There’s Even a Term for People Attracted to Monsters
Women attracted to monsters like the Night Stalker are commonly referred to as “prison groupies”. However, there is a psychological term for what draws them to monsters: hybristophilia. It describes a paraphilia – an intense attraction to unusual objects, situations, fantasies, behaviors, or people – centered around people who commit crimes. The term combines the Greek words hubrizein, or the infliction of outrages upon others, and philo, a strong affinity or preference for something. For hybristophiliacs, arousal and orgasm are facilitated by, and are sometimes exclusively contingent upon, a partner known to have committed dark deeds.
Hybristophilia explains the copious amounts of fan mail that are sent to high profile evil prisoners like Richard Ramirez – correspondence that is often amorous or physically intimate in nature. The hybristophliacs who send such mail are attracted to and turned on by such monsters precisely because of the vile acts that they had committed – acts that repel most normal people. Some macabre admirers – as actually happened twice in the case of the Night Stalker – go on to marry or become affianced to the objects of their affection in prison. Another serial killer, Jeffrey Dhamer, had amorous women send him letters, gifts, money, and proposals of marriage – despite the fact that he was a homosexual.
Charles Sobhraj (1944 – ), who became infamous as “The Hippie Trail Killer”, was a Frenchman of Vietnamese and Indian origins. In his childhood, he frequently moved back and forth between France and Indochina. At an early age, he became a delinquent and took to petty crimes. Sobhraj did his first prison stint at age eighteen, for burglary. A manipulative psychopath, he met and endeared himself to a rich prison volunteer, who introduced him to high society after his release. Sobhraj used that access to the rich to enrich himself in turn. He scammed his new upper class friends and acquaintances, and scouted their homes to burglarize them.
Legal troubles eventually forced Sobhraj to flee France with his girlfriend in 1970 to avoid arrest. The couple travelled through Eastern Europe with fake documents, robbed tourists along the way, and eventually ended up in India. In India, Sobhraj ran a car theft and smuggling ring until 1973, when he was arrested for an attempted robbery of a jewelry store. He managed to escape, however, and fled to Afghanistan. There, Sobhraj and his girlfriend began to prey on tourists along the “Hippie Trail”. An overland route between Europe and South Asia, the Hippie Trail was popular with Hippies and Beatniks between the 1950s and 1970s. Sobhraj became the scariest stalker on that route.
Hippies Who Befriended This Dude Were in for a Scary Surprise
Charles Sobhraj’s girlfriend eventually left him and returned to France. He carried on with a variety of criminal schemes. One of them, in which partnered with his partner, backfired and left his sibling locked up behind bars to serve an eighteen year sentence in a Turkish prison. From then on, Sobhraj’s crimes grew steadily darker, and he began to pile up the bodies of murder victims all along the Hippie Trail. It is believed that he murdered at least twenty Western tourists, but the actual body count is thought by many to be significantly higher.
In 1976, Charles Sobhraj was finally undone when he tried to drug a group of French tourists in India. Fortunately for them, he miscalculated the dosage. His victims became violently ill, but were still conscious enough to realize what Sobhraj had tried to do. They managed to overpower and seize him, until police arrived. Thai authorities sought his extradition for a murder committed there – which likely would have earned him a death sentence. However, Indian authorities decided to try him for lesser crimes committed on Indian soil, first. Found guilty of a variety of offenses, Sobhraj was imprisoned, but he escaped in 1986 after he drugged his guards.
Charles Sobhraj was recaptured a month after he escaped. That led many to speculate that the escape had been a deliberate attempt to get extra jail time for escape tacked on to his sentence. With the extra jail time, Sobhraj remained in an Indian prison until 1997, after the 20 years statute of limitations for his crimes in Thailand had expired. Thus, he could no longer be extradited to face a potential death penalty in Thailand. While behind bars, Sobhraj managed to keep himself in the public eye and maintain his celebrity status. While imprisoned in India, he charged a bundle for interviews with journalists, and an even bigger bundle to sell his Indian movie rights.
India had no “Son of Sam” laws to prevent criminals from profiting from the celebrity that arose from their crimes, so Sobhraj presumably managed to keep those earnings. After his release from prison in 1997, he returned to Paris. There, he enjoyed a celebrity lifestyle, and reportedly sold his international movie rights for U$ 15 million. His freedom did not last long, however: he unwisely travelled to Nepal in 2003. When the authorities learned of his presence on their soil, they arrested him for a 1975 double murder committed in Nepal. He was convicted, and received a life sentence. As of the fall of 2022, an elderly Charles Sobhraj was still locked up in a Nepalese prison.
Where Did We Find This Stuff? Some Sources and Further Reading