Who fucks the dead? Maybe more people than we realize; a 1958 study indicated that necrophiliac fantasies are more common than most people would guess, it's just that the people having them are inhibited from actually following up. It's tough to find a corpse, and only a small few necrophiliacs are the sort predisposed to actually making a corpse - ie, killing someone.
The other reason we don't really know how many practiciing necrophiliacs are out there is because cases are often hushed up. Many necrophiliacs seem to find their way into the death service industry, working in funeral homes and morgues, and when they get busted in the act their employer, fearing bad publicity - who wants to trust their mom to the place where some guy was stiffing the stiffs? - keeps it all quiet. That's how Karen Greenlee got away with humping cadavers for years, even though she was caught in flagrante decorpso more than once.
Greenlee was finally busted when, in 1979, the 22 year old apprentice embalmer absconded with a corpse she was supposed to deliver to the cemetery. She drove to the next county, had sex with the dead body of a 33 year old man, wrote a four page letter confessing to her unnatural lusts and calling herself a 'morgue rat,' and the ODed on Tylenol with codeine. The cops found her in time, though, and she was rescued and arrested. She went on trial in Sacramento, from where she had stolen the body, and got 11 days in jail and a fine of $255, mostly for stealing the hearse. See, California had no law against necrophilia at the time (now messing with a body is a felony).
But Greenlee's story doesn't end there. She got a taste for fame and, in a few years later she gave an interview to Jim Morton, which ended up in the seminal book Apocalypse Culture. The interview is frank and strange and revealing; Karen eventually regretted it, though, and she changed her name and moved and now I have no idea what became of her. She could be living by you, waiting for your cute friend to die so she can sneak into the morgue and bone him.
Because Karen really liked cute guys. In the interview, done at the height of the AIDS crisis, she laments how her target audience tends to be sick: "[T]he group I find attractive-- young men in their twenties-- are the ones who are dying of AIDS."
This raises an inevitable question. We all have an image of the male necrophiliac and how he conducts his horrific business, but how does a woman do it? And why would AIDS make a difference? Karen answers:
When you're on top of a body it tends to purge blood out of its mouth, while you're making passionate love .. You'd have to be there, I guess.
And if you were there you'd know that Karen found the blood attractive. And the smell - she loved the smell of the dead.
I find the odor of death very erotic. There are death odors and there are death odors. Now you get your body that's been floating in the bay for two weeks, or a burn victim, that doesn't attract me much, but a freshly embalmed corpse is something else.
But still, how did she do it? How does a woman make passionate love to a dead guy? That was a question Karen got a lot, and she was more than happy to answer:
I don't mind telling people how I do it. It doesn't matter to me, but anyone adept sexually shouldn't have to ask. People have this misconception that there has to be penetration for sexual gratification, which is bull! The most sensitive part of a woman is the front area anyway and that is what needs to be stimulated.
Besides, there are different aspects of sexual expression: touchy-feely, 69, even holding hands. That body is just lying there, but it has what it takes to make me happy. The cold, the aura of death, the smell of death, the funereal surroundings, it all contributes.
What is the origin of a necrophiliac? Some studies have shown that children who are abused grow up to find comfort in the unmoving, unyielding, unwarm embrace of the dead. Karen knew she was into corpses from a very early age, and the trappings of death always fascinated here:
It's something I've been attracted to all my life. I used to hold funeral services for my pets when they died. Had a little pet graveyard. I lived in a small town and the fireman's barbecue was next door to the funeral home. To go to the bathroom you had to use the facilities in the funeral home. I'd find any excuse I could to go to the bathroom, then I'd take side trips and wander around the mortuary.
Over the years she was caught more than once, but if you believe Karen she wasn't alone in her tendencies. She says that the world behind the doors of the mortuary is one most outsiders wouldn't believe, filled with jokes of a completely inappropriate nature, and more than a little touchy-feely.
One mortician I worked with used to like to a trocar [a large hollow needle used to suction fluids from corpses] and push it up inside any male cadaver's dick. He'd say, "Oh look, the corpse has got a boner." This guy was really weird. He looked like Larry of the Three Stooges. I think he had some necrophilic tendencies. He'd get real upset if there weren't any female bodies to work on. He'd start pacing. I caught him one time in the prep room. He said he was just taking a pee in the hopper at the end of the table. He was just pulling up his pants when I walked in. I said, "I won't tell if you don't."
While Karen found a place she loved in the morgue, she never felt right in the rest of the world. The suicide attempt that brought her to 'justice' wasn't her first, and she never felt right about being a necrophile. But the 1979 bust helped Karen make a certain peace with herself.
For a while I found myself thinking, "Yeah, this isn't normal. Why can't I be like other people. Why doesn't the same pair of shoes fit me just right?" I went through all that personal hell and finally I accepted myself and realized that's just me. that's my nature and I might as well enjoy it. I'm miserable when I try to be something I'm not. And too, a lot of these people who are putting me down have hang-ups worse than I have, or they do things that might be considered questionable by their peers. I had a gay friend who, when he found out I was a necrophile, said, "You can go to hell for that." After 1979, when I was put on probation, part of the probation requirement was that I seek therapy. I had a really nice social worker. She was cool. Very nonjudgmental. The more I talked to these people, the more I realized necrophilia makes sense for me. The reason I was having a problem with it was because I couldn't accept myself. I was still trying to live my life by other peoples standards. To accept it was peace. These people who are always trying to change me only helped me get myself more in touch with my feelings. I used to go from the therapist's office to the funeral home. It didn't work, folks!
Of course Karen has now disappeared. Is she still out there? Is she now at rest, possibly having found herself fiddled with on the slab, an ironic violation for a professed necrophile? Is she out there, sneaking into morgues late at night, breaking into tombs after hours, and finding new lovers to give her the happiness she can never find with the living? And will we ever see another Karen Greenlee, another corpse fucker who proudly stands up for the rights of those who prefer a little rigor mortis in their coitus?