(Some of this post is light-hearted but some is quite disturbing so please bear that in mind when reading)
Of the three lectures I saw Paul give, the one which fascinated me most (blogging as I do about sex and death and any possible links) was his romp through the world of Sicilian sex ghosts at Blacks in Soho. I can’t give too much away, since all this is Paul’s research, but for one of his new books he visited several Capuchin Catacombs in Palermo, Sicily which began mummifying their dead in 1599. Initially this mummification was for the clergy only, but eventually nobles and others who could afford it would pay to be ’embalmed’ in a rudimentary way and remain in the vaults. The procedure was basic at first as can be seen in the first three mummies below, but eventually improved enough to create “The Sleeping Beauty” Rosalia Lombardo in 1920.
Throughout the course of his time in Palermo, Paul amassed many stories about the mischievous antics that seemed to be carried out by the ghosts of these mummies and surprisingly (given that many of them were monks) some of the tales contained a very sexual slant. There was a woman who kept being propositioned for sex by the ghost of a dead monk who visited her, and she started to notice her underwear would disappear once he’d left. She eventually went to the catacombs to complain to the current residents. When she and the monks investigated the mummy of the ghost she was witnessing in her home, lo and behold, several pairs of her knickers were hidden behind him… There was also “Il Masturbatore” below, the man who masturbated to death and his repentant ghost would visit horny teens in order to frighten them away from this ‘unsavoury’ activity, lest they should end up like him.
The first thing this talk made me think of is the film from the 1980s called The Entity in which an unfortunate woman is haunted by a poltergeist-like presence which repeatedly sexually molests her. And you can see from some of the cover art below that this isn’t your usual ghost film – it’s very sexualised (and quite violent). If you’re expecting a couple of good-looking Hollywood celebs and ‘Unchained Melody’ in the background, don’t watch it.
I assumed that it was all nonsense but apparently the film is “based on a true story” and the real life character is Doris Bither. Read about the case here.
But is it really true? Have people had these ghostly sexual encounters in which invisible presences are actually able to rape them? Is it people from beyond the grave, demons, or something else? There are many people who believe there are things which go bump AND GRIND in the night, and the concept isn’t a new one. Tales of the demons Incubi and Succubi have been around for thousands of years and I recently came across a blog post in which a woman claimed she’d woken up every morning since she was 11 years old with sore sex organs and blood on the bed sheets. To me this actually conjured up a horrible scenario of some sort of sexual abuse which was either being psychologically blocked out by, or was being carried out completely unknown to, the victim. My instincts were confirmed somewhat by quite a horrible story about Bolivian Ghost Rapes in 2009. In Manitoba Colony, women were waking up with the same symptoms – pain, bleeding, damage to wrists and ankles – and were convinced evil had permeated all their households in the form of sex demons. It was subsequently discovered that groups of men were waiting outside their bedroom windows and spraying a powerful paralysing chemical, created by a local veterinarian, into their rooms before descending on them throughout the night. The victims ranged from 3 to 65 years old.
The Bolivian story is very disturbing but there is a flip side to this coin and there are people who have positive experiences with what they believe to be ghosts (not demons). It’s known as Spectrophilia or “sexual attraction to ghosts” and there are blogs dedicated to the practice such as Phantom Seduction (my favourite part is the PowerPoint entitled “Why Spectrophilia is not Necrophilia”) and in fact one look at this topic on the web will have you believing that all you need for a satisfying night in is a few candles, some Barry White and a Ouija board…. Even some celebrities believe they have had positive supernatural sexual experiences. Lucy Lui spoke openly about her encounter in which she said “Some sort of spirit came down from God knows where and made love to me. It was sheer bliss. I felt everything. I climaxed. And then he floated away. It was almost like what might have happened to Mary. … I’ve never had such an intimate relationship. I’ve never said anything to anyone about it until now, because I thought no one would ever believe me. … I feel like the spirit follows me everywhere.” What’s interesting is on many of websites which quote her the part about Mary is removed as though somehow it’s offensive, despite the fact that many female Christian mystics reported similar experiences which they described as Angel visitations or religious ‘ecstasies’.
The late Anna Nicole Smith also had a similar experience and describes it thusly, “A ghost would crawl up my leg and have sex with me at an apartment a long time ago in Texas. I used to think it was my boyfriend, and one day I woke up and it wasn’t. I was freaked out about it, but then I was, like, well, you know what? He’s never hurt me and he just gave me some amazing sex, so I have no problem.” The most nuts however is of course Kesha who said “I’ve got a song called ‘Supernatural’ and that song was about having sex with a ghost. I lived in this flop house at Rural Canyon and there was this weird energy that lived there, and it used to keep me up at night. And it progressed into this dark, sexual spirit. It did scare me but that’s part of the fun of it.” Now Kesha is convinced her supernatural sex-buddy “got stuck” and after having her body read by a ‘ghost-meter’ which beeped at her lower regions she had to undergo a vaginal exorcism.
The travel channel has a show dedicated to the topic called “Ghostly Lovers” which you can find online and if you’d like to read about it you can get the book Love Beyond The Grave: True Tales of Ghostly Lovers in Amazon’s bargain bin. And as a bit of light relief there is a humorous parody of The Entity in Scary Movie 2 which you can watch right now:
The scientific explanation is that people who believe they’re having sex with ghosts are actually experiencing ‘waking dreams’ or sleep paralysis. Perhaps it’s a way for them to deal with some otherwise guilt-producing incident such as nocturnal arousal or emission (i.e. wet dreams) or maybe, in the case of the Bolivian Ghost Rapes, it’s an awful indicator of something far more sinister and human. I’ve worked with the dead for a long time and it’s my personal opinion that the dead can’t harm you – it’s the living you need to watch out for. I don’t know whether or not that will help you sleep tonight…