Psychopathy or Just a Lack of Inhibitions?
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.