Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Necrophiles

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.

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