Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods


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.


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