An Interview with Karen Greenlee By Jim Morton
Originally published in Apocalypse Culture (1987)
Karen Greenlee is a necrophiliac. Five years ago she made national headlines when she drove off in a hearse and wasn’t heard from for two days. Instead of delivering the body to the cemetery she decided to spend some time alone with the corpse. Eventually, the police found her in the next county, overdosed on codeine Tylenol. She was charged with illegally driving a hearse and interfering with the burial (there is no law in California against necrophilia). In the casket with the body Karen left a four-and-a-half page letter confessing to amorous episodes with between twenty to forty dead men. The letter was filled with remorse over her sexual desires: “Why do I do it? Why? Why? Fear of love, relationships. No romance ever hurt like this … It’s the pits. I’m a morgue rat. This is my rathole, perhaps my grave.”
The letter proved to be her downfall. For stealing the body and the hearse, she got eleven days in jail, a $255 fine, and was placed on two years probation with medical treatment recommended. Meanwhile, the mother of the dead man sued, claiming the incident scarred her psyche. She asked for $1 million, but settled for $117, 000 in general and punitive damages.
The press had a field day, the lawyers got rich, and Karen lost her career and source of sexual satisfaction. Karen is now more comfortable with her sexuality. “When I wrote that letter I was still listening to society. Everyone said necrophilia was wrong, so I must be doing something wrong. But the more people tried to convince me I was crazy, the more sure of my desires I became.”
The following interview was held in Karen’s apartment, a small studio filled with books, necrophilic drawings and satanic adornments.
Back during the trial, from what I read in the newspapers, it seemed like you got very little support.
No, none whatsoever. The newspapers were the worst. To this day I hate reporters. One of them even compared me to Richard Trenton Chase, “The Vampire Killer!” What support there was was like family obligations. One of my brothers refused to have anything to do with me. He said, “I just want to remember her as she was.” He came up to me later and apologized, but he still isn’t comfortable around me. My other brother was more supportive, but even he had to ask, “How’d you do it?”
Before the trial I had a boyfriend who found out abut it. He got mad and slapped me around. He said I wasn’t even a woman and I could go fuck my dead bodies. I was surprised. He knew! Apparently a lot of people knew and I don’t know how they knew.
With guys, they always felt I went for the bodies because I was hard up, and if I went to bed with them then that would change me and they would be the one who would give me such satisfaction I wouldn’t need those old corpses anymore. I’ve run into that a lot. Sometimes I had guys come on to me for just that reason.
The question I am most often asked is, “How does she do it?”
Yes, that’s the question! People ask questions like that– even people who seem pretty cool, seem to have open minds– then when you tell them, they say, “That’s very interesting,” then don’t want to have much to do with me. I don’t mind telling people how I do it. It doesn’t matter to me, but anyone adept sexually shouldn’t have to ask. People have this misconception that there has to be penetration for sexual gratification, which is bull! The most sensitive part of a woman is the front area anyway and that is what needs to be stimulated.
Besides, there are different aspects of sexual expression: touchy-feely, 69, even holding hands. That body is just lying there, but it has what it takes to make me happy. The cold, the aura of death, the smell of death, the funereal surroundings, it all contributes.
The smell of death?
Sure, I find the odor of death very erotic. There are death odors and there are death odors. Now you get your body that’s been floating in the bay for two weeks, or a burn victim, that doesn’t attract me much, but a freshly embalmed corpse is something else.
There is also this attraction to blood. When you’re on top of a body it tends to purge blood out of its mouth, while you’re making passionate love .. You’d have to be there, I guess.
Of course, with all the AIDS going around …
That’s the reason I haven’t tried anything lately. I’m sure I’d have found a way to get into one of those funeral homes by now, but the group I find attractive– young men in their twenties– are the ones who are dying of AIDS.
Did you usually attend the funerals of your corpse-lovers?
Yeah. It was convenient working in the funeral homes. I’d get to drive out to the cemetery with the family. I’d get to mourn right along with the family at the loss of that loved one. Except I was groaning in a little different tone! People can’t really tell if you’re grief stricken or passion-stricken. I’ve had members of the families put their arms around me and say, “We’re so glad you could come!” Then you have to spin this big old yarn, “Yeah, I knew him in school….” If the guy didn’t have a girlfriend in life they think you were … “Oh, she’s the one!”
You weren’t in Sacramento at the time of the trial, were you?
No, I was working in a funeral home in another city and going to school at the same time. It’s weird, but the day I got a telegram about the trial telling me to get in touch with my attorney, I went in to the funeral home and was fired for things I had done at that funeral home. Somebody, I guess, got wise of me. I know I wasn’t seen, but I think somebody just figured it out. Of course, they didn’t know about Sacramento yet. They found out later! The same day, within five hours of each other, two totally different things caught up with me.
I worked in that funeral home for almost a year. That’s where I did a lot of my extracurricular activities. I had keys so I’d slip back in after hours and spend all night there. A guy lived at the funeral home in an apartment downstairs. He drank so he usually passed out. He had a .357 magnum under his pillow.
The guy that court case was about–
Yeah. I understand he was moved out of the cemetery after the trial.
That happened at the time I was breaking into this funeral homes. There was a side room, one of those arrangement areas, where they always have their case folders out. I read there was an exhumation order for John Mercure. Then I read something in the paper about it. His mother wanted the body exhumed, said she wouldn’t bury her cat there. On the day he was suppose to be exhumed I snuck out into a field across from where he was buried. I sat out in the field and watched them dig up the body and give him to this other mortician. They shipped him back to Michigan.
When did you first become aware of your necrophilia?
It’s something I’ve been attracted to all my life. I used to hold funeral services for my pets when they died. Had a little pet graveyard. I lived in a small town and the fireman’s barbecue was next door to the funeral home. To go to the bathroom you had to use the facilities in the funeral home. I’d find any excuse I could to go to the bathroom, then I’d take side trips and wander around the mortuary.
It didn’t scare you like the other kids?
No, I loved it! I was real curious. I’d wander around the halls….
Do you miss working in funeral homes?
Yes, terribly! Even if I wasn’t a necrophile, I like mortuary work. I enjoy embalming and everything. Except for obese people. The bodies I hated working on most were Obese people. ‘Specially if they’d been autopsied. Their guts would slide out on the floor and shit … and all this melty fat. Yeeeech!
You said something previously about “The Vampire Killer,” Richard Trenton Chase. He was from Sacramento, wasn’t he?
Yeah, the second funeral home I worked for– I wasn’t working there at the time– got the bodies of Chase’s victims, a man and a woman and their child, so I hear the gory details of what the bodies looked like. They were really butchered. They were disemboweled with shit stuffed in their mouths. Chase started by killing animals and drinking their blood and when he wasn’t satisfied with that he graduated to people. He killed this couple, then kidnapped their child, killed it and later threw it in a trash can. The mortician who embalmed the bodies said he hardly ever got queasy about anything, but he got sick when he saw those bodies!
What’s the weirdest case you ever encountered.
Hmmm … There was one kid who fell out of a car while his mother was making a turn and she managed to run over his head. Another kid choked to death on a cigarette wrapper. One guy committed suicide by shooting himself in the head with a pellet rifle. He had to shoot himself several times and it took him a while to die, but he finally succeeded. There was another guy I worked on. He was a transvestite who somehow strangled himself with his nylons. I don’t think it was intentional, I think he was trying to achieve heightened orgasm through strangulation and he ended up hanging himself. He wouldn’t be the first to make that mistake.
How about the most unusual funeral?
One time this bunch of religious fanatics held a funeral for one of their members. They didn’t want her embalmed, they just wanted her dressed and in the casket. We usually didn’t do that, but we decided to be nice and put her up in the stateroom. We were standing outside of that stateroom and we heard someone saying, “Rise in the name of Jesus!” They were preying and slapping the body. They were talking in tongues. That was weird!
There seems to be a strong camaraderie between morticians. Almost like a secret society.
Very much so. Morticians are very tight with each other because most people won’t have anything to do with them. I used to find if I went to a party I’d always be introduced like, “This is Karen and she’s a mortician.” But they don’t say, “Here’s Karen– she’s a secretary,” or “she’s a veterinary assistant.” A lot of people are under the misconception that morticians are very straight, very somber. If they ever went back into the prep room and heard all the jokes that are cracked it would blow that theory right out the window.
Did any of those morticians ever testify for or against you at the trial?
One funeral director testified on behalf of funeral practices. He was asked how often necrophilia occurs. He said, “It’s almost unheard of in this profession.”
That’s a major lie!
Yes, definitely … necrophilia is more prevalent than most people imagine. Funeral homes just don’t report it. There was one place that I broke into, and I know that they knew something was wrong. They actually caught me in the act and let me get away.
At another place I was working, this guy came up to me and said, “Someone’s been messin’ with the body. It looks like they were trying to fuck the body!” I said, “Oh my goodness! Really?” I think they figured it out later. I know they know now.
One mortician I worked with used to like to a trocar [a large hollow needle used to suction fluids from corpses] and push it up inside any male cadaver’s dick. He’d say, “Oh look, the corpse has got a boner.” This guy was really weird. He looked like Larry of the Three Stooges. I think he had some necrophilic tendencies. He’d get real upset if there weren’t any female bodies to work on. He’d start pacing. I caught him one time in the prep room. He said he was just taking a pee in the hopper at the end of the table. He was just pulling up his pants when I walked in. I said, “I won’t tell if you don’t.”
You say you were once caught in the act of necrophilia once?
Yeah. I had tried to kill myself and was living in a halfway house a couple of blocks up from this funeral home. I decided to go to the mausoleum and try and kill myself again. The mausoleum had a door connecting it to the mortuary. I was sitting in there, real depressed, when, just for the hell of it, I decided to try running my driver’s license along the edge of the door and click! the door popped open. I couldn’t believe it, so I tried it again and the door popped open again! I went into the prep room and there happened to be a body in there. I had me some fun, did my thing and forgot all about killing myself. I told the folks at the halfway house that I stayed the night with friends. I went in there several times. Sometimes there were absolutely no bodies, so I turned around and snuck back out. I usually went in the back door.
About a week later I snuck back into the funeral home. I was on the prep table having a good old time, when all of a sudden I felt like there was somebody nearby. Next thing, I heard people walking down the hallway. I quietly jumped off the table and threw the sheet back over the body. My clothes were in quite a state of disarray, and I had blood on me and everything else– it had been an autopsy case. There was a casket with the lid open in the side casket-room, so I ran and hid behind it. The casket was on a church-truck so they couldn’t see me, but they could see my legs. It was a man and a woman. There were standing there saying, “Who are you? What are you doing here?” One of them said to the other, “you go get the gun and call the cops and I’ll stay down here.” I knew I only had one chance then, so I busted out and ran. I knew the layout of the place, so I just ran down the hall and out of the place and out of the cemetery.
At the time I still had a friend who worked at the funeral home. He said, “Somebody broke into the funeral home. They know it was you.” They put in an alarm after that. I think they called the police, but there were never any charges. I’m sure they didn’t want the publicity.
That was the last time I got very close, except for I’ve broken into a few tombs.
Have you seen any changes in people’s attitudes towards necrophilia?
Yeah, when I came out here I noticed it. It’s almost a fad! They’re not really necrophiles, but pseudo-necrophiles. Like a death cult! But there are probably a lot of people who would do it if they had the opportunity.
Perhaps there is this vast network of necrophiles, who, for lack of a forum, will never know of each other’s existence.
Well, there’s Leilah [Wendell’s] group [American Association of Necrophilic Research and Enlightenment]. They try and get some information out about it.
It must be frustrating when people say, “we have to cure you,” or “you’ve got to be more like us.”
It is. For a while I found myself thinking, “Yeah, this isn’t normal. Why can’t I be like other people. Why doesn’t the same pair of shoes fit me just right?” I went through all that personal hell and finally I accepted myself and realized that’s just me. that’s my nature and I might as well enjoy it. I’m miserable when I try to be something I’m not. And too, a lot of these people who are putting me down have hang-ups worse than I have, or they do things that might be considered questionable by their peers. I had a gay friend who, when he found out I was a necrophile, said, “You can go to hell for that.” After 1979, when I was put on probation, part of the probation requirement was that I seek therapy. I had a really nice social worker. She was cool. Very nonjudgmental. The more I talked to these people, the more I realized necrophilia makes sense for me. The reason I was having a problem with it was because I couldn’t accept myself. I was still trying to live my life by other peoples standards. To accept it was peace. These people who are always trying to change me only helped me get myself more in touch with my feelings. I used to go from the therapist’s office to the funeral home. It didn’t work, folks!
Reposted via Nokilli.com