It was one of the most bizarre criminal cases of the early 20th century.
In September 1901, following complaints from his neighbours of an unpleasant odor coming from the attic of the house that he shared with his common-law wife and son, the owner of the house, Honore Ardisson, blamed the smell on garbage that had likely been deposited there by his wife. Climbing up to the attic to investigate, he stumbled upon the body of a young girl lying on straw. Due to the dim light, Honore believed that it was a wild animal and promptly struck the body with a shovel. After realizing what he had really done, Honore promptly called the police. In their investigation police found assorted body parts as well as various religious items that had been stolen from the local graveyard. While Honore was briefly detained (it was his house, after all), he was released after his son Victor made a full confession.
Still, the gendarmes of the peaceful village of Le Muy in southeastern France quickly realized that Victor Ardisson wasn't the kind of petty criminal they usually dealt with. As the lurid details of his crimes unfolded, the bizarre case of the "Vampire of Muy" soon became international news. Having discovered that he had disinterred and had sex with numerous bodies of recently deceased women, Victor was charged with multiple counts of necrophilia and abuse of corpse. Though already having a local reputation for odd behaviour, including inappropriate behaviour towards many of the village women, it took a formal forensic examination by some of France's most prominent medical experts to explore the full range of his bizarre sexual appetites.
Born in Le Muy in 1872, Victor's true father was completely unknown though his mother later married Honore Ardisson who raised Victor as his own son. It was not a good childhood for Victor though. As Honore would later testify, Victor's mother was frequently abusive and once struck her son in the head with enough force to cause long-term problems with his mental functioning. Some medical authorities even speculated that this may have led to his later bizarre behaviour. Though his mother soon left home leaving him for Honore to raise, Victor's childhood wasn't much better afterward.
Honore Ardisson had a history of petty crime and generally had a poor reputation in the village which influenced the kind of treatment his adopted son received. Though Victor was sent to school, he had significant learning problems and was often laughed at by the other children. They gave him the nickname of Nigno (boobie) and he had a particularly lonely existence. Once he hit puberty and became sexually active, the problem grew even worse. He often chased after the girls in Le Muy but they usually laughed when they rejected him. His bizarre behaviour began to surface as he often followed the girls to where they urinated and became fond of licking the urine up afterward. The only sexual liasons he was ever able to maintain was with the beggars that Honore brought home who had agreed to sex in exchange for food or shelter.
It was with these sexual partners that Victor first began showing many of the qualities that would earn him the name of "Vampire of Muy". He was often fond of sucking their breasts and clitorises though there was no indication that he forced himself on any of the women Honore had provided. His fascination with women's breasts, along with his tendency towards public masturbation gave him a reputation as a local pervert.
In spite of how the locals felt about him, Victor still managed to have a history of sporadic employment, mostly doing general labour for local masons. Since the amount of construction was limited in a town the size of Le Muy, this also meant that he was out of work frequently. Though he enlisted as a soldier, his military career was particularly undistinguished and he was frequently abused by his fellow soldiers. After deserting several times, he was eventually discharged and returned home to Le Muy where life went on much as it had before.
Everything changed in 1882 when the old gravedigger died and the job was taken over by Honore and Victor. Honore didn't last long in the job after an incident in which he injured his foot when he fell into an open grave. His fright after this experience meant that Victor became the sole gravedigger for Le Muy though he didn't last long either. Still, with only a handful of deaths each month, this wasn't a particularly lucrative job and Victor likely earned more doing general labour. He certainly had a lot of free time on his hands and his growing sexual appetites proved to be his undoing.
It was about this time that a local girl died and Victor became fixated on her. One night, he dug up her corpse and attempted to have sex with it. He would have carried the body away but decided it was too heavy so he left it at the scene. Though authorities later noticed the grave had been disturbed, they examined further and concluded that the body had been untouched. From that point on, Victor became obsessed with finding new bodies to dig up. Since there were few burials in Le Muy, he is believed to have gone to other cemeteries as well and there is some evidence that he was into necrophilia while he was still in the army.
Security was never a problem even though the gate to the Le Muy graveyard was supposed to be kept locked at night. When Honore was still the official gravedigger, Victor simply used his key to open the gate. Even when he didn't have the key, Victor simply climbed over the low wall surrounding the graveyard whenever he wanted to enter.
As Victor would later state, he became obsessed with all the details surrounding the deaths of likely females, including cause of death. In one case, he refused to dig up a body when he learned that she had had a leg amputated due to cancer. Otherwise, age didn't matter to him at all. They could have have been as young as three or as old as sixty. Though he would have preferred to take the bodies home with him, they were often too heavy and he contented himself with having sex with the corpse after opening the grave. He often tried to speak with the corpse and would later say that he had been surprised when they didn't answer.
But there would be even more unsavory revelations to come.
To be continued.