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Lust for the Dead

An upcoming murder trial might need experts on necrophilia.

However, there are certainly people who are aroused from molesting a corpse. This means that the prosecution could call on experts on necrophilia to show such a person’s general frame of mind prior to and during the offense. A paraphilia is not a psychosis.

Jessica Ridgeway was kidnapped and choked to death before her body was dismembered and dumped in several locations, including under Sigg’s home. Reportedly, he had an addiction to violent pornography.

Lust for human blood, sexual activities with corpses, possession of corpses, and corpse dismemberment for sexual pleasure are all considered aspects of necrophilia.

In an account called Crimes of the Genital Sense, published in 1900, a man named Louis fell in love with a married woman and went to her home when her husband was absent. 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 and corpse violation just excite them. Those who never touch the dead but find sexual gratification merely from looking at them are labeled “platonic necrophilisists.” Some necrophiles are interested in only a particular part, including just the bones.

Those who eat decaying corpses are known as necrophagists, as opposed to cannibals, who prefer fresh meat or who consume dead loved ones for spiritual purposes. I've read about one woman whose family had mostly died who would go into the family crypt to devour the genitals of her male relatives.

Some necrophiles can be dangerous, as their fantasies push them toward outright murder. A true necrophile is not interested in the living person or even the act of murder per se. If he kills, it’s to acquire and possess a corpse. He (or she) is often incapable of making a normal sexual approach to the living.

Psychoanalyst and social philosopher Erich Fromm viewed “necrophilism” as the result of social evolution. He wrote about “malignant aggression” in The Anatomy of Human Destructiveness, where he described how someone could develop a “necrophilous character.” In other words, it's not just a lustful addiction: it's a point of view.

Such people are guided by a set of values that move them toward either loving life and growth (biophilous) or loving death and demolition (necrophilous). For example, certain people appear to crave absolute control, which can translate into halting the evolving and unpredictable nature of life.

Fromm's malignant aggression amounts to a failure of character. If one’s urge is to leave one’s mark destructively, the extreme manifestations are sadism—the passion for unrestricted power over another person—and necrophilia—an attraction to all that is dead.

The overall drive of the necrophile 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 addiction to control makes them increasingly more dangerous.

The traits of Fromm's "necrophilous character" include:

  • a poor ability 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 or technology over people
  • dreams involving death, destruction or dead parts
  • an interest in sickness
  • a lack of spontaneity
  • the worship of techniques or devices of destruction
  • the compartmentalization of emotion
  • insensitivity to tragedy involving loss of life

One need not crave the physical closeness of a corpse to be considered necrophilous. One need only prefer the absolute, irreversible cold stillness of death to the warmth and movement of life. Violent necrophiles desire to force this stillness on the world around them.

Jury selection for Sigg’s trial will begin in late September.