Sexual attraction for dead bodies, horrible and monstrous as it may appear, is by no means unknown. Moreau records a case in which a man, in attempting to rape a woman, killed her, and threw her body into the river. He then fished it out again, repeatedly violated it, and, being convicted of the terrible double crime, was executed. Other French writers give us similar instances of even more pronounced necrophilia. One of these was that of a monk who assaulted the body over which he was holding the death-watch; and another, an idiot, after his committal to an asylum, habitually violated the female bodies in the mortuary.
Mr. H. Ellis, usually a very acute observer of sexual phenomena, is disposed to regard this abnormality as associated with what he calls pyg-malionism, or love of statues; but, whatever the cause of its manifestation, there must be some obviously perverse impulse of sexuality, of considerable force, to overcome the natural repugnance we all feel for even the touch of a dead body; and to enable a man to enjoy intercourse with a cadaver.
That such an act can be compatible with perfect mental soundness, nothing but an acquaintance with the horrible vagaries of the sexual appetite would, as Krafft-Ebing well observes, permit us to believe; but that it seems to be so in many cases, we have much testimony, especially that of Brierre de Boismont, who tells of a corpse-violator bribing the watchman to give him entrance to a dead girl for sexual purposes;1 of Legrand, who describes the case of a man who experienced inexpressible pleasure in violating corpses, and in disemboweling them afterward;1 of Lacassagne, who speaks of a respectable tradesman who was never intensely excited, sexually, except at a funeral; and of numerous other writers of equal credibility, among whom may be mentioned Michea, Tardieu, Lunier and Taxil.
One case recorded by the last-named writer is peculiarly interesting from the psychological feature involved, and with it I shall quit the subject. A man would, from time to time, visit houses of prostitution, and make one of the girls lie upon the bed dressed all in white, like a corpse. At an appointed hour he would appear in the room, which in the meantime he had caused to be elaborately prepared, and draped in black, like a room of mourning; he would begin to read a mass for the repose of the dead, and, in the midst of the ceremony, would suddenly throw himself upon the girl, and copulate with her, she playing the role of a corpse throughout the entire performance.1
I need not say that the correct classification of such unusual sexual phenomena is one of considerable difficulty. It would seem that the de-fencelessness of the body, contrary to the accepted rule of selection, forms the sexual stimulus in such cases.