The PULP Guide to Necrophilia

Necrophilia. Now that’s a topic that will wake you up from a mid-afternoon slump faster than a coffee and a few Hob-Nobs. But what is necrophilia, really? Among other things it’s a very complex impulse at the more extreme end of a sliding scale of our behavioural relationship with human remains. Our contact with death and our dead varies through the ages and across cultures, from the practically transgressive intimacy with all things decay in the Medieval Europe to the sterile mail order cremations of recent times . Also, sex and death are everywhere – from the death-scene photoshoots on America’s Top Model to odd behaviour in the animal kingdom –  and this blog attempts to examine them all. However, one of my favourite mechanisms for engaging people with the topic is the wonderfully kitsch series of genuine Pulp book covers, below, which I update daily on my Instagram account @retronecro. Below are 8 of my favourites but there is a whole slew of them out there. Welcome to the world of ‘Necropulp’!

1) Dead Dolls Don’t Talk

Author: Day Keene, Artist: Unknown
Author: Day Keene 1959, Artist: Unknown

In a well known 1986 study by Rosman and Resnick necrophiles were recorded as mainly male, and the most common motive for necrophilia was “the possession of an unresisting and unrejecting partner.” The above book, as well as ‘The Uncomplaining Corpses’ by Brett Halliday, seem to illustrate this theory.

2) Hot Dames on Cold Slabs

Michael Storme, 1952. Cover Artist: Reginald Heade
Michael Storme, 1952. Cover Artist: Reginald Heade

This could represent the activities of deviant mortuary workers taking advantage of their deceased charges at work, another phenomenon put forward as common by Rosman and Resnick. This made the headlines in 2014 when the extent of mortuary worker Kenneth Douglas’ necrophilic compulsions were exposed after it was discovered he’d violated more than 100 corpses. Similarly, 24 year old lab worker Anthony Merino was discovered having sex with a deceased 92 year old woman in N.J in 2007.

3) I Married a Dead Man

Cornell Woolrich (writing as William Irish), 1948. Cover Artist: Unknown
Cornell Woolrich (writing as William Irish), 1948. Cover Artist: Unknown

Although considered the most vile of all deviant activity, necrophilia actually covers a vast scale of behaviour. In 2009 Anil Aggrawal put forward his theory of 10 classifications of necrophilia, with those at the front of the list ‘less abhorrent’ in some ways than others further on. For example, Romantic Necrophilia (Class II) can occur when a spouse or long term partner of the deceased refuses to acknowledge their death; see my spousal necrophilia post ‘Til Death Us Do (Not) Part. There are also many instances in which extant partners are required to ‘marry’ their deceased fiancés in order to ensure their honour is intact, or for similar reasons, even in death. (See this story from 2012)

4) Coffin For A Cutie

Spike Morelli, 1952. Cover Artist: Reginald Heade
Spike Morelli, 1952. Cover Artist: Reginald Heade

This kitsch cover puts me in mind of the Lindner calendar, created every year by a coffin company in Poland. They utilise incredibly scantily clad or naked women to sell their wares via an ‘artfully photographed’ calendar. (Here’s a recent article). Is it just a novel and modern idea to increase sales or a type of necrophilia? (According to Aggrawal it could be Class 1, Roleplayers or Class III, fantasizers).

5) Dig a Dead Doll

Necropulp5
Author: G. G. Fickling (1960)

Those non-homicidal necrophiles who don’t kill their victims in order to have sex with them or work in a mortuary may instead choose to unearth a recently interred corpse. This book could refer to the case of the brothers Grunke and their friend Radtke who attempted to exhume the body of Laura Tennessen in Wisconsin. This 2008 paper by Dr John Troyer outlines the interesting case and the difficulty prosecuting the boys for a crime in which the corpse wasn’t considered a ‘victim’.

6) Date With a Dead Man

Necropulp6
Author: Brett Halliday, 1959. Cover artist: Robert McGinnis

This could refer to one of the only genuine cases of female necrophilia ever recorded – that of Karen Greenlee. In Sacramento, 1979, the mortuary worker absconded with a hearse containing the body of John Mercure and was found two days later in the next state. She’d attempted to overdose on Tylenol and her note contained information on sexual encounters with many male corpses, including Mercure. She received a fine for stealing the hears (since necrophilia wasn’t illegal in the state until Arnold Schwarzenegger made it illegal in 2004.) The full interview she gave to Jim Morton is here.

7) The Corpse Wore Pasties

Necropulp7
Author: Jonny Porkpie, 2009. Cover Artist: Ricky Mujica

Not strictly vintage Pulp, this book is a Hard Case Crime Pulp revival book focussing on the world of burlesque. However, it could certainly allude to the recent stories concerning strippers at Chinese funerals – yet another combination of sex and death.

8) The Bedside Corpse

Author: Stuart Friedman, 1957. Cover Artist: Robert Stanley
Author: Stuart Friedman, 1957. Cover Artist: Robert Stanley

As mentioned in my spousal necrophilia post, it’s frequently reported that the deceased in these situations will be kept in the bed with the surviving partner. But the above book could refer to a more recent story in which a Sichuan man has been keeping his wife’s corpse next to his bed, on ice, for 6 months.

So there’s 8 facts about necrophilia illustrated using these eye-catching Pulp covers. And there are many more out there – Pulp covers seem obsessed with corpses and good looking women, something I’ll look at in a future post. If you’d like to see more follow @retronecro on Instagram for a daily dose of kitsch.

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4 thoughts on “The PULP Guide to Necrophilia

  1. Reblogged this on ontheshelves and commented:
    Great post over at The Chick and the Dead blog. She takes a look at necrophilia and pop culture, explaining it’s popularity and occultism. At the same time, I can’t help think that that her list also serves as fodder for Death metal acts. Her first listing, “Dead Dolls Don’t Talk” sounds like it could make for an interesting metal band name.

    Carla Valentine – the museum curator and blogger of the post would make an excellent lecturer at the Morbid Anatomy Museum in Brooklyn. Maybe they can get her to come to the States??? I know she’s guest posted for them in the past.

  2. Another great post Carla, fascinating and enlightening as always. Hoping to yet to an event at Barts one day

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