This month's article not only focuses once more on necrophilia -- but on the sordid history of dead love, spanning countless millennia of bad taste, strange customs, and deplorable sociopaths. Necrophilia, says Mr. Encyclopedia Britannica, is defined as being an obsessive fascination with death or corpses. Thanks to that fascination becoming far more extreme than most, it's now more widely recognized as an attraction to, or having sexual relations with, the deceased.
The act, according to some, is as old as civilization itself. It was practiced in many ancient cultures as a means to communicate with the recently-departed, although it's anyone's guess as to what the dead were telling them. My guess? "Gross. I'm a corpse. Get off of me."
In South America, numerous Latin American civilizations practiced the forbidden act. The Moche people of Peru, who lived from 100 to 750AD, went so far as to carve such tawdry images into walls and pottery. It's not exactly the tea set I'd take out for company, but I'm certain that the sight of ancient men pounding away at skeletons on my mixing bowl would make for a moderately interesting conversation piece... at least in my house.
Ancient Greek culture treated necrophilia as a crime, although the act occasionally found its way into their literature and tales. The most notable example is found in the tale of The Trojan War, wherein the warrior Achilles strikes down the Amazon queen Penthisilea. After he's killed her, he becomes uncontrollably attracted to her (having never seen her face in battle) and, as the tale goes, "her brilliant form conquered the victor." When I heard Brad Pitt was playing Achilles in the movie Troy, I was really looking forward to this scene... I figured it might take some of the pretty boy out of him, but alas, I was short-changed. Thanks a lot, Hollywood.
Our modern culture's practice of waiting up to two days before a body is embalmed is actually a derivative of an ancient Egyptian custom. Back in the day, when a person died, their family would leave them out to bake under the hellish noonday sun for several days. That way, when the body was delivered to the embalmers, the pungent aroma would be more than enough to ensure that the men would keep their prying hands off the corpse. With this in mind, having the embalmer barf all over your loved one must have been rather commonplace -- and far less repulsive than their demented carnal desires.
In 38BC, King Herod the Great married Miriamme, a member of the ruling Judean family, to increase the legitimacy of his claim to the throne. After she bore him five children, he had her executed under false pretenses. According to authors at The Jewish Quarterly Review, he then had her embalmed and kept her in his private quarters for nine years. Of course, Herod later married his cousin and had his children executed, so I don't think we're dealing with a very stable mind here. And, just think, this guy was mentioned numerous times in the Bible. Whew... What would Jesus think?
Other religious practices and customs that involve the collaboration of sex and death still carry on to this day. Offshoots of Hindu, such as Shivaism and Kali-worship, believe that a physical bond between the living and dead should exist. Touching, kissing, and holding the body are not uncommon practices amongst some sects, although their actions may seem somewhat questionable by outside persons. I'm all about long goodbyes for loved ones, but when a body dips beneath 98 degrees -- I'm done kissing. Completely done.
And as far as literary notations go, there's always de Sade! If you're ever in the mood to cry yourself to sleep, check out The Marquis' 120 Days of Sodom. I'm a mighty jaded dude, and have read a lot of disgusting material, but even I had trouble flipping through this bad boy. Let's just say that 300 years later, it still packs a punch unlike any other.
As the world became far more populated, the teeming masses became more depraved. The Whitechapel district of London was struck by a murderous necrophile in 1888, known only as Jack the Ripper. He left five bodies in his wake, and according to some, many more after he evaded the capture of Scotland Yard. I don't know if I buy the whole "Manhattan Ripper" theory, but I guess if you buy into conspiracies, its worth looking into.
Paris, France. 1890. A woman was found dead in her home as her teenage son slept beside her. Upon thorough investigation, the police discovered that she had been raped and completely disemboweled by the boy. He had accomplished the disemboweling with his bare hands, thrown the innards over her shoulder, and then casually went to sleep. The autopsy, performed some time later, revealed that the mother had died before any of these acts occurred. I'll pause for a few minutes while your stomachs settle down. That story even made me a little green.
And thanks to the films he inspired, who could forget about Wisconsin's own Ed Gein? After his dear mother passed away in 1945, he lost his freakin' marbles and went on a grave-robbing binge that lasted for twelve long years. When he was finally apprehended at his farmhouse in 1957, police discovered multiple corpses, exhumed from local graves; a murdered hardware store clerk; and piles of furniture constructed from human remains. The Pottery Barn, it was not. Gein eventually revealed that he dug up women who resembled his mother, as well as exhuming his mother, herself. It should come as very little surprise that he was the inspiration for Norman Bates, but his penchant for wearing women's skin over his own also brough life to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre's "Leatherface" and The Silence of the Lambs' "Buffalo Bill".
Those, along with other films (and coming full circle to last month's necro-flicks article), simulated necrophilia came to film. While not a particularly popular genre, flicks such as Nekromantik, Kissed, and Aftermath do have their following, due mainly in part to the taboo. Much of the interest in these movies comes from the grisly urban myth of "snuff films" -- a picture which portrays the actual murder of a human being (see Joel Schumacher's only good film, 8MM, for more details).
And now, dear reader, I depart from this sordid history.
Thank you for willingly opening your eyes to that which the world ignores. However dark the recesses of human history are, their tales must be made available to the masses. These age-old practices, horrors, and perversions cannot be forgotten... or ignored.
Regardless of its social depravity, the squalid history of dead love is just one of the many dark shadows that haunts mankind.... and will forever.
I now return you to your regularly-scheduled reality.
@girlsandcorpses. all rights reserved
May only be reprinted with written permission of Girls and Corpses Magazine.