Being from Wisconsin, I have always been interested in Jeffrey Dahmer, a morbidly fascinating man who committed such horrible yet intriguing crimes so close to my home. He operated in Milwaukee, mostly before my time but still close to home, which makes it even more terrifying than if his grisly crimes had been committed on the other side of the country. Wisconsin, in fact, is home to many famous serial killers: Dahmer, Ed Gein (a.k.a. “Leatherface,” and the inspiration for The Texas Chainsaw Massacre), Walter Ellis… the list goes on and on. But there has always been something about Dahmer over all the others that has piqued my interest, and the interest of many others, fellow Wisconsinites or not. Maybe it is the whole cannibalism aspect, although there are plenty of other captivating facts to know about the young man, any of which would keep a person’s interest alive. His age alone, when you think about the nature of his killings, is fascinating. His reign of terror ended with his capture and arrest 25 years ago this year.
Given that a new movie about him is being released next year, I thought it’d be a good time to brush up on our Jeffrey Dahmer trivia, and have found 17 wild tidbits for you to be intrigued by and learn about him.
What I learned in that class, and what most people know, is this: Dahmer focused his gruesome sights on men who were mostly gay and African-American. His modus operandi was to pick them up at gay bars, malls, and bus stops, lure them home, lace their drinks, and then strangle them to death. Afterward, he performed sex acts with the corpses, dismembered them, sometimes skinned them, and kept souvenirs. But this is common knowledge. There is so much more to know for those who are brave enough to read on.
So just in time for Halloween, and for the upcoming movie, I bring you these 17 crazy, little-known facts about one of the most morbidly compelling serial killers in our country’s history, Jeffrey Lionel Dahmer.
17. The Presence Of Racial Issues
People do not often think about the racial subtext that Jeffrey Dahmer’s murders bring up, but they really do, if you think about it. His killings have been analyzed over and over again in terms of race. This is because while Dahmer was white, most of his victims were anything but. Like I said before, they were mostly African American, but not all of them were. One of his victims was a 14-year-old Laotian boy who became his 13th victim after first escaping from his apartment. Sadly, after the police were called by two men who found him, Dahmer fooled the cops by saying the boy was his 19-year-old lover. The boy, named Konerak Sinthasomphone was rambling incoherently, and the police took Dahmer’s word over the two black teenagers’. This was later seen as an example of how authorities can be influenced by racial biases.
The racial tensions continued during his trial. Given that the majority of Dahmer’s victims were African American, the trial proceeded with strict security precautions, including an eight-foot barrier of bulletproof glass that separated him from the gallery. There was only one black person on the entire jury, which provoked further unrest, but it was contained and short-lived. Ironically, when Dahmer died in prison a few years later, his killer was a black man.
16. He Was A U.S. Army Medic
Surprised? I was. Who would ever think that someone who is supposed to be saving lives (and probably did save some lives during his time in the Army) would one day become a serial killer? Dahmer served as a medic in the Army for two years, which is not very long, but it is still shocking to me that he was in the Army at all, much less as a doctor of sorts. The Army is prestigious, heroic, and an honor to be a part of, and I highly doubt that anyone would choose those words to describe Jeffrey Dahmer (then again, maybe they would; see number three on this list). Even so, an Army medic he was, that is until he was discharged. When he was, it was as the rank of Private First Class (PFC). He served from January 1979 when he was 19 years old, until March 1981.
15. All Because Of A Surgery?
Jeffrey Dahmer was described as an “energetic and happy child” until around the age of four. At this time, he underwent surgery to correct a double hernia, and after that, everything changed. He was like a different person, suddenly subdued and increasingly withdrawn. This new behavior only increased after the birth of his younger brother and the Dahmer family’s numerous moves. By the time he reached his teen years, Jeffrey was disengaged and a loner. According to Dahmer himself, his preoccupation with necrophilia began when he was 14, although his parents’ nasty, bitter divorce a few years later is thought to be the catalyst that really turned his secret compulsions into deadly actions, as if something in him snapped. I can see how that makes sense, but I know a ton of people with divorced parents and bad situations, and none of them turned into psychopaths (then again, none of them had the predisposition for liking necrophilia, either).
14. Grandma’s House
Would you be shocked to learn that Dahmer committed some of his murders, tortures, dismemberments, weird sexual acts, and cannibalism at his grandmother’s house? It’s true. At one point during his young life, he had gone to live with his grandmother after his discharge from the Army and an arrest that same year for disorderly conduct. So his father sent him to live with her in Wisconsin (he grew up in Ohio). But it wasn’t long before the old woman tired of her grandson’s late nights and excessive drinking, although she had no clue what he was really doing down in her basement. Finally, in 1988 she forced him to move out. He had killed three men at her residence, one of whom was an aspiring model who he also drugged, strangled, sodomized, photographed, dismembered, and disposed of on her property. I cannot imagine what the poor woman was feeling when she found all of this out later on, and frankly, I am shocked that she did not die of a heart attack upon learning of it.
13. Multiple Close Calls
There were several times Dahmer was almost caught, and just barely got away (bet the cops involved felt so bad later on!). He was arrested and in police custody at various times throughout the 1980’s for many different crimes, including the aforementioned disorderly conduct. Other indiscretions of Dahmer’s include indecent exposure when two boys accused him of masturbating in front of them in 1986. For that one he received a one year probationary sentence. For an encounter with another Laotian boy, this one 13-years-old and the cousin of the 14-year-old Dahmer killed, he was charged with sexual exploitation and second-degree sexual assault, to which he pled guilty, claiming the boy looked much older. Then of course, there was the boy’s cousin, who we already talked about, and who literally was speaking to police (or trying to, with the help of the teenaged boys who found him), only to have them believe Dahmer’s lie about his age, their relationship, and the situation. Then Dahmer killed him after the police left (they “looked around” the apartment, but failed to thoroughly check the bedroom, in which the body of 31-year-old Tony Hughes lay, having been killed a few days prior). Dahmer also got stopped by police for suspicion of drunken driving with his first victim, 18-year-old Steven Hicks, in his truck. But Dahmer passed the sobriety test and was let go. Can you imagine how many lives would have been saved if he had been arrested that day, the day of his first murder, instead of being let go?
12. He Progressed His Rituals Over Time
As time went on, over the 13 years that Dahmer was actively killing, he fine-tuned his rituals so that they were “perfected.” At least, they were perfect according to him. He spent time experimenting with different chemicals that aided in the disposal of human bodies, and as we know, he often consumed parts of his victims. For example, he ate biceps. He performed crude lobotomies by drilling into the skulls of these men whilst they were still alive. He also injected them with muriatic acid, which is essentially hydrochloric acid, turning them to mush. Finally, Dahmer improved his meticulous selection process, so that he chose men on the fringes of society, whom no one would miss, or even notice were gone. These men were often wanderers, gypsies of a sort who had no significant ties to the local community, or perhaps any community, at all. Drifters, travelers, vagabonds. And obviously, his “process” of said selection worked. Dahmer, while depraved and evil, was no dummy. Which brings me to…
11. His Impressive I.Q.
Serial killers have a very high I.Q. They can use their intelligence in a variety of ways to plan, execute, and ultimately get away with murder by evading law enforcement. They are able to keep their identity a secret, some even while toying with detectives as if they want to be caught. It is like a game to them. Well, Dahmer did not “tease” the police, but he did have a very high I.Q., which probably did help him avoid capture for so many years. Reports on his exact I.Q. differ, but all agree he was more intelligent than the average person, by a lot. Psychiatrists and legal experts estimated his I.Q. to be around 145, which is bordering on genius status. Another source, the book The Quest for Nazi Personality, says his I.Q. was only 121, which is still considered superior. Either way, the average human is said to have an I.Q. of around 100, and whether 145 or 121 or anything in between, Dahmer was, unfortunately, a very smart man. His victims were most likely average people and thus not nearly as intelligent, though how much that would have really mattered given the circumstances (being lured and drugged) is debatable.
10. He Left 3 Surviving Victims
…Although I am sure it was not his intention to do so. One of these survivors ended up being the reason Dahmer was finally caught. The three men were Ronald Douglas Flowers, Jr. in or around 1988, Somsack Sinthasomphone (the Laotian boy’s cousin) also in 1988, and Tracy Edwards (pictured above) in 1991. His last assaultee, Tracy Edwards, would have been his 18th victim, but on July 22, 1991, he miraculously escaped after being held against his will for five whole hours, and this time, unlike Konerak Sinthasomphone, it did not end well for Jeffrey Dahmer. Previously that evening, Edwards had joined Dahmer, whom he was friendly with, in his apartment after a promise of $100 to pose nude for photos. But things took a turn for the worse when Dahmer handcuffed him near a fish tank and produced a large knife. Luckily for Edwards, he did manage to escape (by hitting Dahmer in the head) and God knows how many people were spared by him doing so. However, much later on in 2011, Edwards himself was charged with homicide. This, after a years-long rap sheet including sexual assault, drug possession, theft, property damage, failure to pay child support, and bail jumping. Edwards was found guilty for his role in the drowning death of one Johnny Jordan, and was sentenced with both jail time and a fine.
9. A Disney Star Will Play Him In The 2017 Movie
There have been multiple films made about the curious man we know as Jeffrey Dahmer, but the latest one is set to be released next year. It is about his high school years, and based on the graphic novel of the same name by Derf Backderf, who was a classmate of Dahmer’s. It stars Anne Heche, Vincent Kartheiser, Dallas Roberts, and Disney star Ross Lynch as Jeffrey Dahmer. Ross is known for his role in the Disney Channel show Austin and Ally, which he has been a part of since 2011. The 20-year-old actor has a squeaky clean repertoire with the Disney Channel, so this is a whole new, very creepy world for him, and could potentially gain him a new audience. Many sources are calling Ross a “weirdly perfect” choice to play the serial killer, and although it is a very dark role, people seem to think his resemblance to Dahmer is “frightening.” I think he can pull it off, but I would not call it “frightening.” Hopefully his portrayal of Dahmer will be more complex and compelling than was Jeremy Renner’s back in 2002 in the movie called, appropriately, Dahmer.
8. What They Found In His Apartment…
When Dahmer was finally caught after his 13-year murder spree, investigating officers found several horrific things in Apartment 213 on North 25th Street in Milwaukee, all obvious evidence of his gruesome activities. They found body parts belonging to 11 different people, including a head in the refrigerator, three more in the freezer (as well as various other “meat”), preserved and painted skulls, and jars containing genitalia. They first searched his apartment after Tracy Edwards’ escape. Edwards had told them there was a knife in Dahmer’s bedroom, and upon searching for it to corroborate his story, the officer noticed photographs lying around of dismembered bodies and other macabre images. The officers subdued Dahmer upon seeing this, and searched the rest of his apartment, where the ghastly evidence was discovered. To think, if they had only listened to those teenagers that had found the Laotian boy, and searched the evil man’s lair sooner…
7. The Devil’s Luck
There are many superstitions involving the supposedly unlucky number 13, as we know, two of them being Friday the 13th and buildings not having a 13th floor. One very bizarre superstition I read about that some people believe is called The Devil’s Luck, and if true, it would definitely apply to Jeffrey Dahmer. Old legend says that if you have 13 letters in your name you will suffer the “devil’s luck.” Similarly, conspiracy theorists take it a step further and postulate that most murderers have 13 letters in their names. Jeffrey Dahmer certainly does. It is peculiar when you consider other infamous serial killers, such as Albert DeSalvo (the Boston Strangler), Charles Manson, Aileen Wuornos, Saddam Hussein, Osama bin Laden, Theodore Bundy, and Jack the Ripper, who all do have 13-letter names. Eerie, isn’t it? But then again, Ed Gein, Joel Rifkin, and David Berkowitz do not have 13 letters in their names, and Mahatma Gandhi, Shirley Temple, Nelson Mandela, and Susan B. Anthony do. But there is definitely something to think about with this kooky superstition. By the way, Dahmer lived in Apartment 13.
6. The Exorcist Connection
Many people are aware that (somewhat eerily) Jeffrey Dahmer’s favorite movies were the first three films of The Exorcist franchise. Tracy Edwards, Dahmer’s almost-victim who escaped and turned him in, said that after he had handcuffed him, the two sat on the edge of the bed in Dahmer’s room and watched The Exorcist III, and that Dahmer was chanting and rocking back and forth in a trance-like state (that’s when he hit him in the head and escaped). Creepy. But Dahmer and The Exorcist movies have more in common than Dahmer simply being a fan of them. As in The Exorcist III, Dahmer killed near a Catholic university (Marquette in Wisconsin, The Exorcist killer near Georgetown in Washington, D.C.), and like the serial killer from the movie, Dahmer too killed 17 people. He said in his confession that he felt the killer in the movie was driven by evil, and that he could relate to that because he felt he was driven by evil as well. He had bought a video cassette of these films and watched them two to three times a week for six months. No matter how much he emulated that killer though, it is extra disturbing that they share the magic number, 17. Dahmer could not have planned that, and would not have wanted to stop there.
5. Guilty But Insane
At his trial, Dahmer pleaded “guilty but insane,” although he was found guilty and sane by the jury, and thus sentenced to 957 years in jail, or 15 lifetimes (another was tacked on later for a grand total of 16). Originally, Dahmer had pleaded “not guilty by reason of insanity” to all charges despite his confession. His defense tried the angle of saying that only a truly insane person could do the things he did, and then went on to describe for the jury the gory details of Dahmer’s crimes. But in the end, the jury believed the prosecution’s argument that Dahmer knew his crimes were evil and committed them anyway. On February 15, 1992, after about 10 hours of deliberation, the jury announced that they found him guilty but sane on all counts.
4. He Was Baptized In Prison
I guess almost 1000 years in prison is what it took for Jeffrey Dahmer to find God. There, he seemed to do well. He was initially kept separate from the other inmates, but after awhile he convinced the authorities to integrate him in with the general population (I don’t know, now that I think about it, if the authorities were trying to protect Dahmer from the other prisoners, or the other prisoners from Dahmer). He found religion in the books and photos that his father sent to him, and was eventually granted permission by the Columbia Correctional Institution to be baptized by a pastor. It is an odd and conflicting image to think about, a person such as Jeffrey Dahmer (who most people would agree is actual, true evil) being baptized and thus being allowed into heaven one day (depending upon what you believe). It is as bewildering to me as are all of those women who fall in love with serial killers in prison. Speaking of which…
3. You Can Buy Dahmer Jewelry On Etsy
No, sadly I am not kidding. Dahmer gained quite a following of amorous ladies while in prison, which is doubly strange because he was gay. He would not have wanted any of these so-called serial killer groupies, which is almost amusing since they wanted him anyway. I know there are a ton of these crazies out there, because without even searching for them, I found several.
Hybristophilia is defined as a person who is attracted to men who commit extreme crimes such as rape and murder. Some of Dahmer’s groupies make crafts and jewelry as a tribute to him, and apparently many others do, too. A woman named Mischa says she can understand what he did (though she does not support it), and she stated that were she ever able to talk to Dahmer, she would tell him, “You don’t need rum, coke and sleeping pills to make me stay.” Wow- she does not need him to drug her or lure her, because she would come willingly. Nutso. One anonymous Dahmer fan calls herself “obsessed” with him and all of the “lovely things he did.” Another called him her hero. Even a nun stood up for him! All in all, he received over $12,000 in donations while in jail. I think it is sick, especially since he was sick and these women openly say they love him because they “get” him, and how he felt. They relate to a man who raped, tortured, killed, and then ate his victims, and that is not normal.
2. A Dose Of His Own Medicine
The player gets played, the killer gets killed. On November 28, 1994 at the age of 34, Jeffrey Dahmer was beaten to death by fellow inmate Christopher Scarver. Few people know that another man, Jesse Anderson, was involved, too. Scarver beat them both with a metal bar from the weight room, and the other man also died. All three men were convicted murderers working together on a work detail. Recently in 2015, Scarver gave an interview for the New York Post and said that he was not only disturbed by Dahmer’s crimes, but by his new habit of fashioning severed limbs from prison food with the sole purpose of antagonizing other inmates.
During their work detail that day, Dahmer and Anderson were taunting Scarver, who then confronted Dahmer about his killings before brutally attacking he and Anderson. He claimed prison guards allowed the murder to happen by leaving them alone. Obviously, not everyone was too torn up about Dahmer’s death, and one of his former neighbors even said she was going to send Scarver a thank you card. I would love to know if she ever did.
1. His Possessions For Profit
After Jeffrey Dahmer was murdered, the city of Milwaukee was eager to distance themselves from anything and everything Jeffrey Dahmer-esque and the horrors he had bestowed upon the city and its residents. Even after he had been arrested, the nightmare had continued in the form of the media circus surrounding the trial, which is of course bad publicity and negative any way you slice it. So in 1996, a group of local businessmen came together to raise more than $400,000 to purchase Dahmer’s belongings, things he had used on his victims. They acquired possession of his blades, saws, handcuffs, and (apparently the only thing that could not have also been used in 50 Shades of Grey), a refrigerator he had used to store body parts. They immediately destroyed all of it, doing their part to help the citizens of Milwaukee be at peace with and gain closure to the Jeffrey Dahmer killings that had, by that time, consumed the city for 23 years.
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