The true crime miniseries Dahmer: An American Cannibal, directed by Ryan Murphy and starring Evan Peters, is now available on Netflix.
But do you know the true story that inspired the production?
The series is based on the case of serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer, who killed 17 men and teenagers in the United States between 1978 and 1991. The victims were between 14 and 32 and were mostly people on the margins of society: LGBTQIA+, black or indigenous men and those with low purchasing power.
The murders followed a pattern
He lured victims to his home by promising them money or sex, drugged, raped and strangled them to death. Then he removed the meat from the bones and kept a few pieces as a souvenir.
Although Dahmer is known as the “Milwaukee Cannibal”, there is no concrete evidence that he consumed human flesh. In some cases, he kept parts of victims in the refrigerator or preserved them in chemicals.
Childhood and first victim
Jeffrey Dahmer had an absent father devoted to an academic career and a mother struggling with drug addiction. Schoolmates realized he was an alcoholic at age 15, and Dahmer later claimed he drank to cope with his disturbing thoughts.
At 16, he had his first fantasy about killing a runner he found attractive. He even hid with a baseball bat in the victim’s path, but his plans were frustrated because the athlete did not leave the house that day.
In 1978, three weeks after graduating from high school, Jeffrey Dahmer committed his first murder. He saw an 18-year-old named Steven Hicks hitchhiking on the side of the road, and invited him to his house. The two stayed listening to music and drinking for several hours, and when the young man got up to leave, Dahmer attacked him with a 5 kg dumbbell. He then strangled him to death with the object’s bar.
Jeffrey Dahmer then stripped the body and masturbated. He dissected the body in his basement the next day and even buried it in his yard, but later dissolved the flesh in acid and crushed the bones with a hammer – a method he continued to practice on his next victims.
After that, he claimed at least 16 more victims.
Dahmer even enrolled in college, but dropped out of the course after three months due to his problems with alcoholism. His father forced him to enlist in the army, but alcohol also interfered with his performance and he received an honorable discharge in 1981 while in Germany. Two soldiers later claimed to have been raped by him.
Back in the United States, he went to live at his grandmother’s house, where he made new victims. He looked for them in gay bars and saunas, and some of them were prostitutes. This was the case, for example, of James Doxtator, a 14-year-old native boy.
In 1988, the grandmother asked Dahmer to move because she didn’t like him bringing men into her house, and also because the smell coming from her room was too strong. When he moved, he took with him the head and penis of one of the victims preserved in acetone.
In the following years, he began showing naked pictures of victims in his apartment, and developed techniques to put them into a submissive state of lethargy: he injected hydrochloric acid into their brains.
Jeffrey Dahmer was arrested in 1991 and died in prison three years later.
The serial killer was caught when one of his victims, Tracey Edwards, managed to escape. He pretended to be cooperating with Dahmer and took advantage of a moment of distraction to escape.
He found two police officers and took them to the killer’s house. There they found four severed heads, seven skulls, two human hearts, an upper body, two complete skeletons, two preserved genitalia and other parts of the victims’ bodies.
Dahmer received 17 life sentences and on November 28, 1994 he was beaten to death by another inmate at the maximum security prison of the Columbia Correctional Institution.
In 2015, the person responsible for her death explained to the New York Post that Dehmer used to carve severed limbs into food, using ketchup as fake blood to annoy other inmates:
“He put these things in places where others would see them. He crossed the line with some people: prisoners, prison staff. There are people who regret being in prison, but he was not one of them.”