The Strange Case of Tristan Bruebach and Manfred Seel

I first learned about Tristan Bruebach on Reddit’s Unresolved Mysteries about two years ago.  The case of the thirteen year old boy brutally murdered in a water tunnel that ran under a roadway was so outrageous and upsetting that it surprised me that it had not filtered out to English-speaking true crime buffs.  Tristan’s murder had elements that initially reminded me of The Family murders in Australia, but I’d never seen all the elements of Tristan Bruebach’s murder anywhere else.  It was a crime that to me was very much sui generis, and later analysis from German investigators echoed my opinion.  Nowhere on Earth have we seen another murder like Tristan’s.

I don’t have a lot of time for Reddit these days but I go back from time to time and I somehow managed to visit Unresolved Mysteries on the same day last year when someone posted that the police had a suspect in the murder of Tristan Bruebach.  Eager to learn the motives behind the murder, I read up on the suspect – Manfred Seel – and was initially very skeptical.  The investigation into Manfred Seel itself seemed odd to me.  Seel is accused of murdering two female coworkers in the 1970s, two female prostitutes in the 1990s, another female prostitute in the 2000s, and school boy Tristan in 1998.  It was hard to see how this one man could be linked to murders of two women he worked with, then have 20 years of inactivity followed by two murders of prostitutes, with a gap of several years until he killed Tristan.  The time frame is problematic, and the killings involved vastly different victim pools.

As mentioned already, Tristan’s murder was very unusual.  More on that later but it can be said that it’s not unexpected that a killer who preys on female coworkers is a different killer than a man who selects prostitutes as victims, and both killers would be different than a person who kills pre-pubescent boys.  As I began reading about Manfred Seel I found myself surprised because the more I read, the more I could understand how it is that the German police reached the conclusions they did.  I am unsure if I wholly buy that Seel murdered Tristan, but the authorities make a compelling case and I hope eventually more information comes to light.

Originally I thought I was going to be writing about how stupid I found the accusations pinning Seel as Tristan’s killer but after spending a couple of months scouring the Internet, whether or not I think Seel is responsible for Tristan’s murder is irrelevant.  Even if Seel is not Tristan’s killer, the fact is that now both names are linked together – it’s hard to discuss Tristan without discussing Seel.  It’s even harder for me to discuss Seel without discussing Tristan.  Tristan’s case is bizarre and what happened to him, and later his family, is tragic.  His case was marred with misinformation about his life, salacious rumors that were, irritatingly, repeated by the German press without a lick of proof, and even brought up in the Reddit thread about Tristan.  Seel’s story is similarly strange, with unexpected behaviors, foul deeds and even fouler implications.

Obtaining all this information was difficult because so much of it is in the German language.  In the end, I was pretty impressed at how much Google Translate has improved over the years, but it’s daunting for English-speakers who are just casually interested in the case to tackle all those news articles and to sort the good from the bad, to find articles that have fresh news and aren’t just a retelling of older information, updated with a bit of new information tacked on at the end.  Since I spent so long sorting and reading, I decided to write about Tristan Bruebach and Manfred Seel, source cite as much as I could, and share the links I found to news stories that were helpful and brought understanding to both stories.  Maybe this can serve as a small clearinghouse of information about the case for English-speaking readers.  In this article I’ve included citation numbers correlating to the source that I got specific information from, and when you scroll down to these sources, I’ve included the English Google Translation for each article originally in German.

Under the cut I will discuss Tristan, Seel, Seel’s other victims and interesting information German profilers and investigators used to track down victims who were killed over 40 years ago.  Please know that much of the information under the cut is disturbing.  Extreme sexual deviancy, child murder, dismemberment, rape, potential cannibalism and possible necrophilia show up in telling Tristan’s and Seel’s stories.  If any of this bothers you, don’t read any further.

The Necrophiliac by Gabrielle Wittkop

This post originally appeared on I Read Odd Books

Book: The Necrophiliac

Author: Gabrielle Wittkop

Type of Book: Fiction, necrophilia

Why Do I Consider This Book Odd: Self-explanatory, I think.

Availability: Published by ECW Press in 2011, you can get a copy here:

Comments:   Finally!  A new book to satisfy the imaginations of all the people who land on my site via Google searches for “necrophilia!”  Not being flippant because there are a surprising number of you.  I was directed to this book by a commenter to this site, “Bad Tara.”  Tara is not a big fan of Peter Sotos and recommended this book as an example of the literature she believes to be truly sexually transgressive. (When I look back on what I’ve read these last few months, I realize that for me this was the Summer of Sexual Deviance.  It was not intentional, but my reviews are going to be a bit perverse for a bit.  Just a heads up.)

I have to admit that I was completely surprised by this book.  When I was a young woman I had a definite affinity for the gothic, especially the gothic obsession with death and decay.  Poe and Baudelaire were favorites for me, as were Flannery O’Connor and Shirley Jackson.  I read plenty of splatter, too, just foulness for the sake of foulness, but it was not until I read the book Exquisite Corpse by Poppy Z. Brite that I experienced a true marriage of splatter with a love of the Word. (Poppy Z. Brite now lives as a transgendered man, Billy Martin, so while I will call him “Brite” as I discuss his earlier work, I also will use male pronouns.)

Brite created a Southern Gothic splatter that pushed boundaries so far that it took me a long time to understand what I thought of the book.  He borrowed from serial killer culture and used the creepiness in New Orleans to excellent advantage, but the most important element of this book to me was that, aside from a far too early brush with Hubert Selby, it was the first literary wallow I ever read.  As so many of my extreme horror discussions here indicate, good extremity is rare, so while I had read lots of extremity, I had never read extremity as good and purposeful as Exquisite Corpse.  Brite’s novel, about a Dahmer/Nilsen-like desire by killers to keep a corpse with them for as long as they could, employed every sense as he wrote about evisceration and necrophilia.  The tactile experience of intestines in the hands, the sweet, cloying smell of rot, the visceral sensation of, well, viscera – it was all fabulously crafted.  Murder, necrophilia and corpse desecration read with a sickening beauty.  The novel was deeply disturbing on almost every level, which made my enjoyment of the gorgeous decadence all the more questionable to me.  Think about it – what does it say about you when you admit, “This depiction of a terrible murder, evisceration and subsequent decomposition of a raped corpse was some of the most sensual prose I’ve read?”

Lucky for me that was two decades ago and the Internet came along and made everything far less shocking.  But there was no avoiding that Brite’s prose was sensual, a delicious wallow in the forbidden and revolting.  Exquisite Corpse is beautiful because of the revelation that the horrible can be so very beautiful and emotionally satisfying.  It’s the book version of casu marzu and balut.  It’s a delicacy, and that which is a delicacy is often that which is the most outrageous, harmful, foul or upsetting, when you consider all the details.

While The Necrophiliac is not so sensual, not so visceral, had I not read Exquisite Corpse all those years ago, I might not have had a proper frame work for Wittkop’s book.  What I know of necrophilia doesn’t lend itself well to romantic looks at those whose love for the dead extends beyond a sexual compulsion.  The Molly Parker film, Kissed, touched on the subject of romantic necrophilia, but it was very artsy and refined, never really discussing the cold, messy realities of loving the dead.  The grotesque story of Dr. Carl Tanzler, who stole the dead body of a young woman who had died of tuberculosis, mummified it and equipped it with a special “channel” so he could have sex with her for seven years, comes close.  But it wasn’t like Tanzler loved all the dead – rather, he was obsessed and fixated on one specific body.  He didn’t want to make love to corpses.  He wanted to make love to this young woman and, since he could not have her in life, he had her in death.

Necrophilia Variations as read by Stoya

This post originally appeared on I Read Odd Books

I am way late to the party on this one but being out of commission is no excuse to let it go without comment.

I noticed that out of nowhere my most popular search string was “necrophilia variations,” which is awesome, though unexpected. Supervert is one of my favorite writers. In a just world, he should always lead my search strings, but alas, we do not live in a just world. But this piqued my curiosity and I checked my referrer links and found a couple of places wherein people were posting links to my discussion of Necrophilia Variations. With the assistance of Google Translate (for both sites were in Russian – dirty.ru, indeed) I was able to piece together why Russians were talking about this short story collection.

This is why. Porn actress Stoya reads from the story, “Confessions of a Skull Mask.” It is a titillating read, for reasons you will discover if you watch the video. I must warn you, however, that this video has such low volume you will need headphones and that it is not safe for work.

But warnings aside, it is wonderful and you should watch it and listen to it. And when you are finished, go buy a copy of Necrophilia Variations, if you don’t have one already. It is a wonderful book.

Join hands and sing out loud, “We all die.”

Necrophilia Variations by Supervert

This post originally appeared on I Read Odd Books

Book: Necrophilia Variations

Author: Supervert

Type of Book: Fiction, short stories, necrophilia

Why I Consider This Book Odd: Well, the author goes by the moniker Supervert. That is what I like to call a clue. Also, necrophilia. Yeah. Necrophilia.

Availability: Published by Supervert, Inc. in 2005, you can get a copy here:

Comments: Finally! A book that I consider eros and thanatos. All the books recommended to me as being eros and thanatos were all thanatos and no eros. Or the eros was so bizarre that I had no chance of relating to it. I am thrilled to finally read a book that contains both to equal degrees. I am surely no necrophile (which it annoys me even to have to say but if I don’t, I will get e-mails from people wondering if I am because I read this book and am talking about it) but I spend a fair amount of time photographing cemeteries, so in many senses, I understand the appeal. Death holds a quietness and a comfort – remembrance and the very real sense that the worst has happened and you have nothing left to worry about.

You pick up a book that is called Necrophilia Variations, and it is safe to assume all the stories are going to be about having sex with the dead. But Necrophilia Variations, while it does include tales of sex with dead people, is more a collection of stories of people dealing with the confluence between sex and death. The notion of le petit mort is an idea that is not new, yet the idea that the sex impulse is closely linked to death is hard for many to swallow. Though visionaries and poets, like Baudelaire, Rimbaud and Mirbeau, have tread this ground before, it is refreshing to see these sorts of ideas written by a modern for moderns. Heartbreaking, sickening, humorous – this short story collection pushes boundaries, and does not just push them for the sake of pushing, as I felt was the case when I read Bataille’s Story of the Eye (a book I am willing now to say I simply did not get and likely never will).

The stories have merit, the ideas are intriguing. This really is intellectual eros and thanatos, not grotesque splatter for those who like lots of excessive violence with their sex (not that there is anything wrong with that, but too often it comes off clownish, an attempt by certain authors to one-up each other in the gross out factor – this book is not that sort of thing).

The book begins with a quote from Baudelaire: “It is one of the considerable privileges of art that the horrible can be transformed, through artful expression, into beauty.” I am unsure if it is because I have been immersed in the outre for so long that I don’t consider this book to be much in the way of horrible, or if Supervert managed to make the horrible so beautiful that I did not see it for what it was, but there is a lot of beauty, emotion and depth to these short stories. Overall, this is an excellent collection.

Here are some of the stories I liked best:

Shrouded by Carol Anne Davis

This post originally appeared on I Read Odd Books

Book Title: Shrouded

Author: Carol Anne Davis

Why I Consider This Book Odd: Davis deals with a taboo subject – necrophilia – in an intricately and at times outrageously plotted novel. Readers with triggers should also be aware that this novel deals with terrible child abuse, murder and has elements of rape.

Type of Book: Fiction, novel

Availability: Written in 1997 and published by Bloodlines, this book was reissued in 2006 by Snowbooks and is still in print. You can find a copy of this book easily by clicking the following affiliate link: Shrouded

Comments: While this book is outrageous in many respects, it is not as visceral as some other books that deal with necrophilia, like Exquisite Corpse by Poppy Z. Brite, an excellent novel in its own right. While the plot developments at time seem extremely unlikely and the ending is rushed, this book is still worth a read. Davis nails her protagonist’s descent into madness in a manner that only Ruth Rendell could have managed more deftly. And when the plot isn’t beggaring belief, the depictions of human frailty and the extremities of the human psyche make this book quite interesting indeed.

Rest of review under the jump. There are incomplete spoilers so be warned.