One summer night a blond six-footer in jeans and a black nylon net shirt stood in Club 219 sizing up his prospects. “Hi. I’m Jeff. I like the way you dance,” he said to a muscular black model. A loser’s come-on. But it was the hour of inner beauty in Club 219, that last-chance moment near closing when the lights go up and standards plummet. The model bought it, and the two men wound up in the blond man’s apartment. It was hot that night. The model thought he could smell mildew, and when he looked into the bedroom he saw a mattress stained with dried blood, and a knife with a blue plastic handle. He looked into the blonde’s eyes. His skin crawled. “Boom. Boom,” he now recalls. “I knew and he knew I knew something was wrong.” Precisely. To go home with this stranger could cost you your life. As it happens, the eyes of Jeffrey Dahmer-hazel, placid, almost vacant-project no sinister gleam. If anything, he looks more like a spacey nerd than a serial killer, but murder is his muse!
Jeffrey Dahmer (May 21, 1960 to November 28, 1994) was an American serial killer who took the lives of 17 males between 1978 and 1991. Over the course of more than 13 years, Dahmer sought out men, mostly African-American, at gay bars, malls and bus stops, lured them home with promises of money or sex, and gave them alcohol laced with drugs before strangling them to death. He would then engage in sex acts with the corpses before dismembering them and disposing of them, often keeping their skulls or genitals as souvenirs. He frequently took photos of his victims at various stages of the murder process, so he could recollect each act afterward and relive the experience. At first glance, it is hard to see how anyone could be more-crazy, as John V. Liccione, chief psychologist for the Milwaukee County Mental Health Complex, puts it. “What do you think about a person who kills people and has sex with their dead bodies and eats some of them-do you think he’s nuts?” But psychologists and lawyers are wildly at odds over the mind and culpability of serial killers. Dahmer, was captured in 1991 and sentenced to 16 life terms. Although diagnosed with borderline personality disorder, schizotypal personality disorder and a psychotic disorder, Dahmer was found to be legally sane at his trial. He was killed by fellow prison inmate Christopher Scarver in 1994. The troubling question though that we tend to ask about most serial killers but in this case, Jefferey Dahmer specifically is why? Why did Dahmer commit these heinous crimes the way he did, and why are we so fascinated with him? We all know what he did and how he did it now the troubling question is why?
Jeffrey Dahmer was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin to Lionel and Joyce Dahmer. He was described as an energetic and happy child until the age of 4, when surgery to correct a double hernia seemed to effect a change in the boy. Noticeably subdued, he became increasingly withdrawn following the birth of his younger brother and the family’s frequent moves. By his early teens, he was disengaged, tense and largely friendless. However, he did have one friend Backderf who wrote the book, “My friend Dahmer” he told CNN, “He was a real quiet guy. A lot of people portray him as this weakling who was picked on, but he was a big guy. He worked out with weights, and he was built like a linebacker. He was occasionally picked on a little by the jocks, but even they got wary of him. He kind of moved through the school without raising any notice from teachers. I don’t think any of the adults noticed him, despite how shocking his behavior was. He was able to sink into the shadows, but we noticed him in the way that kids often see things adults don’t see. It didn’t surprise me that he became a serial killer, but he wasn’t my first choice from our class. When I heard the news that a classmate was accused of being a serial killer, Dahmer was my second guess in terms of classmates.” By all accounts Dahmer was a quiet child and not a trouble maker. The only indication of what was to come was a strong interest in animals and their carcasses. When he was young, Dahmer would collect animal carcasses from the side of the road. Later, he would dissect and dismember them. He explained that he wanted to know how each animal “fitted together. Lehr mother to four boys who were playmates of Dahmer told the authorities that, “At the time I knew him, there was something devastating going on in his life and there wasn’t anybody there to help him. I feel bad about that,” she said.” Perhaps the most disturbing thing that Dahmer attempted to accomplish with his victims was to create a permanent, unresisting, submissive sex slave. Dahmer later said that he hated it when partners moved during sex. In an attempt to create a sex slave, Dahmer drilled holes into the heads of two separate victims and poured bleach into their brain cavities. In both cases the experiment was unsuccessful, and Dahmer killed the victims. So why would is he be so motivated by his victim’s submissiveness? In Season Seven of Criminal Minds: “There’s No Place Like Home” – Reid describes that Dahmer was under a delusion in which he was using his victims’ corpses to create young male “sex zombies” that wouldn’t resist his advances. He also mentions how he would keep his victims’ skulls, hearts, and genitalia as souvenirs after killing them, in comparison to how the unsub, Travis James, kept the limbs of his victims. It also seems that Travis took some direct inspiration from Dahmer; both were serial killers who had similar victimologies (Caucasian teenage boys with high-risk lifestyles), would lure their victims to their homes with beer and sex, incapacitated their victims by lacing the drinks they gave them tranquilizers, and dismembered their victims post-mortem and kept some of their body parts. Travis being molested by someone living in the same trailer park as him is an allusion to the claim that Dahmer was molested by a neighbor.
Dahmer’s murders were motivated by powerful abandonment issues rooted in his fear of rejection and loss and a need for control. The murder of his first victim, Steven Hicks, is very exemplary of this: he was killed because he wanted to leave, causing Dahmer to snap and kill him in order to keep him from abandoning him. This clearly explains that with both parents abandoning him due to their divorce, this affected Jeffery negatively thus accounts for his fear of being left again, and the only way to keep his victims with him was by killing them and eating parts of their bodies, as a way of making them become a part of him. He took a kind of sadistic delight in luring them. The cannibalism he practiced, consuming his victims to make them a part of himself, was an extension of his need for power. Like most serial killers, there’s usually detailed fantasies associated in the killing of their victims. Much of the fantasizing is both sexual and sadistic. “The true sadist is enjoying the victims’ suffering,” says Dietz. In his study of 130 victims, he found 58 percent were killed by strangulation–the same method Dahmer reportedly used on most of his captives. Says Dietz: “We’ve known for a long time that strangulation is favored by those who meant the death to be intimate. It requires hands-on contact, and it’s usually done face to face.” There may also be the sick satisfaction of seeing the victim squirm.
Dahmer also claims that his compulsions toward necrophilia and murder began around the age of 14, but it appears that the breakdown of his parents’ marriage and their acrimonious divorce a few years later may have been the catalyst for turning these thoughts into actions. It is not clear what effect the episode had on the youngster, but it is certain that other unhappy events of childhood lingered, chief among them the bitter breakup of his parents’ marriage. Their divorce was granted on July 24, 1978, after each charged the other with “extreme cruelty and gross neglect of duty.” During the divorce, Jeffrey Dahmer was left alone. His mother moved to Wisconsin with his younger brother, David; his father had moved out of the house and he was left with no food, no money and a broken refrigerator. He then developed a habit of drinking.
By the time of his first killing, Dahmer’s alcohol consumption had spun out of control. He dropped out of Ohio State University after one quarter term, and his recently remarried father insisted that he join the Army. Dahmer enlisted in late December 1978, and was posted to Germany shortly thereafter. His drinking problem persisted, and in early 1981, the Army discharged him. The fantasist graduated into a petty criminal. He joined the Army and served a hitch in Germany, only to be discharged for heavy drinking. Back in Milwaukee, working the night shift at the Ambrosia Chocolate Co., Dahmer received a year’s probation in 1986 for exposing himself to two boys. Under “client needs and problems,” his corrections form noted “sexual behavior, emotional behavior, alcohol, financial.” At Club 219 he made friends with a onetime Lutheran minister. “He talked openly about why he shouldn’t be gay, that there was something wrong with it,” the confidant recalls. He told a corrections officer he was thinking of killing himself, saying it was “just a matter of time.”
Instead, Dahmer directed his self-hatred outward. Now no two serial killers are alike, but Dahmer fits the typical silhouette: a white male, smart or even quite intelligent; a kid from a broken home; often a childhood victim of sexual abuse. “They have low esteem and a lifelong sense of loneliness,” says Eric W. Hickey, a criminologist and author of “Serial Murderers and Their Victims.” In later years a probation officer entered in Dahmer’s records, “Father states [Dahmer] had been sexually abused by a neighbor boy at the age of eight.” As a child he was just a loner, and a poor student. Once he sneaked into a yearbook picture of the high school honor society. Catching the trick, an editor erased him from the photo, blotting him from grace with a smudge of ink. A furious Jeff Nobody was born. According to thesis 7 of Cohens monster theory it explains that, “The monster stands at the threshold of . . . becoming. Monsters are our children. We create them, we birth them.” From this quote it’s evident that all these people that hurt and neglected Dahmer turned him into a monster, just like Frankenstein. As seen from these findings it is clear why Dahmer felt so alone, neglected and unwanted. Even being molested by a neighbor boy at such a young age accounts for why his chosen victims had to be males, young, vulnerable, weak and considered minorities. This is because he’s acting out what he experienced when he was young. He was helpless and vulnerable when he got sexually abused and because his parents were always too busy and gave him no attention, this was his only way of dealing with the pain he was suffering inside. Like other serial killers, he dropped a clue to what made him tick in the way he selected his victims. Many serial killers tend to murder types of people they have a grudge against or people who have something in common with them. Most of the men Dahmer killed were dark-skinned gays. At the chocolate factory, people who worked with him remember that he constantly muttered about “niggers.” Yet interracial serial killers are rare. Dahmer may have developed his modus operandi because he thought minorities were weaker, or perhaps because he thought racism could work in his favor. He selected “more disposable” victims, Hickey says, speculating that if Dahmer had been murdering whites, “the killings would probably have gotten police attention much earlier.” The notion is ugly, but at one point a neighbor saw one of Dahmer’s victims, Konerak Sinthasomphone, a 14-year-old from Laos, running naked down an alley. She called the police. The investigating officers, thinking it was only a gay lovers’ spat, returned the boy to Dahmer, who killed and dismembered him. Upon seeing who his victims were and how young they were this leave us to think that his childhood abuser was not only gay but could he possibly be dark-skinned too? This would make a lot of sense given that Dahmer wasn’t able to defend himself from this monster so he grew hating all gay men that reminded him of his sexually abusive neighbor. Knowing he wasn’t able to punish his abuser for what he did to him, he gets his release from hurting and killing gays that reminded him of his neighbor. Of course, this pain never goes away and he wanted his punishment to be more intense each time, so this is why he didn’t stop at his first victim, apparently that was not enough to release his pain and it would never be enough because they were not his neighbor, who I’m sure he’d have more pleasure torturing. “After the fear and terror of what I’d done had left, which took about a month or two, I started it all over again. From then on it was a craving, a hunger, I don’t know how to describe it, a compulsion, and I just kept doing it, doing it and doing it, whenever the opportunity presented itself.”-Dahmer Here it’s evident that he was completely out of control this pain, anger, neglect, resentment, and hurt had consume him and clouded his vision, he couldn’t even stop himself.
Now based on all the difficulties Dahmer faced and experienced as a child it is quite understandable why he became a serial killer, and why he chose his targeted victims. Given all these explanations as to why Dahmer committed all these crimes, this leads to the next question which is, “why are we still so enthralled by him 23 years later? The man is dead and gone, yet his name is still fresh in peoples mouths like a fresh batch of warm sugar cookies from the oven. In the tv series Criminal Minds Dahmers name was mentioned so many times he must be rolling in his grave. “Extreme Aggressor” – Hotch fleetingly mentions that he won’t name his then-unborn son “Jeffrey” because it reminded him of Dahmer. In Season Two: “The Boogeyman” – Dahmer was mentioned by Reid as an example of serial killers who carry out fantasies of revenge upon their victims; Reid also explains how childhood harassment led him to kill. “Fear and Loathing” – Dahmer was mentioned as an example of how charming serial killers can be, with a flashback accompanying the reference. In Season Three: “In Name and Blood” – Milwaukee detective Vic Wolynski was said to have worked on the Dahmer case. At one point, he voices his disgust at people’s morbid fascination with the subject, and claims to have personally seen the horrors in Dahmer’s apartment. In Season Six: “Remembrance of Things Past” – Rossi names the fact that Dahmer didn’t consume all of his victims as an example of cases in which a serial killer deviates from his original signature. “Closing Time” – Reid mentioned how Dahmer would put the genitals of his victims on display, wondering if the current unsub was doing the same thing. “Profiling 101” – Dahmer’s mugshot was among those that appeared in a montage of mugshots of real-life criminals shown by the BAU to a Criminology class. Season Eight: “Pay It Forward” – Dahmer was mentioned as an example of serial killers who go dormant for long periods of time or completely quit, in reference to his nine-year dormancy period after killing Steven Hicks. Season Nine: “To Bear Witness” – Dahmer was brought up when the BAU compared his fantasy of teenage boys and his habit of pouring acid into his victims’ brains to the unsub’s usage of lobotomy on his victim. Season Ten: “X” – Dahmer was mentioned as an example of deranged killers. Season Eleven: “Drive” – Dahmer was mentioned by Reid as an example of serial killers with partialism, a sexual arousal or an exclusive focus on a specific part of the body other than the genitals. “Tribute” – Dahmer was mentioned by Reid as a possible serial killer whose M.O. could be copied by Michael Peterson. Season Twelve: “Taboo” – Dahmer was compared to Stuart Barker, the episode’s unsub, by the BAU and served as a partial inspiration for him. Both performed lobotomies on their victims to affect their frontal lobes and alter their sexuality (though Dahmer wanted to turn it on while Stuart wanted to turn it off), and when those lobotomies were unsuccessful, they disposed of the bodies in containers. “A Good Husband” – Dahmer was mentioned in the episode by Lewis, who describes the episode’s unsub, Mark Tolson, as a mixture of him and Gacy. This appeared to be an accurate description. Like Dahmer, Mark was a psychopathic homosexual whose parents divorced when he was young; he also suffered from abandonment and control issues, had similar victimologies (homosexual Caucasian males), laced the victims’ drinks with sedatives to incapacitate them, and dismembered them (Dahmer did it post-mortem, while Tolson did it ante-mortem). Just a few months after Jeffrey Dahmer’s arrest, The Jeffrey Dahmer Story: An American Nightmare, by Donald A. Davis, was published, in November 1991. The Shrine of Jeffrey Dahmer, by Brian Masters, was published in 1993. Notable films on Dahmer’s life and killing spree include Dahmer, a 2002 biographical film starring Jeremy Renner, and My Friend Dahmer, a 2017 film about Dahmer’s alcoholic pre-killing teenage years based on the 2012 graphic novel of the same name by Derf Backderf. A 2012 documentary, The Jeffrey Dahmer Files, covers the summer of Dahmer’s 1991 arrest. The film The Secret Life: Jeffrey Dahmer was released in 1993. The film stars Carl Crew as Dahmer. The biographical film Dahmer, was released in 2002. This film stars Jeremy Renner in the title role and co-stars Bruce Davison as his father, Lionel. A further film, Raising Jeffrey Dahmer, was released in 2006. This film stars Rusty Sneary as Dahmer and co-stars Scott Cordes as his father, Lionel. This film revolves around the reactions of Dahmer’s parents following his arrest in 1991. In 2012, an independent documentary film, Jeff (also known as The Jeffrey Dahmer Files), premiered at the South by Southwest festival. This film features interviews with Dahmer’s former neighbor, Pamela Bass, Detective Patrick Kennedy, and the city medical examiner, Jeffrey Jentzen. (BOOKS) Backderf, Derf (2012). My Friend Dahmer. Abrams Comic Arts. ISBN 978-1419702174.Dahmer, Dr. Lionel (1994). A Father’s Story. William Morrow. ISBN 978-0-688-12156-3.
The list goes on and on. This serial killer actually became a celebrity! Even all his possessions are all collectible items. In 1996, following Dahmer’s death, a group of Milwaukee businessmen raised more than $400,000 to purchase the items he used for his victims — including blades, saws, handcuffs, hatchet, drill bits, toothbrush, hypodermic needles, and a refrigerator to store body parts. Unbelievable! Why God Why? According to professor Warwick, “Being interested in why other people do things is always being interested in what we’re like ourselves. The projection on to others and the consideration of what that is, it’s absolutely about what we’re like. Are we capable of those things?” We are fascinated by serial killers because we want to be scared by monsters, but what we find is far scarier, and it is what we keep trying to understand but never will: we find people, just like us.
According to author Bonn, the reasons we are fascinated by serial are: First, they are rare in the business of murder with perhaps twenty-five or so operating at any given time in the U.S. They and their crimes are exotic and tantalizing to people much like traffic accidents and natural disasters. Serial killers are so extreme in their brutality and so seemingly unnatural in their behavior that people are drawn to them out of intense curiosity. Second, they generally kill randomly, choosing victims based on personal attraction or random opportunities presented to them. This factor makes anyone a potential victim, even if the odds of ever encountering one are about the same as being attacked by a great white shark. Third, serial killers are prolific and insatiable, meaning that they kill many people over a period of years rather than killing one person in a single impulsive act, which is the typical pattern of murder in the U.S. Fourth, their behavior is seemingly inexplicable and without a coherent motive such as jealousy or rage. They are driven by inner demons that even they may not comprehend. Many people are morbidly drawn to the violence of serial killers because they cannot understand it and feel compelled to. Fifth, they have a visceral appeal for the public similar to monster movies because they provide a euphoric adrenaline rush. Consequently, their atrocity tales in the news and entertainment media are addictive. Finally, they provide a conduit for the public’s most primal feelings such as fear, lust and anger.
To conclude it can be seen how a normal person such as Jeffery Dahmer could be and was turned into a monster. We can never know who serial killers are or will be given that it could be anyone around us, and is usually the last person we’d ever imagine. However, most times we create these monsters and when we do, there’s usually no way to stop them than to eliminate them completely. We fear them so much yet we idolize them and everything about them fascinates us. This leaves me to say we all have something in common!
Bonn, Scott A. Why We Love Serial Killers:The Curious Appeal of the World’s Most Savage Murderers. Skyhorse Publishing, 2014. This book explains why we are so fascinated with serial killers, and I used it as a part of my source of examples to explain why we are fascinated by serial killers.
Cohen, Jeffrey Jerome. “Monster Culture: Seven Theses.” From Monster Theory: Reading Culture. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1996. 3-25. The monster is born only at this metaphoric crossroads, as an embodiment of a certain
cultural moment–of a time, a feeling, and a place. The monster’s body quite literally
incorporates fear, desire, anxiety, and fantasy (attractive or incendiary), giving them life and
an uncanny independence. The monstrous body is pure culture. A construct and a
projection, the monster exists only to be read: the menstruum is etymologically ‘that which
reveals’, that which warns a glyph that seeks a hierophant’ this source was used to better explain how Jeffrey is connected to the monster theory and which thesis applied to him. This source is credible because Jerome Cohen is Professor of English and Director of the Medieval and Early Modern Studies Institute at the George Washington University in Washington, DC. His research examines strange and beautiful things that challenge the imagination, phenomena that seem alien and intimate at once. He is especially interested in what monsters, foreigners, misfits, inhuman forces, objects and matter that won’t stay put reveal about the cultures that dream, fear and desire.
“CNN POLITICS.” CNN, Cable News Network, 28 Feb. 2012, news.blogs.cnn.com/2012/02/28/my-friend-dahmer-looks-at-serial-killer-as-a-troubled-high-school-student/comment-page-5/. This source is an actual interview conducted by CNN with A friend of Jeffrey Dahmers friend who wrote the book “My Friend Dahmer” this is a very credible source given that this is an actual statement given from someone who was close to Dahmer.
“Criminal Minds.” CBS, http://www.cbs.com/shows/criminal_minds/. Criminal Minds is an American crime drama series on the CBS network. The show originally aired on September 22, 2005. I used this source to illustrated how often serial killers like Dahmer are mentioned and how many other killers are mimicking his murderous habits and idolizing him and his bizarre crimes. This source is credible because Criminal Minds was created by Jeff Davis and is produced by the Mark Gordon Company in association with CBS Television Studios and ABC Studios. The show follows the investigative lives of the FBI’s Behavioral Analysis Unit at Quantico, Virginia.
Gelman, D. and P. Rogers. “The Secrets of Apt. 213.” Newsweek, vol. 118, no. 6, 05 Aug. 1991, p. 40. EBSCOhost, chaffey.idm.oclc.org/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=9108051324&site=ehost-live. This source include details of the gruesome find in Milwaukee that spotlights the bizarre world of serial killers. Milwaukee police discovered the remains of what could be as many as eleven men in a grubby apartment belonging to Jeffrey Dahmer, 31. Deep anger; Sexual fantasy. INSET: Killing patterns.;. it also helps to explain the various patterns, and fantasies associated with these gruesome murders.
“Jeffrey Dahmer.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 3 Dec.2017,en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jeffrey_Dahmer. Wikipedia is a live collaboration differing from paper-based reference sources in important ways. I used this source to get more background information on my serial killer. This source is credible because unlike printed encyclopedias, Wikipedia is continually created and updated, with articles on historic events appearing within minutes, rather than months or years.
Mathews, T. and K. Springen. “Secrets of a Serial Killer. (Cover Story).” Newsweek, vol. 119, no. 5, 03 Feb. 1992, p. 44. EBSCOhost, chaffey.idm.oclc.org/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=9202031571&site=ehost-live. This source profiles serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer. Gruesome details of his killings; Dahmer’s upcoming trial; Questions whether society has adequate ways of handling people like Dahmer; Worries concerning televised coverage of the trial; How `Newsweek’ magazine reconstructed the life of a serial killer etc.
Simpson, Philip L. “Of Men and Monsters (Book).” Journal of American & Comparative Cultures, vol. 23, no. 1, Spring2000, p. 107. EBSCOhost, chaffey.idm.oclc.org/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=5886618&site=ehost-live. This source Reviews the book ‘Of Men and Monsters: Jeffrey Dahmer and the Construction of the Serial Killer,’ by Richard Tithecott. I will be using this source in my analysis as it uses specific examples of the various media representations of serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer as a means by which to examine the larger issue of America’s fascination with serial murders.
“The Dahmer Collection.” Newsweek, vol. 127, no. 19, 06 May 1996, p. 6. EBSCOhost, chaffey.idm.oclc.org/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=9604297775&site=ehost-live. Reports that a Wisconsin judge is allowing the sale of the estate items of serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer. Items on sale including sledgehammers and drill bits; Other details including how the proceeds will go to his victims’ families. This source serve to explain how important even a serial killers possessions are after they pass away.