In June 1980 serial killer Ken Bianchi received a letter from twenty-three year old Veronica Lynn Compton asking his advice on a play about a female serial killer. This led to a pen pal relationship, which blossomed into a full-scale romance. Over the course of their correspondence, the two decided they could muddy the pending case against Bianchi by planting evidence that suggested the killer was still at large. So, in September, 1980, just a few months after they began their relationship, Compton visited Bianchi in prison, smuggled out his semen, and attempted to kill a random female and plant the evidence at the crime scene. Luckily for the intended victim, Compton was an inept murderer and was arrested and convicted after bungling the murder attempt.
The Veronica Compton case is an extreme example of a rare type of serial killer groupie – the hybristophiliac. Hybristophilia, first defined by the sexologist Professor John Money, falls into a class of disorders known as paraphilias, i.e., abnormal sexual desires that typically involve extreme or dangerous activities. In this case, the danger is the person. In other words, the hybristophiliac is turned on by a person who has committed a violent crime.
Most individuals with this paraphilia have no desire to commit a crime themselves. Their vicarious exposure to violence is enough. Instead, they develop a deep attachment to the perpetrator behind bars, making excuses for what he did, fantasizing about rescuing him from prison (or his own inner demons), and believing that the special connect the two of them share would protect them from any harm (no matter how many other people their inmate has victimized).
Here’s an example of an erotic fixation with Luka Magnotti, the charming Canadian who tortured kittens and sent human body parts to various public officials. “This obsession with you is taking over my life . . . I fear that if it weren’t for ties in life (and the fact I need to work for a living) there would be absolutely nothing to stop me from picking up and leaving to be nearer to you. And this isn’t some delusion, I know full well you’re stuck behind bars and probably will be for the rest of your life, but I would attend your court appearances and visit you. Lost in a world of obsessive fantasy . . .”
“I refuse to believe the reports of people saying you were cold and creepy and had no friends. These comments just make me feel sad for you. I’m sad that you saw flaws when you looked in the mirror, when all I see is beauty in you. I’m sad that your family ostracized you. It’s really a shame that no one was ever there for you. It’s not your fault you’re so messed up inside. I’ll never hold that against you. I think you just need help and I truly hope you get that now and not just reprimand.”
Not all hybristophilia sufferers just sit back and rely on fantasies to get them through the night. Some women (and, yes, for some reason, most hybristophiles are female) decide to join in the “fun.” They may participate in their lover’s crimes by luring victims, hiding bodies, providing alibis, or, as we saw in the case of Veronica Compton, committing murder.
Chloe Kelcher was another woman who decided to practice what her inmate preached. She fell in love with her serial killer, Cortland Bryce Ryan, while serving as a member of his jury. Knowing they could never be together (he got the death penalty), she talked one of the guards into smuggling out Ryan’s semen and, after he was executed, she impregnated herself. However, after the baby became ill and died, she settled on another way for him to obtain immortality – by continuing his serial killing. After killing three victims, she was killed in a shootout by police while attempting to execute the fourth.
Unlike Compton and Kelcher, Rachel Lancroft didn’t meet her violent love interest (Marcus Lee Graham) through the prison system; she met him in an online dating site. However, through their correspondence, he did inspire her to finish her law degree – and then move on to serial killing so he could get his rocks off behind bars. Ironically, her own crimes were discovered when Graham asked her to be his lawyer when he was questioned about the murders Lancroft was committing. Apparently, investigators became suspicious after noticing how submissive Lancroft was around her client and eventually tracked her down to a women’s house, who Lancroft was trying to kill after her lover, Graham, and failed to do the job before he was captured.
The Bottom Line
A small number of serial killer groupies are actually turned on by what repels most of us – the violent acts themselves. And an even smaller number move from the thrills of vicarious violence to actual participation in the acts themselves.