Serial killers and/or cannibals don’t usually give interviews, probably at the insistence of their legal counsel, but after his arrest, and sentenced to 937 years behind bars, Jeffrey Dahmer was willing, even keen, to tell his story to whoever would listen.
Dahmer was arrested in 1991 after a killing spree that started in 1978 and took the lives of seventeen young men and boys. Serial killers are not so rare, particularly in the US, that they get worldwide attention, but Dahmer also readily admitted to eating parts of some of his victims, and the police found body parts in his fridge, apparently ready for the next meal. He quickly became known as “The Milwaukee Cannibal”. The media frenzy was awesome to behold.
In 1993, Dahmer sat down with Nancy Glass for an interview that was aired on Bill O’Reilly’s show Inside Edition. The segment (link below) was called
“INSIDE THE MIND OF JEFFREY DAHMER: SERIAL KILLER’S CHILLING JAILHOUSE INTERVIEW”.
O’Reilly introduced the segment by saying
“He is pure evil, but you’d never know it by looking at him.”
The tools of true crime interviews are graphics, eerie music and a suitably horrified interviewer. This segment had all three, in spades.
Dahmer, though, was calm and rational, answering each question fully and, apparently, as honestly as he could. He spoke of his “sexual fantasies of control, power, complete dominance” which became reality, and stated
“It’s a process, it doesn’t happen overnight. When you depersonalise another person and view them as just an object, an object for pleasure instead of a living, breathing human being, it seems to make it easier to do things you shouldn’t do.”
The cannibalism was “a way of making me feel that they were a part of me”.
Nancy Glass concluded that
“Jeffrey Dahmer is intelligent and articulate. That is what makes him so frightening.”
In February 1994, nine months before Dahmer was bashed to death in prison, Stone Phillips recorded an interview with Jeffrey and Lionel Dahmer (his Dad) who had just published a book on his side of the story. Phillips included excerpts from other interviews with Jeffrey’s father and, separately, his mother. This was shown on DATELINE, and later put together with some of the unaired footage into a TV movie (link below) called
“CONFESSIONS OF A SERIAL KILLER”
Phillips, like other interviewers, described Dahmer as “”polite and unnervingly normal”.
Dahmer’s father spoke of Jeffrey’s trauma when he was two or three and suffered a double hernia, which can make the penis seem to disappear into the body.
“You know, the old Freudian castration complex might come to bear here… he was concerned about losing his penis. He asked his mother if he had lost it, if it had been cut off”
Which is what Jeffrey did to some of his victims later, so there just might be something to that.
Lionel added that, when he first saw Jeffrey after the arrest,
“He just looked very innocuous. He looked like an average person who couldn’t possibly do the things that he did”
Dahmer made several interesting admissions to Phillips
- It was not about race (even though ten of his victims were African American): he said that race didn’t matter – his first two victims were white, the third was American Indian, the fourth and fifth were Hispanic. It was just their looks he was after.
- The cannibalism “made me feel like they were a permanent part of me”. Also, he was curious as to what it would be like to eat human flesh.
- He didn’t enjoy the killing. What he wanted was to create “living zombies” by drilling holes in their heads and pouring in muriatic acid or hot water, but it never worked.
- Why? “I just wanted to have the person under my complete control, not having to consider their wishes, being able to keep them there as long as I wanted”.
- He became a Christian in jail, because of material sent by his Dad, which (he said) proved that evolution was “a complete lie” which “cheapens life”.
Dahmer refused to blame his parents or education or society for his actions, but was happy to blame his formerly secular viewpoint:
“…if a person doesn’t think that there is a God to be accountable to, then what’s the point of trying to modify your behaviour, to keep it within acceptable ranges?”
Dostoevsky felt the same way in Brothers Karamazov:
“…if you were to destroy in mankind the belief in immortality, not only love but every living force maintaining the life of the world would at once be dried up. Moreover, nothing then would be immoral, everything would be lawful even cannibalism.”
JEFFREY DAHMER: MIND OF A MONSTER
A new documentary was released on May 25, 2020. This is not specifically an interview with Dahmer, although it uses the transcripts of the lengthy (66 hours) of police interrogations, as well as speaking to cops, journalists, neighbours, his father and even a couple of victims who escaped.
It’s available on Youtube below:
DAHMER: THE QUIET CANNIBAL
Dahmer was the quintessential contemporary cannibal. Most people have fantasies, some quite violent (his father wrote in his book about his own murder fantasies) but most do not act on them. As Dylan said:
And if my thought-dreams could be seen
They’d probably put my head in a guillotine
But it’s alright, Ma, it’s life, and life only.
Most importantly, Dahmer was invisible to the society he lived in. Look at the descriptions of him above:
- intelligent and articulate
- polite and unnervingly normal
Dahmer was not the terrifying ‘monster’ or ‘savage’ from beyond the borders of the polis. He looked and sounded just like one of us. His fantasies of control, power, complete dominance and his curiosity and appetite are driving forces of modern, capitalist societies. As, of course, is objectification of people and other animals for pleasure.
There have also been several re-enactment movies about Dahmer, including Jeremy Renner’s splendid portrayal in the movie called, naturally, Dahmer. My blog from a couple of years back on that movie can be seen here.