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Necrophilia, also called thanatophilia and necrolagnia, is a paraphilia characterized by sexual attraction to corpses.


The word is artificially derived from Ancient Greek: νεκρός (nekros; "corpse," or "dead") and φιλία (philia; "love"). The term seems to have originated from Richard Freiherr von Krafft-Ebing's 1886 work Psychopathia Sexualis.


Necrophilia is sexual gratification from intercourse with a deceased individual the phenomena is called

If instead of intercourse the perpetrator inserts foreign objects into the victims orifice, the phenomena is called Insertional Necrophilia.

Figuratively, the term necrophilia describes an inordinate desire to control another person, usually in the context of a romantic or interpersonal relationship; the accusation is that the person is so interpersonally controlling as to be better-suited to relationships with nonresponsive people.

Necrophilia is a common among disorganized offenders.

It should not be mistaken for a form of mutilation.

Overview on Necrophilia

Cause and prevalance

Virtually no research has been conducted regarding the prevalance of necrophilic attraction among humans. Klaf and Brown and William Brown in their "Necrophilia: Brief Review and Case Report," refer that, although rarely described, necrophilic fantasies may occur more often than is generally supposed.

Rosman and Resnick (1989). "Sexual attraction to corpses: a psychiatric review of necrophilia," theorized that either of the following situations could be antecedents to necrophilia (pp. 161):

  1. The necrophile develops poor self-esteem, perhaps due in part to a significant loss;
    (a) He (usually male) is very fearful of rejection by women and he desires a sexual object who is incapable of rejecting him; and/or
    (b) He is fearful of the dead, and transforms his fear of the dead—by means of reaction formation—into a desire for the dead.
  2. He develops an exciting fantasy of sex with a corpse, sometimes after exposure to a corpse.

The authors also reported that, of their sample of 'necrophiliacs,' 68% were motivated by a desire for an unresisting and unrejecting partner; 21% by a want for reunion with a lost partner; 15% by sexual attraction to corpses; 15% by a desire for comfort or to overcome feelings of isolation; and 12% by a desire to remedy low self-esteem by expressing power over a corpse (pp. 159). (It could be surmised that only the 15% motivated by an attraction to corpses were true necrophiliacs.)

Necrophilia in neo-psychoanalysis

In the analytic social psychology of Erich Fromm, necrophilia is a character orientation which shows an increasing tendency toward destructiveness. Used in a non-sexual sense, Erich Fromm understood necrophilia as an everyday behavior which is not an expression of a biologically fixated death instinct, but the consequence of a life without being really alive.

For Erich Fromm, necrophilia is the opposite of biophilia. The lack of love in the western society leads to necrophilia. Symbols of the necrophile are facades made of concrete and steel, modern weapon systems, the idolatry of the technology of the megamachine (technophilia), the wasting of resources in consumerism and the treatment of people as things in bureaucratism.

Behavior Patterns

  • Biting behavior is quite common, especially on the breasts and neck area, but not only there. Bites may be being minor and hard to find, or severe. The purpose of biting, as opposed to "hickies", is to leave permanent marks.
  • Anal assault is quite common, usually accompanied by penetration of objects up the anus, into the intestinal area, and even up to the chest area. The intent is to impale the victim and bring the immediate look of suffering on the part of victims. There are lots of other possible motivations, like latent homosexuality, compulsive masculinity, and displaced revenge for a prison rape.
  • Oral assault, with the victim's head still attached, or detached occurs in some cases. It occurs first when there's not so much anger and more pent-up sexual frustration (as in vaginal penetration). The offender may be playing out a script in which he thinks fellatio is the proper act of foreplay, or it may be an all-out assault on the face of the victim if certain victim selection characteristics are present.
  • Strangulation is a technique that can be done in two ways: manually or by ligature with a rope, wire, etc. to compress the arteries in the neck to restrict the flow of blood to the brain. Offenders love to bring their victims in and out of consciousness this way, achieving sexual gratification from the victim's intermittent suffering responses. It's also a common form of killing a victim besides blunt force trauma.
  • Killing or torturing a victim in front of another victim is common. In these cases, there's no precise order in which victim goes first. Whoever does go first is usually the preliminary victim to what the offender really has in mind. When one victim is killed in front of another, it's usually precautionary, to get rid of another living witness. In other cases, the killing of one victim is retaliatory for the offender's perception of another victim's misbehavior.
  • Mutilation (postmortem) is usually committed for a couple of reasons: either the victim was not responsive enough for the offender or the offender wants to exercise some power over the deceased.
  • Necrophiliacs generally tend to be people who are clinically depressed. They believe it is easier to objectify sex with the dead, to obtain compliments from them (meaning they assume they can talk to them) and appreciate the variety of positions victims can assume as well as the artifically created orifices found in those who came to gruesome deaths.

Consensuality issue

Although obtaining consent is not usually considered a prerequisite for activity with non-living material, sexual activity with a human corpse is taboo and frequently labelled abuse, based on the presumption that the person would not have consented to the act while alive, and that it would thus constitute a profound and disturbing disrespect for their remains to be treated in a way other than their wishes. In rare cases, however, necrophilic acts can be consensual: for example, in the Armin Meiwes case, the victim gave his consent to the mutilation and death inflicted upon him.

Although virtually all societies condemn sexual activity with the dead, as a form of symbolic disrespect, several groups, individuals, and publications have pushed for the legalization of necrophilic acts. "The NecroErotic", for example, argues that "necrophiliacs have as much right to engage in their orgasmic release of choice as do normal' couples" and that "all human rights cease the moment a person draws their last breath

Legal status in the USA

As of May, 2006, there is no federal legislation specifically barring sex with a corpse [1], though multiple states apply their own laws.

Famous necrophiles

Carl Tanzler

Carl Tanzler was a radiologist in Key West, Florida who developed a morbid obsession for Elena Milagro Hoyos (1910-1931). She was one of his patients, and she died from tuberculosis in 1931 at the hospital. With her parents' permission he had an above ground mausoleum built for her, so she wouldn't decompose underground. He visited the tomb every night and by 1933 he had taken the body home with him and kept it in his bed. He restored her body as best he could and kept a full wardrobe to dress her.

Serial killers

Necrophilia has also been a motive for some serial killers, including murderers Ed Gein, Richard Chase, Winston Moseley, John Reginald Halliday Christie, Bruno Lüdke, Jerry Brudos, Ted Bundy, and Jeffrey Dahmer, who ate his victims after killing them; the technical term for this particular variant activity is necrophagia. Several other murderers have described drawing sexual excitement from killing, as well, such as Karla Faye Tucker, who claimed to have an orgasm with each swing of the axe she used to kill Jerry Lynn Dean. The guilty-plea testimony provided by serial killer Dennis Rader provided a rare public glimpse into the workings of such a controlling mind.

Ted Bundy

"You feel the last bit of breath leaving their body. You're looking into their eyes. A person in that situation is God! You then possess them and they shall be a part of you, and the grounds where you kill them or leave them become sacred to you, and you will always be drawn back to them", said Ted Bundy, regarded as one of the most intelligent serial killers. Though he was not a true necrophile, his case illustrates some of the sexual behavior patterns associated with necrophilia, sadism, and the many variants of "edge play" which involve a desire for sex with someone who is near-dead or dead.


  • Krafft-Ebing, Richard von Psychopathia Sexualis, 1986. ISBN 1-559-70425-X

See also

External links

Part of this article consists of modified text from Wikipedia, and the article is therefore licensed under GFDL.