Most have heard of those strange people who marry prison inmates, write fan letters to serial killers, and pair off with killers to commit horrible crimes with them. For the most part these women – the majority, in not all, are female so we’ll stick with that assumption in this piece – are regarded as sick, but never given a specific name to their illness though there seems to be one…Hybristophilia. Also referred to casually as Bonnie & Clyde Syndrome it is essentially being sexually aroused by or attracted to people who have committed an outrage or gruesome crime. Likely other mental disorder there seems to be various versions in which this “philia” can present itself, some more deadly than others.
The most common and least dangerous are passive hybristophiliacs, also known as the fans. (All other forms to be discussed fall under the category of aggressive hybristophiliacs.) They are those who write to convicts in prison, confess to finding serial killers attractive, or marry men imprisoned for violent crimes. It’s hard to say the reasoning behind these types save for the possibility that they are taking their bad-boy fascination to the next step.
Doreen Lioy had a BA in English Literature and a fascination with serial killer Richard Ramirez. She wrote approximately 75 letters to him before they met, but when they did her love for him only grew and deepened. On October 3, 1996 Doreen married the killer making her Mrs Richard Ramirez.
Throughout Ted Bundy’s trial in Florida girls showed up with long brown hair parted in the middle to emulate his preferred victim type. Included in this crowd was Carol Ann Boone who became his girlfriend and moved from her home-state of Washington to Florida in order to be closer to her man. A man she repeatedly and continually claimed was innocent and being railroaded even after he was convicted. During the penalty phase of his 1980 trial Bundy took advantage of an old state law that allowed his proposal in the court and her joyful acceptance to be legally binding as marriage. Sometime after that, in a way that’s still debated, Carol became pregnant with Bundy’s child…it took eight long years after her marriage to him for the woman to seemingly realize who, what, Ted Bundy truly was and leave him.
There are numerous possibilities as to why these women took their bad-boy enjoyment to the next level. With Doreen and Carole it seemed to be that they were suffering from deep denial and even a delusion of sorts…they could not see Ramirez and Bundy for the killers the men were as they had developed their own idealized fantasies about the men. In truth women like these don’t truly know the men they enter into a relationship with; they share letters, short phone conversations, and meet for one to two hour jail visits, none of which allow a real glimpse behind the sociopath’s mask of normalcy. Instead these woman spend their time fantasizing about what their relationship would be like if their other half was not imprisoned, which is never going to be accurate.
Other reasons for Serial Killer Groupies, as they are sometimes referred to, might be sympathy for someone who they feel has had a hard life and/or a belief that their love can redeem a man convicted of armed robbery or murder. A fear of rejection also likely plays a part as it’s unlikely a convict will rebuff a fan and the women may believe that only these types of men will love them for whatever reason. There’s also the assurance that a man in prison isn’t about to up and leave since he can’t. These women, possibly for the first time in their lives, have more power in the relationship. Often times women who fall into this category have poor social skills, few close friends, and a history of being abused.
The Angry Teen Girls
More prevalent than the fans and more dangerous thanks to the ages of these ladies are the angry teen girls. In the teen years the hormones run wild and rebellion is common…toss in a beau that’s bad news and it’s a recipe for disaster.
The clearest and possibly the most famous example of this is Caril Ann Fugate and Charles Starkweather. After 14-year-old Caril’s parents refused to allow their daughter to date the 19-year-old Charles the young lovers decided to kick off an eight day killing spree by murdering her parents and infant sister. For five of the eight days the young couple stayed in Caril’s home, having sex and playing house, as they made up excuses to keep relatives away. While she didn’t kill anyone herself Caril was very much an accomplice – following Charles on the road, collecting newspaper clippings about them, holding guns on hostages as Charles took naps. Despite her claims of being a hostage herself, of being forced to go along, it was clear to all those around them (including a jury) that Caril was a willing part of Starkweather’s eight day crime spree.
Wendy Gardner was a A and B-acheiving, flute-playing, 13-year-old girl when she met bike-stealing, cat-killing, 15-year-old James Evans. Despite the seeming differences the two hit it off, finding a connection in violence – Wendy’s mother was a drug-addict, her father boasted his own father dropped dead during an argument between them, and Wendy herself wrote in a diary about the desire to tear the flesh off an ex of hers. By Christmas 1994 Wendy was virtually living with James and his mother, but then her grandmother and legal guardian, Betty Gardner, ordered her home and the violent talks the two teens shared took a very serious turn. The two decided to kill Wendy’s grandmother so that they would be free of her and Wendy would no longer be subjected to Betty’s corporal punishment and emotional abuse (such as being told she’d end up just like her mother and made to watch as Betty knelt in prayer to curse God for leaving Wendy with her). On December 28, 1994, the two put their plans into action and, with a kite string, James strangled the woman as he said, “Remember this, bitch, you’re never going to be able to hit her again” as Wendy ran and hid upstairs. Later the two teens had sex in the same room Betty was murdered in, stuffed her body in the trunk of her car, and spent the next few days hanging out, having sex, and taking the occasional trip in the car (body still in the trunk) to spend Grandma’s money on video games, candy, sneakers, lingerie, and bowling. It was Wendy’s 11-year-old sister, Kathy, who turned them in…after being either tied up in the house or dragged on the shopping sprees she finally escaped to a neighbor’s house three days after the murder.
In some cases it would seem these young women are simply seeking a hero of sorts to save them from unhappy, sometimes abusive, homes. In other cases the girls involved are looking not just for a savior, but a violent avenger. Those already freed from the misery of their home life may take a while longer to seek out their violent lover, but when they find them they are no less turned on by the terrors committed on the unfortunate victims they and their men come across.
The Compliant Victims
Sadly these women are not as rare as one would hope and while the heinousness of their crimes depend greatly on their significant other they all end up with pretty terrible men.
After approximately four years of subjecting his wife, Janice, to his sadistic desires Cameron Hooker convinced her to help him kidnap a woman to be his own personal bondage slave in March 1977. The couple picked up 20-year-old hitchhiker Colleen Stan and held her prisoner for the next seven years. During the first eight months she was held in a series of coffin-like boxes 23 hours a day, taken out only to be tortured by Cameron. When finally released from the boxes Colleen was forced to a sign a contract of servitude to “The Company” – a fictional group Cameron claimed was composed of rich, omnipotent, sex-slave traders he pulled from a porn magazine – after which the rapes began.
For the rest of her time as the Hooker’s prisoner Colleen was forced to be Cameron’s sex slave and general servant for the family as a whole, including nanny for the couple’s two children. It wasn’t until Janice got jealous at the closeness of her husband to their captive and he mentioned the desire to make Colleen a second wife (then get more sex slaves for himself) that the woman finally spoke up. She confessed to Colleen that Cameron was not part of “The Company” and that she was free to leave. Three months later Janice called the police on her husband for the murder of a missing girl from 1976 he had gotten away with. In November 1984 Cameron was arrested, charged, and convicted of all crimes concerning Colleen Stan. He is currently serving 104 years. And Janice? She was granted full immunity for testimony given against her husband, left the man for good, and got herself a new name so that she could live in relative anonymity as she worked on repairing her own self-esteem.
Still the question remains…what kind of women are these? At first glance it would seem these women are poor-unfortunates, overpowered by the man in their life and helpless to stop what is happening around them. However, these women engage in such relationships willingly and don’t leave after their mates confess dark fantasies or the first acts of aggression are made towards them. They repeatedly agree to aid in the kidnapping and torture of others. On the surface they aren’t evil or aggressive themselves, true, but these women allow the men in their lives to do truly terrible things to other women without complaint. Even when given opportunities to do the right thing, to help those desperately in need of it, they tend not to until it somehow affects them. (Such as Janice only acting to help free Colleen once she began to grow jealous of her husband’s affection for the young woman.) This suggests that, on a level they themselves might not even be conscious of, these women are accomplices and okay with the way their partners treat others. It is a “better them than me” scenario as well as a way for these compliant victims to feel powerful themselves – something they may have the need for even more after spending years with their naturally sadistic counterparts. These types of hybrisotphiliacs may start off loving their men despite the terrible things they do, but they end up loving them for it…as long as it’s done to someone else.
The Superman’s Girl
Some just think they’re rare and special, which is the case with The Superman’s Girl category. They aren’t though and while they prefer to work with a male counterpart these women are heinous in their own right. Unlike Janice Hooker who would never have considered committing a crime had she not met her husband, Cameron, The Superman’s Girl has an egotistic, criminal, mind all on her own.
Myra Hindley was of average intelligence and spoiled by her grandmother, but she was also troubled and aggressive before she ever met her mate. With violence in her home and being rewarded for it outside (her father once threatened to beat her if she didn’t knock out a boy who’d picked on her when she was eight) Myra was primed to seek out and enjoy violence. It was hardly a surprise she was attracted to Ian Brady, who had a criminal record and interest in Nazism, upon meeting him in 1961. Together they would picnic at Saddleworth Moor in England as they discussed the Marquis de Sade, their Nazi heroes, and how to commit the perfect murder before putting their ideas into action in 1968. Throughout the murders of five teens and children Hindley was an active participant, not a bystander. It was Myra who got the van they used during their crimes, it was she who lured their victims into the van, and it was her photographing and audio-taping the brutalization of them.
Also to be included in this group is Charlene Gallego who, while highly intelligent and having great potential as a child, grew to seek out a sexually sadistic man with whom she could share fantasies about having young, virginal, sex slaves with. Once she found her seeming equal in longtime sex offender, Gerald, the two raped and murdered ten girls together. Charlene participated with equal, if not sometimes greater, fervor in the violent sexual assaults on the girls…once she even grew angry and took a shot at her husband when he began to rape two victims without her.
These women already feel superior to everyone around them so, naturally, their man has to be the same. He has to be the Übermensch, Nietzche’s Superman, a man above all others she’s ever met or will meet in order to even interest her. After they’re caught these women will paint themselves as a compliant victim, they will say their men owned them and ruled over everything they did, but that’s never the case. Like male serial killers these woman believe they are entitled to rape, torture, and murder others and, with their men being kings, they are queens deserving of the right to rule over the life and death of others.
Brides of Chucky
Overall they’re likely the most rare, but unfortunately they’re also the most extreme in violent aggression. Often they present as sociopaths all on their own and their predatory nature is as aggressive and constant as their male counterparts. They don’t so much seek out a bad man as instinctually find that connection of the predator within from the men they pair up with. Once partnered these women create a folie a deux with their men in which they fuel one another’s sadistic tendencies.
Carol Bundy’s man, Douglas Clark, liked to shoot his female victims in the head while they gave him oral sex and she was fine with that. When he first confessed to killing Carol called the cops only to get details from them that might confirm Douglas’ claims of responsibility. In one instance Carol even dolled up (did the hair and put fresh make-up on) the severed head of a victim so that her boyfriend could better enjoy having sex with it. But Carol’s true nature became most clear when, in desperate attempts to regain Douglas’ presumed lost interest in her, she found her own victim to decapitate in the form of a former lover named John “Jack” Robert Murray.
A Thin & Blurry Line
Even though these hybristophiliacs have been categorized the groupings are not solid; often times the issues that cause a woman to be one kind of killer-lover can also cause her to be another. Many, most, will stay fans adoring and fantasizing from afar or just through letters. They will not grow violent themselves and, once they accept the truth and gravity of what their imprisoned men have done, many will also eventually cuts ties with the prisoners. This is not always the case though, sometimes these fans become accomplices to the dangerous men they love.
Jennifer Forsyth Taylor was working as a nurse in a prison when she met prisoner George Hyatte, a longtime criminal with a history of escapes throughout the 1990s and early 2000s. The two began their romance when George was asked to watch over and protect Jennifer from other inmates who were making aggressive sexual overtures in May 2004…by August 2004 she was fired for sneaking food in and having an inappropriate relationship with Hyatte. Nine months later they were married in a visitor room at Riverbend Maximum Security Institution where George was housed and after that they were not allowed to see each other due to the prison’s visitor policy. Aside from the first few months of face-to-face contact this beginning – along with Jennifer’s clean criminal record and history of nonviolence – would settle her into the passive hybristophiliac category, but what she did next switched her to an aggressive kind.
Upon pressing from her new husband Jennifer agreed to help him escape from the Roance County Court House after a hearing he was to attend in August 2005. With an illegally obtained gun she waited outside the courthouse for George to intercept him and his guards as he was escorted back to prison. She approached with gun in hand and opened fire hitting both transport officers and killing one, Wayne “Cotton” Morgan, before fleeing with her husband. The day after the shooting the couple was caught and arrested for first-degree murder; both pleaded guilty and were sentenced to life without the possibility of parole.
Sadly hybristophilia, despite it’s prevalence and potential dangers in the aggressive form, is a vastly understudied condition. It’s hard to say what factors contribute to creating which kind of hybristophiliac for certain, or what might make one kind develop into another, but in all likelihood it’s a combination of several nature and nurture based aspects working together. Someone with this disorder generally doesn’t seek treatment unless required by law and even then it is likely that the hybristophilia is being treated as a secondary issue to other mental problems – mood disorders, personality disorders, etc – that a fair number of these women have in addition to the philia.