“He is pure evil” – the Jeffrey Dahmer interviews

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.”
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The tools of true crime interviews are graphics, eerie music and a suitably horrified interviewer. This segment had all three, in spades.

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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.”
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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”.

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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.”

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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
  • innocuous

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.

Pogo's Warning to Business: 'We Have Met the Enemy and He Is Us ...

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.

Fritz Lang’s Cannibalism Masterpiece – “M – EINE STADT SUCHT EINEN MÖRDER”, (1931)

Fritz Lang considered this film to be his magnum opus. It regularly appears on lists of the best movies ever made, it was voted the best German film of all time by the Association of German Cinémathèques, and it is one of the few movies with 100% on the website Rotten Tomatoes. It set the standard by which police procedurals and serial killer stories would be judged for the next century. But is it a cannibal movie?

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The story starts with a group of small children standing in a circle, and a little girl, Elsie, is choosing who is eliminated from the game, using a song:

“Soon will come the man in black for you…”

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Ja, it’s a cannibal film. We don’t see anyone get eaten, but that is not unusual, particularly in the older films from the cannibal genre.

Elsie is heading home after school, bouncing her ball, past a poster seeking information about the murderer of eight children.

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A nice man, Hans Beckert (Peter Lorre in his first major film role), compliments her colourful ball and offers to buy her a balloon. He is whistling Grieg’s “In the Hall of the Mountain King”. The music is best known for its use in Ibsen’s Peer Gynt, which is not actually a cannibal story, but does involve a lot of stuff about trolls eating people.

Soon we see the ball rolling away, the balloon floating off, briefly caught on telegraph wires.

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Like most modern cannibals since Jack The Ripper, the killer is indistinguishable from the rest of the public – just a normal guy (well, as normal as Peter Lorre could ever be).

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The panic over the ninth murder makes everyone a suspect, particularly after Beckert writes to the papers, boasting that he’ll keep on killing.

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The police raid the criminal underground every night, which is terrible for business.

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The bar owner complains to the police that even the hardest working prostitute…

“hides a mother inside… I know many hard crooks whose eyes mist up looking at the little children playing.”

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And so it goes. The coppers can’t catch him, so the underworld decides they will catch him, just so they can get back to business as usual.

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The police have their own theories of why they cannot catch him:

“He’s not a real crook! Maybe he’s somebody who shows the harmless look of a good citizen who wouldn’t kill a fly.”

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“If it wasn’t for this… apparent innocence of murderers, it would be unthinkable that a man like Grossmann* or Haarmann* could live for years next door to their neighbours, without raising any kind of suspicion”.

The police follow leads from the asylums; the crooks have other methods. Of course, everyone is a suspect, except – the beggars. The heads of the underworld offer them a reward to watch all the children of the city. Meanwhile, Beckert is watching little girls in shop window reflections.

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The “M” of the title is chalked onto his coat by one of the beggars, as he is taking away his next child.

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No more spoilers. Let us just say that the climax is a trial, in which Lang asks some hard questions about whether we are responsible for our actions, even when we cannot control our own minds.

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The moral of the story is presented by Elsie’s mother, sitting outside the court, who says:

“This will not bring our children back to life. People should take better care of their children!”

Indeed.

No mention is made of the precise fate of the victims in the movie – Lang leaves that up to our imagination, and some knowledge of German serial killers of that time. They disappeared without trace for some days and…

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*   Some critics and reviewers claim that M was based on serial killer Peter Kürten—the Vampire of Düsseldorf—whose murdered at least ten people including several children in the 1920s and achieving sexual climaxes from the killings, and from drinking the blood of some of the victims. He was also keen on writing to newspapers, as is depicted in the film. Kürten was beheaded in 1931 for his crimes, so would have been very much in the news at the time of the film’s creation.

Fritz Lang, however, in an interview in 1963 with film historian Gero Gandert, denied that M was based solely on Kürten

“At the time I decided to use the subject matter of M, there were many serial killers terrorizing Germany—Haarmann, Grossmann, Kürten, Denke”

The first two are actually mentioned in the film. Fritz Haarmann, known as the “Butcher of Hanover”, killed at least 24 boys and young men between 1918 and 1924, often by biting their throats, and then allegedly eating or selling the meat from their corpses as pork or horse-meat. Carl Großmann was arrested in 1921, a suspect in up to 100 murders of women and girls, whose flesh he was suspected of selling on the black market and from a hot-dog stand in Berlin during the Great War. Karl Denke killed and sold the flesh of dozens of homeless vagrants and travellers from 1903-1924.

The fact that Lang quoted those four serial killers as his models indicate that he certainly had cannibalism in mind when creating the role presented by Peter Lorre – the serial killer who cannot control his urges.

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M is highly recommended as a classic, not just of the cannibal genre, but of cinematic art.

The full movie is currently available (and with excellent quality) on Youtube:

“I’m not insane” HANNIBAL S03E08: “The Great Red Dragon”

Aficionados of Hannibal will remember that the good Doctor Lecter was introduced to the world in the book Red Dragon in 1981. That book became the first Hannibal movie Manhunter in 1986 with Brian Cox as Hannibal, and was then remade under its original title with Anthony Hopkins in 2002, years after he had made Hannibal (in)famous in The Silence of the Lambs. A lot of the characters, plots and dialogues of Red Dragon were used by Bryan Fuller in making the television series Hannibal, but the main plot, Will Graham trying to track down the serial killer Francis Dolarhyde, only comes to the television screen in this, the eighth episode of the final season. The rest is all prequel.

We’re not going to get an origin story for Hannibal here, except – he ate his sister, but he didn’t kill her. That’s all we get, and it’s all we need. We get one right at the start of this episode, though, for Francis Dolarhyde (Richard Armitage, who also played Thorin Oakenshield, the Dwarf Prince in The Hobbit). Dolarhyde is slightly disfigured – a cleft palate that has been repaired but is still visible, and gives him problems with his speech, and a major case of social anxiety. He sits alone, OK, he’s a loner (sometimes called “rugged individual”), and he reads Time Magazine, OK, he’s a loser. No wait – there’s an article on the cover about William Blake and his extraordinary 1805-10 watercolours of the “Great Red Dragon”. He heads off to his gym to work on some already pretty beefy musculature. He gets a huge tattoo of the Dragon. He gets some dentures made, snaggly-toothed ones. It’s a cannibal show – so people are going to get bitten. He’s going to become that Dragon, or more accurately, the Dragon is going to become him. On the full moon, he sacrifices to the Dragon, by murdering “perfect” American families. As Frederick Chilton puts it in a visit to Hannibal:

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The press call him the “Tooth Fairy” because he likes to bite his victims.  We see him dripping blood into the snow. It’s all super-gothic.

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Three years after his surrender, Hannibal is locked in an asylum – at least, his body is, but his mind wanders freely through his memory palace – we see him in church listening to a young boy singing Hallelujah, while in fact he is being processed and incarcerated. Then he’s talking to Alana, in his office, drinking Montrachet, but really he’s in his painfully white cell in the asylum, and she is his jailer. He has been spared the death sentence everyone expected after his trial for the murder of a dozen people.

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Hannibal and Alana were friends, lovers at one point. He asks her if she still prefers beer to wine.

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Hannibal is the trickster. Not what, “who” he corrects her. She had people in her beer.

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Will doesn’t want anything to do with the FBI or, apparently, Hannibal; he is living a peaceful life with Molly and Walter (her son).

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But Jack Crawford comes looking for him. No one can profile serial killers like Will. Will he go with Jack? He reads a letter from Hannibal, with a cutting about the Tooth Fairy, warning him that Jack will come knocking, and cautioning him not to accept.

“We have all found new lives. But our old lives hover in the shadows. Soon enough Jack will come knocking. I would encourage you as a friend not to step back through the door that he holds open.”

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Will goes though, and visits the crime scenes, where he recreates the crime in his mind, with the swinging pendula, just the way he did in the first season, that we all miss so much.

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Will figures that he (as serial killer) would take his gloves off to touch his victims. The team is thus able to get a partial thumb-print from the victim’s eyeball. And then there’s a piece of cheese that he bit. And the victim that he bit. They have his (or his denture’s) toothprints.vlcsnap-00066.jpg

Dolarhyde is assailed by roars and high pitched tones as he tries to watch his home movies of his murders. Where are they coming from? Ah yes, the false teeth. Dolarhyde is being taken over by the Dragon, becoming the Dragon. He is, to his own tortured psyche, becoming more than human, an Übermensch like Hannibal. He will need to absorb the essence of Hannibal to become the superman. Will has to do the same to identify and stop him.

There’s only one way to get into the mind of a biter.

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Dexter is delicious: “What’s Eating Dexter Morgan?” DEXTER Season 8 Episode 3

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Dexter is a television series that ran for 96 episodes from 2006-13. This episode is from the final season, and is the only one to feature a cannibal, which seems like a pretty shocking oversight really.

Dexter Morgan (Michael C. Hall, who played David Fisher in Six Feet Under) is a serial killer who also works as a blood spatter technician for the Miami metro police. There’s a lot of analysis of how he got that way (didn’t help that he saw his mother chopped up with a chainsaw when he was little) but, as he is not the cannibal in this tale, we don’t have to concern ourselves too much about that. Interesting to note, though, that although he is presented as a psychopath, he is often shown to have emotions and feelings that might not result in that diagnosis. In fact, Dexter only kills very bad people (just as Hannibal Lecter mostly only kills very rude ones) so he is really more a vigilante than a psychopath, and is motivated by a sense of justice that the Nietzschean Dr Lecter might find laughably absurd. We would have to conclude that both, however, are trying to improve the world by removing objectionable characters from its surface.

Dexter follows a suspect, Ron Galuzzo (Andrew Elvis Miller), to the mall where he sells exercise equipment. Galuzzo measures Dexter’s body/fat ratio, a wink to what we are about to find out about the dude and his culinary interests.

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Dexter breaks into Galuzzo’s house and it’s a mess, except for the kitchen, which is clean and spotless. Dexter opens a crock pot and finds a finger in the stew. Dexter is horrified, because I guess serial killers are not used to seeing body parts. Or perhaps Dexter is secretly a vegan.

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In the fridge, Dexter finds plastic containers containing various body parts. One of them holds a whole brain marinating in a garlic sauce.

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Dexter has a killing ritual, in which the victim is bound and gagged; in this case, it takes place in Galuzzo’s kitchen.

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He first lectures Galuzzo on the evils of cannibalism (bit of a nerve from someone whose hobby is slicing people up) then admits that he thinks that he and Galuzzo are alike, because

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Of course, Dexter has a rather better set of knives than most cannibals.

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Galuzzo is the only cannibal featured in the TV series, which is all based around the first book of an entertaining and highly amusing series of eight novels by Jeff Lindsay. A quite different case of cannibalism is featured in the fifth novel, Dexter is Delicious (2010). In the book, Dexter faces a coven of cannibals who eat (sometimes willing) victims in a Dionysian romp.

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The story revolves around Dexter and his sister, Deb, trying to save a young girl who doesn’t want to be saved; she wants to be eaten. I shall leave the cannibal unnamed in this extract, so as not to be accused of spoilers.

“Some of them do. They want to be eaten – just as much as I want to eat them…. Almost makes you believe in a benevolent God, doesn’t it?”

The book (IMHO) offers a much better cannibal story than the one in this episode, and we can only wish that the television gods had adapted it instead of this rather insipid character who presents no real challenge to Dexter, beyond offending his delicate sensibilities. Maybe Legal forbade it. Fine to tie a cannibal up, abuse him and slaughter him, but to eat someone who wants to be eaten? Now there’s an ethical dilemma for our times.

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