Saturday, 16 February 2008

Psychopathia Sexualis

This week saw the continuing trial of Steve Wright, the Suffolk man accused of the murders of five women who died, over a six week period, in late 2006. Inevitably, there was, at the time, quite a bit of 'occult interest': Ellis Taylor, I recall, wrote something about it after discovering that the various locations in which the bodies of the women were discovered formed a pentagram. I read subsequently that two of the victims- Anneli Alderton and Annette Nicholls- were left in a 'cruciform position': suggesting that there was indeed a ritualistic aspect to the crimes, conscious or otherwise. This fact reminded me of a quote I had read by Colin Wilson, which observed, in passing, just how many serial killers seem to stop after either nine or thirteen victims: as if to fulfill some ritualistic requirement. The 'thrill' of destruction has often been associated with the attainment of God-like powers, as famously portrayed by Alan Moore in From Hell, and closely explored by other Ripperologists. And in more recent times, Alexander Pichuksin, the so-called Chessboard Killer, claimed a existential, even religious motivation for his activities, which resulted in the deaths of at least 49 victims: 'I killed in order to live.' (Murder, he said, made him feel 'almost like a god.')

I haven't been following the trial very closely, but I did catch something in the Metro yesterday which caught my attention. Tom Stephens, the first suspect in the case, who was later released without charge, was arrested after informing the police about what he feared was his own split personality. According to the article: 'He had told officers he was worried about doing things which he doesn't know about, then going back to his normal personality.' This is a phenomenon we explored, in some depth, in a recent BTB report; with particular regard to the strange case of Alberto Izaga, the Swiss Re board member who murdered his three year-old daughter (in the shadow of the Westminster obelisk) after watching a horror movie in New York. Just as Stephens feared, Izaga has no memory of the attack or the disturbing events which preceded it.

This mechanism of the body-mind and spirit- which we might describe as being temporarily consumed by 'higher' or 'other' forces- may be related to another phenomenon, manifestations of which we have tracked on this blog. These are the (rather less devastating) personality transplants which frequently accompany head injuries. (We pulled together several examples in this article from last November.) I was reminded of this when, also in yesterday's paper, I read about a Californian woman named AJ, who claims to have complete recall of every day of her life. Experts have dubbed AJ's syndromes as 'hyperthymestic', after the Greek verb to remember. According to journalist Ross McGuinness, her abilities 'echo those of Funes the Memorious, a character in a fantasy story by Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges. The tale recounts the life of Ireono Funes, a teenage boy from Uruguay who, after falling off a horse, remembers everything in full detail.'

Quite how head injury, 'split personalities' and transdimensional possession cohere is still, at this precise moment, something of a mystery...


Anonymous said...

Glad you are back! Respectfully, Dennis from Oregon.

Anonymous said...

Interesting Ben;)

Colin Wilson is one of my favourite authors.

For my dissertation at uni I wrote about criminality and head injuries. If you trawl through the stories of many criminals - Fred West springs to mind...At 17 he had a serious motorcycle accident, suffering serious head injuries resulting in a metal plate being put in his head. He also later fell off a fire escape.

His family state that his personality changed after the first accident.

This is a controversal area but there does seem to be evidence that damage to the frontal lobe sometimes causes people to lose the part of us that 'see ourselves as others see us' (Robert Hare)
- that part that deters us from unsuccessful, inappropriate or impulsive actions. This part of the brain helps us judge how other's will react to our actions and helps 'determine '' our ethical and moral conduct'

At its simplest damage here causes: lack of self- control, emotional outbursts, dramatic changes of personality, indifference to or loss of normal guilt, shame or remorse, greater impulsiveness, sexual, aggresive and psychopathic behaviour and periodic disorders such as mania and depression.

Again this is a very basic outline. But damage to different areas of the brain can lead to other problems depending on the area involved. The severity of the damage and the subsequent problems are different for each individual

"damage to various parts of the frontal or temporal lobe is correlated with anti-social behaviour patterns. To summarize, frontal lobe damage is now generally assumed to result in “acquired sociopathy” - it is associated with increased aggression or violence and, sometimes, changes in sexual behaviour. On the other hand, damage to the amygdala, a structure found on the medial surface of the temporal lobe, is associated with an impaired ability to recognize emotions in others, which often leads to impaired social and moral reasoning"

Cheers, Kate

MercurialT said...

Great Post! That (2006) movie of the same name was interesting too.

BTB said...

Thanks Kate,

I'm also interested in the phenomenon from a transdimensional angle: how an injury can indeed alter a personality, because, spiritually-speaking, the original occupant is somehow 'squeezed out.' This may well not make much sense, but I will be updating this article periodically- including some Lovecraft material I discovered which of of relevance- so perhaps will do eventually.

Thanks for your informative comment.


Anonymous said...

'I'm also interested in the phenomenon from a transdimensional angle: how an injury can indeed alter a personality, because, spiritually-speaking, the original occupant is somehow 'squeezed out.'

Me too Ben;) I've witnessed this first hand: A friend's partner injured his head and was in bed for three days. He refused to seek medical help.
A month later the nightmare began- he began to believe he was God, he thought he was immune to injury, the law (which became an everyday part of his and her life) and the rules that most of us follow.

He became convinced that Hitler was misunderstood, that pedophiles were too.
It's a long story, but at times when the 'real' him was present he was like a scared little boy,exhausted and tortured...When the 'god' part of him returned he was super stong, arrogant and fearless...

It's exactly as you describe - the original him was squeezed out...and we only caught glimpses of him at time.


JM said...

Moving away from the head (and maybe off-topic) slightly, I'm reminded of Carlos Castaneda's account of how Don Juan caused a shift in CC's perception (his 'assemblage point') by striking him on the right-hand shoulder blade to move this 'point' to the left.

Carlos would go into an altered state of consciousness, claimed to be that of his 'true self'. After a while, his perception would return to its previous state.

Don Juan stated that the goal of the Warrior was to be able to shift the Assemblage Point at will and be able to choose whatever state of consciousness was desired. He also felt that initially the stubborn CC needed a shove in the correct direction!

Robert Blake said...

Ben! Im so lost without Battling the Behemoth. It was an inspiration and it made me look forward to the nights spent reading your amazing posts. Without a doubt the most amazing thing out there on the web. If there is any chance of getting an invite to read it, I would love to know, because my world is a little darker with its absence. Thanks, Bill

BTB said...

Yes, Robert (and thanks for your comment.) Just e-mail Todd Campbell at and he will forward your address to me. (Or, conversely, give me your e-mail in your reply to this comment. I need an address to send the invitations to.)

I'm sorry for the cloak and dagger theatricality; but circumstances dictate it. The site may be freely accessible again at some point, but, to be honest, I probably prefer to idea of a small but genuinely interested readership over the amassed leagues of morons who typically frequent the internet 'conspiracy' scene. You're very welcome to join in.


BTB said...

Thanks for your update, Kate. Pleased we share a similar perspective on this fascinating issue. (I remembered a comparable reference I found in a compendium of 'weird tales' by James Herbert which I would like to dig out over the weekend, if I remember. I think, like the Lovecraft quote- which I will post at the same time- it makes all of these points very effectively. Yellow Dog by Martin Amis also deals with the same theme.)

If you can get yourself a Blogger ID (or Googlemail account) I will send you an invitation to Battling the Behemoth, assuming you would like one?


Robert Blake said...

I totally understand. My email is Thank you for taking the time to reply so swiftly and eloquently. All the best, Bill

Anonymous said...

Anyone interested in the alchemy of names etc...may be of interest?

These stood out for me...

ANN-ette NICHOLLS (4th victim Ipswich)

Mary ANN NICHOLS(1st Jack Ripper victim)

The day-to-day investigation was conducted by Detective Chief Superintendent Stewart GULL.

Another name from the past JTR case...

Sir William GULL

One time physician of Queen Victoria...and a popular literary suspect. (From Hell outlined this as have other works.)

Interesting synchronicity...I thought.

Oh...and Ben, How do you get access to your invited site...please?