Monsters don’t always hide in the dark or within ghost stories. Sometimes, they appear like just another normal face on the street. But in the 1990’s Milwaukee discovered that Jeffrey Dahmer had been terrorizing the city for years. Let’s take a dive in to separate fact from fiction in a twisting tale people still talk about today.
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It’s October, meaning we talk about the scary things hiding in the shadows. Ghosts, skeletons and demons often become the focus of the season, but this episode, we’re going to focus on one of the scariest monsters to roam the United States: a cannibalistic serial killer hiding in plain sight. Jeffrey Dahmer was intelligent, articulate and many considered him to be good looking. He didn’t look like the traditional scary monster, but he was far more terrifying. Hidden away in a small Milwaukee apartment, he did unimaginable things for years on end.
There’s a lot of focus and talk right now with the recent Netflix releases, and with a killer as notorious as Jeffrey Dahmer, there’s a lot of information out there: some fact, some not. So, this week, let’s dive into the truth and maybe discover some odd facts along the way.
While I loved the adaption recently released, it is a dramatization for entertainment purposes and I treated it that way while watching. However, I became much more enthralled with the documentary that followed up called Conversations with a Killer: The Jeffrey Dahmer Tapes. This documentary includes actual audio from over 32 hours of tapes recorded by one of his lawyers, Wendy Patrickus. Additionally, I downloaded the official police documents of his interviews and confession: all 243 pages. Strap in because this is gonna be a wild ride.
As a child, his parents often fought and he spent a lot of time in a small shed at the family home. He started by collecting and displaying large insects. He then evolved to collecting roadkill and removing the flesh and bleaching the bones. He did not kill any of the animals, simply collected them after death. As early as first grade, he isolated himself and instead reverted to fantasy worlds. His issues with abandonment and feelings of loneliness are thought to be factors in his ultimately horrible behavior, but he repeatedly stated that it was nothing his parents did or did not do. He took sole responsibility for everything.
The Well-known Facts
In the early hours of July 23, 1991, Jeffrey Dahmer was arrested in his Milwaukee, WI apartment after Tracy Edwards flagged down police in just a pair of boxer shorts and a handcuff on one wrist. Soon the story tumbled out about a man in a nearby apartment who threatened him with a knife. The details spilling out were outrageous and the police were only half believing him, but he wanted the handcuff removed. The device was different from the police-issued cuffs so they took Edwards back to number 213 of the Oxford Apartments on North 25th Street. While police were in the apartment, they noticed polaroid pictures, which at closer inspection were of dismembered bodies.
This was just the start of one of the most shocking and grisly investigations in Milwaukee history. Dahmer had a collection of bones – some even entire skeletons – as well as eleven human skulls. In the refrigerator was an intact human head along with other body parts. Knives, saws, hammers, and power tools were collected and catalogued as the devices used to dismember his victims.
In the bedroom was a large plastic drum which, when shaken, had some sort of liquid or sludge inside. Due to the state of the rest of the scene, police were hesitant to open it there with concerns of hazardous material. The HAZMAT team was brought in to seal and remove the container to be opened elsewhere. At that time, pieces of multiple victims were found in a chemical solution to remove the flesh from bone. Once the bones were clean, Dahmer would then flush the solution down the toilet and keep the bones as trophies.
Unlike most serial killers, the actual murder was Dahmer’s least favorite part of the process. He stated it was simply a means to an end. He just wanted someone completely submissive to him. Someone that would never leave, never have opinions or choices. He wanted a human who was simply his own object of pleasure.
He attempted relationships with living, breathing men but said they talked to much and always left him. He wanted to completely control someone he found attractive and keep them with him always (that’s why he saved trophies).
Once arrested, he talked openly to police. Detectives Dennis Murphy and Pat Kennedy were the two investigators that primarily interviewed him. When Murphy first met him, Dahmer said “Why don’t you just shoot me now for what I did?” The first interview started at 1:30am the day he was arrested and ended at 7:15am. Once the interview and confession were finalized, the detectives asked if he was hungry, but he said he was not. He requested they stay and talk more. He wanted to “have a couple of cigarettes, some coffee and think as to what had occurred.”
When interviewed by police and psychiatrists, he was not defensive or seeming to hide anything. He was even pronounced sane and stood trial.
Everyday of interviews with police his lawyer would advise him not to talk but every day he would sign a waiver and said that he wanted to. He also repeatedly stated that he knew what he did was wrong, but he could not stop the compulsions.
The Darkness Begins
Jeffrey Dahmer admitted having obsessive thoughts of violence mixed with sex starting around age 14-15.
At age 14, the stalking began. An attractive, athletic jogger would pass his home regularly. Dahmer rode his bike a few miles from home and hid in brush with a sawed off baseball bat. He was going to hit the jogger with the bat to knock him unconscious and then lie with the motionless body. The jogger did not come by that day so he abandoned the plan completely.
From 15 on, Dahmer felt he couldn’t share his thoughts with his family or anyone close to him. Living in a religious home during the 70’s and 80’s, homosexuality was massively a taboo subject. In later interviews, his father acknowledged this and even admitted he would have put him in a program to “fix” it had he found out at the time.
In high school, he would bring alcohol to school, drinking before, during and after classes. Throughout his adulthood, he would struggle with alcoholism and heavy drinking. There are stories of him drinking an entire can of beer as tho it were just a single sip, chugging entire 6-packs at a time.
The Victims of Jeffrey Dahmer
His first murder was not planned. His parents had recently divorced. His father was living at a nearby hotel, and his mother took his little brother and just left. On June 8, 1978, he picked up a hitchhiker named Steven Hicks and convinced him to come home with him. They drank, hung out, but when Steven wanted to leave, Dahmer hit him over the head with a barbell and then strangled him.
He dismembered the body, placed it into trash bags and started driving to a ravine in the area. He was stopped by police for swerving across the median line. The officer even asked what was in the bags, but he convinced them it was just the trash. The officer just gave a warning and let him go. He turned around and returned home where he found a galvanized pipe that he stuffed the bags into and disposed of Hick’s personal items in the river along with the knife he used.
Once it happened this first time, it was a constant part of his thinking from there.
One month later in August 1978, his father and future step-mother, Shari, visited to check on him. There wasn’t much food in the fridge and the house was a mess. They said he had a dead look in his eyes, looked extremely sad and was wandering aimlessly. They were unaware his mother had just left him until that day. Out of concern, they moved back home with him.
His father Lionel got him into Ohio State and paid tuition in an attempt to turn his life around. He attended college for about 3 months. Due to heavy drinking and a GPA 0.45, he flunked out of college. His father then made him enlist in the Army where he trained as a combat medic.
Again his drinking became too much and he was discharged from the army. When he returned home, the bags with Hick’s body were still there. Dahmer retrieved them, smashed them with a hammer and spread the remains throughout the wooded area of the property.
In the summer of 1982, he moved in with his grandmother. He called her the perfect grandma. She was loving and caring, and he even made an effort to change himself for her. He quit drinking for a while. They would go to church together and he ever tried to stifle his sexuality for her. He tried to create surrogates for his darkening thoughts including a mannequin he stole from a department store. His grandmother found it so he lied about where he got it but then destroyed it by taking it to the basement and smashing with a hammer before placing the pieces in the trash.
Between attempts to change and the state of his life at the time, he stopped killing until 1987. He said that he had “no physical opportunity” in those 9 years.
In November of 1987, Dahmer met Steven Tuomi and the two got a room at the Ambassador Motor Hotel. Dahmer just wanted to spend the night together and followed his usual routine of lacing a drink with sleeping pills for Steven. Dahmer said he blacked out, woke up covered in bruises and found Steven was dead. He had no memory of beating him to death, but knew he had to dispose of the body. He went to a nearby mall and bought a large suitcase so he could move the body. Taking a taxi home, he even had the driver assist him with getting the suitcase into the trunk. The cabby made a quip that it was “so heavy, you must have a dead body in there!” He took the body to his grandmother’s house, dismembered it and placed in plastic garbage bags.
The monster was now awake and he would not stop from this point.
Jeffrey Dahmer started to develop his unique rituals and M.O. when he drugged, raped and strangled 14 year old James Doxtator before dismembering the body. A year later, he did the same to 25 year old Richard Guerrero. These bodies, he completely disposed of, keeping no trophies.
In September of 1988, Jeffrey Dahmer was convicted of second degree sexual assault on 13 year old Somsak Sinthasomphone. He was convicted in January of 1989, but sentencing was delayed until May. At this time, he underwent psychiatric evaluation.
During this time, Dahmer killed Anthony Sears in his now “usual” manner. Anthony was an aspiring model, and due to his beauty, Dahmer decided to preserve his head and genitals in acetone and stored them in a wooden box.
This box he kept in his room at his grandmother’s house. His father told him to open it but Dahmer said he lost the key. Lionel said “open it tomorrow” but they never did. This was the closest he got to his family knowing.
On May 23, 1989, he was sentenced to one year of jail with work release for the crime against Sinthasomphone. The psychiatrist who interviewed him highly disagreed with this sentencing, acknowledging that he was a troubled man and the justice system would see him again if he was not detained and treated.
Once he was sentences, he moved the box to his work locker at the Ambrosia Chocolate Factory to keep it from being found at his grandmother’s house.
In May of 1990, he moved out of his grandmother’s house to the now famous apartment 213.
He could no longer control himself. The ritual became “addictive” and energizing to him. The objective was to find the best looking guys he could: sexual preference didn’t matter, race didn’t matter. Physical beauty was all that mattered.
He would dehumanize them in his mind to make it easier to kill. They weren’t a person, just an object of pleasure.
One week from moving into the apartment, Dahmer killed his sixth victim, 32 year old Raymond Smith. The next day he purchased a polaroid camera which soon became part of his sick methods. He kept photographs as a way to remember the victims’ physical beauty. They were another form of trophy for him.
One month later, he drugged and strangled 27 year old Edward Smith. Dahmer admitted to police that he “felt rotten” about this murder because he was unable to retain any body parts. The skeleton acidified in the freezer and when he attempted to bake the skull for preservation, it exploded in the oven.
Less than 3 months later, he lured 22 year old Ernest Miller to his apartment. Instead of strangulation due to Ernest’s muscular stature, he used a large hunting knife with a 6” blade to sever the carotid artery by stabbing him in the neck. He preserved and kept Ernest’s skull as well as wrapping and refrigerating his heart, biceps and portions of flesh from the legs for later consumption.
Three weeks later, he enticed 22 year old David Thomas to his apartment. He took some photos and the drugged the man. This time he did not feel attracted to him, but was afraid to allow him to wake up. He strangled and dismembered the body but kept no body parts. He did keep the photographs which allowed for later identification of the victim.
For five months, Dahmer would not kill again but made multiple unsuccessful attempts to persuade possible victims to his apartment.
In February 1991, Dahmer drugged 17 year old Curtis Straughter. This time, he handcuffed Curtis’ hands behind his back and then strangled him with a leather strap instead of his hands.
On April 7, he lured 19 year old Errol Lindsey to his apartment. This time, after drugging him, Dahmer attempted to create a “living zombie” by drilling a hole in his skull and injecting acid into the brain. According to Dahmer, Errol awoke during the procedure saying “I have a headache. What time is it?” At this point, Dahmer drugged him again and then strangled him. This victim, he also completely skinned the body with a small paring knife, carefully leaving cartilage, ligaments and flesh intact.
On May 24, he attempted to create another “zombie” with 31 year old aspiring model, Tony Hughes. Tony was deaf and mute, and this time, the injection was immediately fatal.
Just two days later, Dahmer convinced Konerak Sinthasomphone to come to his apartment with the promise of money, not even realizing that his brother Somsack was the 13 year old he was convicted of molesting. Once he drugged Konerak, he led him to the bedroom where the body of Tony Hughes was still lying on the floor. Once Konerak was unconscious, Dahmer drilled a single hole in his head and injected acid to the frontal lobe. A few hours later, Dahmer left Konerak unconscious in the apartment so he could buy more beer. When he arrived back to the Oxford Apartments in the early hours of May 27, Konerak was sitting naked on the street corner and three local women were standing near him. They stated they had called 911, but when police arrived, Dahmer convinced them Konerak was his 19 year old boyfriend who had way too much to drink.
Once police left, Dahmer injected more acid, proving fatal. He then took the next day off of work to devote the time to dismembering the two bodies of Konerak and Tony.
At this point in time, Jeffrey Dahmer lost his job and knew he would need to leave the apartment once his funds ran out. He purchased a 57-gallon drum that he filled with a chemical mixture to help remove flesh from bone.
On June 30, Dahmer traveled to Chicago for the Gay Pride Parade and convinced 20 year old Matt Turner to participate in a “professional photo shoot” back at his apartment. Once again, Dahmer drugged, strangled and dismembered the victim, keeping his head and internal organs in separate bags in the freezer and put the rest of the body in the 57-gallon drum.
On July 5, Dahmer persuaded 23 year old Jeremiah Weinberger to the apartment with the promise of spending a weekend together. When Jeremiah wanted to leave, Dahmer drugged him before drilling a hole in his skull and pouring boiling water onto the frontal cortex in another attempt to create a living zombie which placed Jeremiah into a coma. With his experiment now failed, Dahmer strangled him. Dahmer placed the head in storage and the rest of the body in the 57-gallon drum.
On July 15, Dahmer lured 24 year old Oliver Lacy, a bodybuilding enthusiast, to his apartment with the promise of money for posing for photographs. He was drugged and then strangled him with the leather strap. Dahmer placed his head and heart in the refrigerator as well as cleaning and keeping the body in the freezer to save for an altar he was planning to build within the next few weeks.
On July 19, Dahmer baited 25 year old Joseph Bradehoft with the promise of money. The father of three was looking for work and the amount was enticing. Dahmer drugged and then strangled him with the leather strap. His head was placed in the freezer and the rest of the body put in the 57-gallon drum.
Jeffrey Dahmer & Cannibalism
When originally detained by police, Dahmer firmly stated he had only eaten the flesh of the bicep of one victim: the man he met at 27th & Wisconsin which was Ernest Miller. Later, he said that the bicep belonged to Oliver Lacy. Then in August of 1991, he revealed that it was actually the heart of Raymond Smith, thigh and bicep of Ernest Miller and bicep of Oliver Lacy. He claimed this was a way he tried to keep them with him always and that he only ate the victims he really liked. The two hearts and bicep muscles in the freezer were being saved to also be ingested. He also very clearly stated to police how he cooked the meat as though he were talking about a recipe in a cook book.
When police asked why he initially withheld this information, “He stated that he did not want to talk about it, because it was not very appealing and he did not want us to think less of him.”
Dahmer pled guilty which negated the death penalty. He was given 15 consecutive life sentences which equaled a 999 year sentence.
Fact v Fiction of Jeffrey Dahmer “Monster” Series
There were a few inaccuracies in the Monster adaption, mostly for editing and entertainment purposes.
- Ronald Flowers survival – false – Dahmer’s grandmother was not involved. Woke up in the hospital from drug OD but was also covered in abrasions – didn’t know how he got there.
- Dean Vaughn killing – false – lived in same apartment building – found strangled in apartment in 1991 – dahmer was questioned before and after arrest – denied knowing him and no evidence was found. Murder still unsolved.
- Glenda Cleveland’s presence – false – didn’t live in the same building – actually lived in next building over. Character in show is an amalgam of Cleveland and Pamela Bass, the woman who lived across the hall from Dahmer. Cleveland did repeatedly call the police after she was told about the 14 year old boy by her daughter and niece. She wasn’t there when it happened but she knew the two girls who did.
- Glasses at the trial – false – did not wear through most of the trial so he didn’t have to look the jury or victims families in the face. Shows he was unable to face his crimes.
Interesting facts about Jeffrey Dahmer
- He always did the dismemberment naked, not for sexual reasons but just because it was easier to clean after.
- Received fan mail: got over $12K in donations
- Nov 28 1994, Dahmer was killed by fellow inmate in a very similar manner to which he killed his first victim: attacked with metal bar from weights. He apparently did not make a sound during the attack.
- Baptized the same day Gacy was executed. There was also an eclipse that day.
- After the skulls were cleaned and preserved, he would spray paint them with a fake granite finish so they didn’t look real.
- The tenants of the apartment met after everything happened and agreed to have the apartment building destroyed. Within 15 months of his arrest, the building was demolished.
- Stone Phillips Interview: https://youtu.be/GmQL_QF8sCg
- Inside Edition: https://youtu.be/iWjYsxaBjBI
- Fact vs. Fiction: https://youtu.be/bgV9EKzZH8s
- 10 Creepy facts: https://youtu.be/qCFHOv7W5Fs
- Confession: http://serialkillersink.net/skistore/index.php?seo_path=jeffrey-dahmer-confession-complete-243-page-confession-digital-download-pdf-files.html
- Bailey: https://youtu.be/gjySnrspD7E
- Conversations with a Killer: The Jeffrey Dahmer Tapes on Netflix: https://www.netflix.com/watch/81408929
Researched by Mo from The Squonk & The Hag Podcast