s my nature,” she said, “and I might as well enjoy it.”
Book cover: The Necromantic Ritual Book
Book cover: The Necromantic Ritual Book
Another woman who loves corpses and who is quite public about it is Leilah Wendell, the curator of the House of Death in New Orleans.  She thinks of it more as “necromantic” than necrophilic and has written about the distinction in The Necromantic Ritual Book.
The basic idea, according to her, is that some people need ritual to “connect with certain specific forms of energy”—in this case, death energy, or the “current of transition.”  Necromantic in this context is about the romance of death.  Doing it right can enable one to share consciousness with the Angel of Death.  To achieve this, one must find a mausoleum and bring certain required objects for performing a ceremony, such as a candle, some milk, and a knife.
Leilah Wendell
Leilah Wendell
Wendell is fully absorbed in her devotion to “death energy.”  She believes that necrophilia has been unfairly vilified and she wants people to understand what it means to love Death.  It’s a preference, not a compulsion, and it’s a way through which one can seek to achieve emotional and spiritual intimacy with death.
She tells one story about her encounters with corpses in Cemetery Stories that shows just what it means to feel this attraction.  She was once a funeral director and a morgue assistant, and her primary interest had been in disinterring bodies for reburial—a passion she shared with a friend, John.  Together they were called “the Resurrectionists.”
One night John pulled up to her home and pulled out a large package wrapped in a red bow.  Carrying it in and placing it on her carpet inside, he urged her to unwrap it.  She did, and before her lay a desiccated corpse, remarkably preserved.  It had been exhumed from a pauper’s cemetery and its disposition was pending.  While getting caught at this is a criminal act in some states—abuse of corpse—most necrophiles keep their activities secret.
John told Wendell she could have it all to herself for four days. Immediately, she made a death mask for a memento.  Then she took the corpse to bed.  To her mind, this was the greatest gift that anyone had ever given her.
What makes people so attracted to that which normally repels us, especially since they can pick up diseases?  Why risk a possible fine or even an arrest and public censure over this activity?  Let’s look at what some medical professionals have to say.

The Necrophilous Character

R. E. L Masters, former director of the Library of Sex Research, and writer Eduard Lea composed a comprehensive history of sexual violence in their book Perverse Crimes in History: Evolving Concepts of Sadism, Lust-murder, and Necrophilia—From Ancient to Modern Times.In the book, published in 1963, the authors discuss the notions of vampirism and werewolf psychosis in terms of “necrosadism” as erotic gratification from death-related acts or fantasies. Fascination with blood, sexual activities with corpses and dismemberment of corpses are all considered aspects of necrophilia. The authors look back to such murderers as Gilles de Rais, Elizabeth Bathory, and Peter Kurten, but offer the details of relatively unknown cases as well.
For example, in 1890 in Paris, a woman was found dead in her home, her son sleeping next to her. She had been raped and then thoroughly disemboweled—by him, it turns out—and he had managed this by reaching into her vagina, puncturing the organs and pulling the intestines back out by the same route. He threw them over her shoulder. Then he lay down on that bed and went to sleep. The autopsy revealed that the mother had died before any of this occurred. He had ravaged her corpse. The young man was sent to an asylum.
In an account called Crimes of the Genital Sense (1900), a man named Louis fell in love with a married woman and went to her home when her husband was absent. When she tried to defend herself, he split her head with an axe and then raped her corpse while it was still warm. Afterward he dismembered her and roasted her flesh in the oven, consuming her heart, one breast and her genitals.
For some people, that’s what love is. For others, death just excites them. A 10-year-old boy asked his grandmother to leave him her body when she died, and one poor soul suffered from erections whenever he thought of a funeral, preventing him from attending them.
Those who never touch the dead but find sexual gratification merely from looking at them are labeled “platonic necrophilisists.”  Some are not interested in the whole body but only in a particular part. One woman, who imagined herself to be a vampire, would ask her husband to pretend he was dead and when she stimulated him with her mouth, would pretend that his erection was rigor mortis.
Some necrophiles, these authors say, can be dangerous. Their fantasies can turn from mutilation of corpses to outright murder in order to obtain the corpses to mutilate. “There is always the possibility that the fantasies may be put into practice,” but the lust killer who also engages in sexual activities with a corpse is not generally considered a true necrophile, Masters claims (although other criminologists differ with the opinion). He says that such sexual violation is only an extension of what the lust murderer will do as part of the overall crime. A true necrophile is only interested in the corpse, not the living person. If he kills, it’s only to get a corpse. He’s often incapable of even making a sexual approach to the living.

A Result of Social Evolution

The surprising thing discovered from this study, Masters says, is how often the corpses are not fresh but rather are dug up from the grave in a putrefied or mummified condition. Some even like only the bones. Those who actually feed on decaying dead bodies are known as necrophagists, as opposed to cannibals, who prefer fresh meat or who consume dead loved ones for spiritual purposes. One man merely wanted to eat the nail trimmings from a corpse, another merely to lick the sexual parts—and was still doing so with his exhumed inamorata even as the corpse was falling apart. One woman whose family had mostly died would go into the family crypt to devour the genitals of her male relatives.
“Within the obvious limitations,” says Masters, “every sexual act that might be performed with living bodies has been performed also with cadavers.”  He claims that women would not derive as much satisfaction as men, since the sexual act is more difficult with a dead male, but he probably had not heard about the pumps that some female morgue workers have devised in recent years to correct this “problem.”
Often with such people, their concept of sexuality is somewhat infantile, at least within Masters’ theoretical approach. Psychologically healthy people participate in human relationships, he points out, by receiving and giving pleasure. With a corpse, only one gets pleasure, indicating an immature and narcissistic ego.
He notes that other theorists associate this condition with sadism, especially since so many necrophiles seek to mutilate or abuse the defenseless corpse (sometimes only deriving satisfaction from the mutilation). Historical accounts of battles have soldiers with no history of homosexual leanings nevertheless sodomizing the wounded or dead on battlefields. The Marquis de Sade himself wrote frequently about the climax of the sexual act as the death of the partner, and he includes images like orgies atop a pile of rotting corpses, or the use of still-beating hearts or defleshed bones as sex toys.
Book cover: The Anatomy of Human Destructiveness by Erich Fromm
Book cover: The Anatomy of Human Destructiveness
While Master’s and Lea’s book focuses on documenting historical cases, psychoanalyst and social philosopher Erich Fromm explains “necrophilism” as a result of social evolution, with the increase in cases occurring as societies evolve toward mechanization and destruction. He writes about what he calls the development of “malignant aggression” in The Anatomy of Human Destructiveness, and his ideas clarify how some people develop a “necrophilous character.”  They’re guided by a set of values, which are heavily influenced by social circumstances that move them either toward loving life (biophilous) or loving death and demolition. Certain people appear to crave absolute control, for example, developed from a chaotic childhood. The more one wants control, the less one appreciates the evolving and unpredictable nature of life.

Sexual and Nonsexual Necrophilia

Fromm first makes a distinction between the natural instinct of benign aggression, which is developed with the automatic need to protect oneself and to survive, and malignant aggression, which is not physiological in nature. Rather, it is a failure of character rooted in human passion. It is about existential need, or the desire to make a distinct mark on one’s world. If one’s urge is to leave one’s mark destructively, the extremes of that drive are sadism—the passion for unrestricted power over another person—and necrophilia—an attraction to all that is dead.
He also distinguishes between sexual and nonsexual necrophilia. The former is the desire to have sex with a corpse and the latter is the need to be near, handle or dismember a corpse. Necrophilia itself, says Fromm, is both real and symbolic. The overall drive of this person is a yearning for life to finish itself. Such people often have dreams about dismembered parts or about rooms full of skeletal or rotting remains. These people desire a world where there is no life and their drive for control makes them increasingly more dangerous. They may seek to control via death.
The traits of the necrophilous character include:
  • an inability to relate to living people
  • language that includes numerous death-related or scatological words
  • a tendency toward boredom and lifeless conversation
  • a tendency to wear light-absorbing dark colors and to dislike bright colors
  • the belief that resolving conflict involves force or violence
  • an appreciation for machines over people
  • dreams involving death, destruction or dead parts
  • an interest in sickness
  • a view that the past is more real than the present
  • a fascination with bad odors
  • an incapacity to laugh and tendency to smirk
  • a lack of spontaneity
  • lifeless, dry skin
  • the worship of techniques or devices of destruction
  • the compartmentalization of emotion and will
  • insensitivity to tragedy involving loss of life
Fromm believed that Adolf Hitler was the perfect example of a necrophilous character, and to illustrate this he analyzed Hitler’s life at length, from childhood to his death by suicide.
Hitler gained a position of power that allowed him to exercise to the extreme his fascination with death and destruction, and his desire for a lifeless world. He related best to his dog (when the dog obeyed him), and he exercised total control over the men who worked for him and the women who fell in love with him.  A number of these women committed or attempted to commit suicide over his inability to relate to them as people. He was oblivious. He lived with an insatiable hate and the only emotion he showed was excitement over putting his plans into effect (killing the Jews and “defectives”) or murderous anger that someone did not carry out his orders. Many people around him questioned whether he ever wanted or believed in victory for the German people, or whether he merely reveled in the constant destruction involved in his rise to power. He was without compassion for anyone and desired only that others afford him the worship and respect he believed he deserved.
In Hitler’s case, the necrophilic response to the world is both symbolic and real. He wanted living people to be dead—millions of them—and he wanted a lifeless world where people were more robotic then human. He craved absolute control, which is only achieved when people are inherently not human. There’s little question that his orientation was toward death.
Thus, we can see that one need not crave the closeness of a corpse to be considered necrophilous. One need only prefer the images of death to those of life.

Varieties of Necrophilia

Necrophilia is an erotic attraction to corpses, with the most common motive cited by psychologists as the attempt to gain possession of an unresisting or nonrejecting partner.  The activity fits the DSM-IV psychiatric diagnosis of “Paraphilia, Not Otherwise Specified,” although many self-professed necrophiles reject such a shallow approach to what they feel and do.
According to Dr. Jonathan Rosman and Dr. Phillip Resnick, there are three basic types of “true” necrophilia:
  • Necrophilic homicide, which is murder to obtain a corpse
  • Regular necrophilia, the use of corpses already dead for sexual pleasure
  • Necrophilic fantasy, envisioning the acts but not acting on them
In their study of 122 cases, more people fit into the second category than the other two.  More than half of them worked in a morgue or some other aspect of the funeral industry.
In fact, in another paper, J. Paul de River documents the case of an Italian gravedigger who began to masturbate as he worked whenever he had to bury a beautiful young woman.  To help him achieve climax, he’d touch the corpse.  In time, he began having sex with the dead when no one was around.  When caught with his mouth on the genital area of a deceased woman, he admitted to having violated hundreds of corpses. De River diagnoses him (and all necrophiles) as a psychopath.  He cites another case of a mortuary worker who would expose and then touch his penis against the thighs of cadavers as he worked on them.  He was soon having sex with four or five corpses every week.  With one adolescent girl, he sucked both blood and urine from her, and badly wanted to chew on parts of her body.  Instead, he bit her buttocks and then sodomized her.
History offers several singular accounts of such activity, including the fear that ancient Egyptians expressed that embalmers would violate their deceased wives, so they kept them home until decomposition was clearly evident.  One legend states that King Herod killed his wife and then had sex with her for seven more years.
Supposedly (if one can judge such a secret activity), necrophiles are primarily male (about 90%), but one female apprentice embalmer claimed that during the first four months of her employment, she had sex with a number of corpses.  She admitted that she could not achieve satisfaction with the living, in part because she had been molested once and later raped.  She could express herself to corpses without fear.  While she did not engage in penile penetration, another female mortician did, and she managed it by devising a pump that fit under the skin of the penis.
Contrary to common belief, say Rosman and Resnick, most necrophiles are heterosexual, although about half of the known necrophiles who have killed were gay.  In only about 60% is there a diagnosed personality disorder, with 10% being psychotic.  The most common occupations through which necrophiles in their study came across corpses include hospital orderly, morgue attendant, funeral parlor assistant, cleric, cemetery employee, and soldier—although the majority of people thus employed are {not} tempted to violate a corpse.

Psychopathy or Just a Lack of Inhibitions?

Most corpse violations occur just prior to burial, but there have been cases where the corpse is disinterred from a cemetery plot.  In 1985, a 15-year-old girl was buried in Italy after she died from a head injury.  Two days later, her grave was discovered open and she was lying on top of her coffin, her white dress lifted up over her hips.  A necropsy procedure indicated that she had been anally penetrated, and two shovels left at the gravesite indicated that more than one person was involved.
Among the first researchers to describe cases of necrophilia was Richard von Krafft-Ebing, a German neurologist who published Psychopathia Sexualis in 1886.  As a type of lust-inspired crime, he lists case after case of people who indulged in erotic acts in the presence of a corpse.
One of his cases was that of Sergeant Francois Bertrand, who liked to dissect animals as a child and had violent torture fantasies as he grew older.  In 1849, he dug up fresh corpses with his bare hands from the grounds of Pere Lachaise and Montparnasse Cemeteries in Paris in order to have sex with them.  Once he saw the corpse come free of the dirt, he went into a frenzy. He’d also disembowel them, hack them with a spade, and leave them strewn about the cemetery.  Forensic evidence indicates that he chewed on a few.  His youngest was only seven.  Although he was caught and convicted on fifteen counts, he served only one year in prison.  He claimed that he began to masturbate at the age of three and couldn’t help what he did; it was a compulsion.
Von Krafft-Ebing believed that necrophilia, while perverse, might be simply a matter of having no hindrances to sexual satisfaction.  Perfect subjugation is itself erotic for some people.
Another case he discussed was Victor Ardisson, a mortician and gravedigger who drank his own semen as a boy and who reputedly had sex with over one hundred corpses in his care.  He sometimes dug them up and took them home (or parts of them), and it was there that police found the smelly, decaying body of a three-year-old girl.  He’d 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 on her in the hope of reviving and restoring her.  Then he kept her next to him when he slept.  He also had possession of the head of a 13-year-old girl, which he referred to as “my bride,” kissed from time to time, and kept on his bedside table.  Von Krafft-Ebing described Ardisson as “feeble” and “devoid of all moral sense.”
Even as he published his case histories of every type of sexual perversion, another necrophile, Henri Blot, was arrested in France.  A ballerina had died and he pulled her from her grave to penetrate her.  When he was finished, he fell asleep, waking only when the groundskeeper came upon him inside the grave.  The corpse had obviously been ravished, so he was arrested.  This was apparently his second such episode, and in court he reportedly said, “Every man to own taste.  Mine is for corpses.”
While necrophilia has actually been elevated in some cultures to a spiritual exercise, most view it with dismay and aversion.  Let’s return to the more renowned of the “homicidal necrophiles” in our own culture.

The Usual Suspects — Kemper

A number of well-known serial killers have admitted to a necrophilic bent, among them:
Edmund Kemper
Edmund Kemper
Few killers have stopped killing on their own, but after eight murders, Edmund Kemper III, 25, had had enough. In 1973, he called the police in California and turned himself in. Then he confessed in detail to what he had done to his victims and it was evident that he was not only fond of post-mortem mutilation, but also that parts of bodies—particularly the heads—excited him into clandestine sexual acts.
He’d first murdered when he was 15, taking a rifle to both of his grandparents because he wanted to feel what it was like to kill someone. Up until that point, he’d only killed cats. Placed in an institution, he learned all he needed to know to impress the psychiatrists, and at the age of 21 he was released into his mother’s care in Santa Cruz, California. However, he hated his mother. She verbally abused him and made him feel self-conscious about his six-foot-nine inch frame. He was socially inept and her belittling attitude made things worse. So by the time he was 24, he started picking up female hitchhikers.
In Why: The Serial Killer in America, Margaret Cheney documents Kemper’s revelations, along with a history of how he became the kind of person he was. For CourtTV’s The System, Kemper himself spoke about his problems. He was clearly an intelligent man with provocative insights about his behavior.
Once he had his chosen victims in his car, he’d take them to a secluded spot and shoot or stab them to kill them quickly. Then he shoved them into the trunk of his car to take them home. While his mother slept, Kemper brought the bodies inside to behead and dismember them. He also had sex with them, sometimes with just the heads. From a few of the girls he cut off pieces of flesh to cook and consume. He murdered in this way six times, and on two occasions, he killed two girls at once and kept their bodies in his room. He buried one girl’s head in the backyard, arranged to look at the house, because it thrilled him to know it was there. Even when he went for—and passed—a follow-up psychiatric examination, he had the head of one of his victims (a girl of 15) in the trunk of his car. That same day, the psychiatric team judged that he presented no threat to society.
The day before Easter in 1973, he finally turned his rage against its true target: his mother. She was in bed and he took a hammer and bashed her in the head until it was clear that she was dead. He removed her head and placed her larynx into the garbage disposal. Then he used the head for a dart game. Afterward he invited a friend of his mother’s over for dinner and when she arrived, he killed her, too.
That was the end of the line. That’s when he brought his killing spree to a close. When asked what should be his proper punishment, he said that he ought to be tortured to death. In prison, he gave several interviews to mental health professionals and FBI profilers, and they gained a wealth of information about his particular fetish with bodies.
About decapitating the girls, Kemper said that the idea came from a fantasy he’d had in childhood. “It was something I’d always wanted to do.”  He described the rush from removing one girl’s head. “There was actually a sexual thrill. And, in fact, there was almost a climax to it. It was kind of an exalted, triumphant thing.”  In part it was the physical effort of killing them that brought on the physical titillation. With the woman who was hardest to kill, he actually achieved orgasm at the moment of her death. In his final analysis, when contemplating whether he’d have achieved the same pleasure from killing a man, he thought not: there was just a thrill about having a woman around, he said, dead or alive.

The Usual Suspects — Chikatilo

Andrei Chikatilo, the teacher
Andrei Chikatilo,
the teacher
For twelve years, this older man preyed on children in Russia, and while he confessed to as many as 52 murder-mutilations, it’s believed that he committed many more. Because the Communist government wanted to believe that serial murder was a capitalist crime, law enforcement was hindered in their efforts to stop “the Rostov Ripper.”
Andrei Chikatilo
Andrei Chikatilo
To some extent, what he did to dead children might have been influenced by tales his mother told about how his older brother had been cannibalized by Russian peasants driven insane by hunger, because he certainly devoured parts of his victims in that kind of savage manner. After luring them away from train or bus stations into the woods, he would stab them (often in the face), rip at them with his bare hands and chew off their genitals. He also gouged out their eyes or bit off their tongues and ripped open their torsos even as he grew ever more sexually excited. He raped them when he could achieve a full erection and often carried their organs away with him. In 1984, there were eight bodies in one month alone.
By the time Chikatilo was arrested in 1990, he was a grandfather. At his trial he was placed in a steel cage for his own protection. He feigned insanity but the judge didn’t buy it and sentenced him to death. He was executed in 1994.

The Usual Suspects — Bundy

Ted Bundy
Ted Bundy
It was 1974 in the Pacific Northwest when a number of attractive young women came up missing. When two bodies were found on a mountainside in Washington State, the police started looking for a suspect named Ted. Yet by that time, Ted was already in Utah and girls were disappearing there. Then there were four in Colorado, but a fifth woman, Carol DaRonch, managed to escape from a man who had tried to kill her. She fingered Theodore Robert Bundy, a law student from Washington, and while he was in prison, an intense investigation was launched to determine if there were links to the missing girls in the other states. Colorado got him for the murder of Caryn Campbell, but he escaped. He was caught but escaped again and went to Tallahassee, Florida.
On January 15, 1978, Lisa Levy and Martha Bowman were attacked in their sorority house at Florida State University. A man fatally clubbed and raped them, clubbed another woman in the head, and managed to viciously attack a girl in another sorority house. Then less than a month later a 12-year-old girl, Kimberly Leach, was abducted from her school, raped, strangled, and left in the woods. Bundy was responsible for them all, and he’d made the mistake of leaving his own bite mark on the left buttock of Lisa Levy.
That was key evidence in the trial, and by the time it was all over, he had received three death sentences. Then he began to talk. He eventually confessed to 30 murders in six separate states, dating back to May 1973, although experts believe there might have been far more.
Stephen Michaud, author of The Only Living Witness, talks about Bundy being hollow and empty, with some indication from Bundy’s own words that his compulsion to kill was a way to fill up the emptiness, at least temporarily. He admitted to having raped his victims after they were dead and to revisiting the corpses to relive the erotic experience of killing them. He himself said that he didn’t think of his victims as women in the normal way but as objects against which he took out his inner turmoil.
He was executed in 1989.
Not all necrophiles are violent. Not all go from one body to another. In the next case, we find out about a man who fixated on a dying woman and just wouldn’t let her go. In a way, it’s difficult to say whether Ed Gein or Carl von Cosel is the ultimate ghoul. Decide for yourself.

A Macabre Love Story

Some people who work in the medical and funeral industries get so used to death and bodies that becoming attracted to one takes fewer cognitive leaps. To conclude our examination of this unusual paraphilia, we’ll look at a story that shows just how persistent sexual attraction can be.
It happened in 1931 in Key West, Florida. Radiologist Carl von Cosel, 56, became obsessed with one of the tuberculosis patients at the sanitarium where he worked. Her name was Maria Elena de Hoyos and she was a beautiful, 22-year-old woman. Von Cosel hoped to marry her, but before she could respond to his attentions, she weakened and died. He begged the family not to bury her. Fearing contamination of her body from groundwater, he built a mausoleum for her in the nearby cemetery and preserved her in formaldehyde. There in secret he would sit and have “conversations” with her. He even left a phone in the mausoleum so he could speak to her while away. This man was clearly obsessed. One day he just decided to illegally remove her corpse and take her to his home.
To keep her in good shape, von Cosel brought in a regular supply of preservatives and perfumes, but Maria Elena’s corpse eventually began to deteriorate. Using piano wire to string her bones together, von Cosel replaced her rotted eyes with glass eyes and her decomposed skin with a mixture of wax and silk. As her hair fell out, he used it to make a wig to put on her head. Stuffing her corpse with rags to keep her from collapsing and dressing her in a bridal gown, he kept her by his side in bed. Dr. Michael Baden pointed out on HBO’s Autopsy that the man even inserted a tube into her decrepit corpse to serve as a vagina for making love. He also played a small organ to her as she “slept.”
He got away with this for seven years until de Hoyos’ sister accidentally came upon her in von Cosel’s home. Horrified, she called the police.
Von Cosel was arrested, but the statute of limitations had run out on his crime of grave robbing, so he was set free. Maria Elena was buried in a secret unmarked area and von Cosel moved to central Florida, where he sold postcards of his beloved. Even when she was taken from him, he couldn’t forget her. When he eventually died in 1952, he was found in a room with a large doll in his arms that was wearing Elena’s death mask.

Compulsive Necrophilic Predator

Nithari is a suburb of New Delhi
Nithari is a suburb of New Delhi
On December 30, 2006, the complete and partial skulls of nineteen people — four women, eleven girls and four boys — were discovered on the property of an upscale home in Nithari, a suburb of New Delhi, precipitating a search for more remains.  It was obvious at once that the police were dealing with a serial killer, but investigators would soon learn that they in fact had two suspects, possibly three.
At first, according to the Telegraph and other news sources in India, the police announced that the businessman who owned the home, Moninder Singh Pandher, was their prime suspect, but then they included his domestic servant and cook over the past two years, Surendra Koli.  Both were arrested and charged with many counts of murder, rape, kidnapping and criminal conspiracy.  But it would get worse.
Surender Koli in custody
Surender Koli in custody
After investigators administered a truth serum to Koli, he admitted to killing eight children, and said that he ate parts of them. According to the Times of India, he apparently admitted to consuming the liver of a female child, which made him vomit.  Nevertheless, he continued to try flesh from other victims until he got used to it, even making “kebabs” from the meat.  The same report claimed that Koli also had sex with some of the corpses.  He stated that he was tasting the flesh as an antidote to infertility.  However, he had one child and his wife was about to give birth to a second, so this statement seemed questionable.  (After she delivered in January, his 23-year-old wife claimed that the rumors about Koli were absurd and that she was convinced he was innocent and being framed.)
Moninder Singh Pandher
Moninder Singh Pandher
Koli’s employer, Moninder Singh Pandher, was also taken in for custodial interrogation and he, too, was administered a truth serum to get a confession.  Supposedly he did admit to his involvement, but his shocking status as a team killer would soon shift.
On January 15, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) announced that it had recovered forty polythene bags of human flesh, tissues and bone fragments from the drain in front of Pandher’s house.  One hundred meters away, they picked up two more bones, but no remains were found inside the home. Among other items seized were a double-barrel gun, cartridges, mobile phones, photographs, photo albums, and a blood-stained grill.  Later, they found a blood-stained axe from the bushes near one of the bungalows on Pandher’s property.  They sent it for analysis.
The thirty-member task force planned to call in scientists to assist in laying out the remains to attempt to identify at least some of the victims.  Since they knew of some 40 people reported missing in the area — most of them children — the task would be slightly easier.  They hoped to use that information to match the remains to the missing, and they asked relatives for DNA samples. The CBI sent the remains to be “individualised” by the AIIMS forensic team in Hyderabad.
Pandher attacked by crowd
Pandher attacked by crowd
As January 25 arrived, the date on which the law would free the suspects, the CBI extended their detainment another two weeks, in part for the suspects’ own protection.  In fact, as they emerged from court one day, a crowd of people, including lawyers who had been barred from the proceedings, surrounded them, overwhelmed their police guard, and beat them.  Yet as the case progressed, stories about their confessions grew more confusing.

The Case Gets Bigger

International press had reported on the graphic details that Koli might have eaten the organs of some of his victims, and the police gave out the story that they had found pieces of human flesh in the refrigerator of his bungalow.  The Indo Asian News Service posted an article in January that Koli had admitted to the murders of twenty women and children, and had said he suffered from a compulsion that made him want to kill yet again.  As his interrogation grew more graphic, the CBI posted armed guards around him, as if they feared he might suddenly attack one of them or escape.  Since he showed the signs of a psychopath, they invited area psychologists to take part.
Surender Koli
Surender Koli
The CBI announced that the results of the initial set of narco-analyses of both suspects were “incomplete,” starting rumors that they had been administered with incorrect procedure.  Apparently both suspects had given contradictory statements, although it was not clear whether each had contradicted himself or they had contradicted each other.  Thus, both men were put through a second round of lie-detector tests.
Reportedly, the CBI did learn that Koli had consistently paid money to local police officials to avoid being arrested in the last two years, a truth that could result in the arrests of several officers.  As reporters awaited the interrogation results, they questioned experts on this type of crime, asking whether serial killers could work in tandem.
Dr N. Rangarajan
Dr N. Rangarajan
“They are most likely driven by personal motives,” said Dr N. Rangarajan, a prominent psychiatrist based in Chennai.  He pointed out that it wasn’t unheard of to see two men killing together. “In this case, it is probably coincidence, where an ordinary employer-employee relationship developed into a mutually beneficial one. The affluent one with the power and confidence to blatantly express himself, and the other, also with poor scruples and a dark side to match his master’s, and who got the chance to find a dangerous outlet.”
By mid-February 2007, reports indicated that Koli had confessed to sexually assaulting sixteen children, and all of the victims had been identified.  His first was a 14-year-old girl whom he killed and sexually assaulted two years earlier, in February 2005. After that, he said, he would kill another child about every month or every other month.  He stopped for six months only because laborers were constructing servant quarters at the residence where he worked. There are two other child murders in which he is suspected but which he has not admitted, and officials believe he might be confused about their identities.  Among the victims are boys whom he might have thought were girls when he lured them.

A Necrophile’s MO

Supposedly, according to one account in the Times of India, Koli was inspired when Pandher requested that he bring prostitutes to the home, and then asked for little girls when no one else was available.  Koli learned how to lure them with sweets, and then both men would rape them.  When he lured boys by mistake, he simply killed them.  But the details of this story changed until it seemed that Koli was acting on his own initiative for at least some of the murders.
In another version, Koli’s method was to bring the victims to the house and strangle them on the first floor.  He would then sexually violate the corpses and chop them up for disposal, using the bathroom to drain out the blood.  While he dumped the torsos in the back drain, he said, the remaining body parts were packed tightly in plastic bags and thrown away in the trash. Apparently in this confession, he did not repeat the stories of cannibalism but did confirm his necrophilia.  He was sexually aroused by dead bodies and freely indulged his appetite.
A crowd stands around the home of Pandher, the ditch wassearched by police for bodies and other evidence
A crowd stands around the home of Pandher, the ditch wassearched by police for bodies and other evidence
One parent of a murdered child said he had met with Koli three times since his arrest and Koli recalled many details about his daughter.  ”His memory was so sharp that he remembered each and every detail related to the killings.  When I asked him about my daughter, Surendra even remembered the exact color of the dress she was wearing on the fateful day.”
As Koli gave this confession, it seemed that perhaps Pandher was innocent, as he had originally claimed, unaware of how Koli was using his premises for these nefarious acts.  But that did not mean that Koli operated alone.  A six-year-old child told police there was another participant as well; she identified Pandher’s domestic help, Maya Sarkar, as a person who, with Koli, had stalked her and nearly taken her into the very bungalow where the axe had been found.
Sarkar was taken in for questioning, and she said that on one or two occasions, she and some of the other maid servants had been lured by Koli, but she had resisted his overtures.  She denied knowledge of the killings, although her polygraph proved inconclusive.  Since she had been identified by a near-victim as a potential accomplice, she will be questioned again.
As parents of missing and murdered children pondered the case, they suspected some of their neighbors were implicated as well.  They believed that Koli, and whoever his accomplice was, could not have operated without the assistance of villagers who took the children out of their neighborhoods to hand over to the killer.  In fact, some stated that they were being threatened by these very accomplices to keep them from talking to the police or press.  The threats began with the announcement of a transfer of the lead investigator, RKS Rathore, and they wanted his transfer order revoked.  Two parents said that if their demands were not met, they would take the extreme step of self-immolation.
Although the case is not yet finished, and might yet take three months to complete, it’s clear that Koli was not only a necrophilic predator of children, but also someone who could persuade or force others to assist him.  How many others might be identified is still unknown, as is the disposition of Pandher’s situation.

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