Netflix’s latest addition to its true crime canon is a thriller from Ryan Murphy that investigates the case of one of America’s most notorious serial killers: Jeffrey Dahmer.
Monsters: The Story of Jeffrey Dahmer Stars Mare by Easttown Actor Evan Peters as the man also known as the “Milwaukee Cannibal” or “Milwaukee Monster” who committed the murder and dismemberment of 17 men and boys between 1978 and 1991.
Here are the key points you should know about the real story behind the show…
**Warning: This article contains disturbing content***
Dahmer was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 1960, the son of a teletypewriter teacher and a chemist.
There are conflicting accounts as to whether Dahmer was neglected or doted as a child, but there seems to be no doubt that he came from a dysfunctional home. His mother suffered from depression and attempted suicide, and his father spent much of his childhood studying. Dahmer’s parents eventually divorced when he was 18.
Dahmer was a quiet kid who underwent double hernia surgery at the age of three. The family moved to Ohio when Dahmer was about six years old and his younger brother David was born.
Dahmer was interested in dead animals from a young age, especially animal bones — something that presumably began when he saw his father removing animal bones from under their house. He began collecting insects and skeletons of small animals like squirrels and storing them in formaldehyde jars. His father showed him how to bleach and preserve animal bones, and Dahmer began collecting street scraps so he could dissect them and add more bones to his collection.
Dahmer was an outcast in high school. He drank heavily and called alcohol his “medicine” to classmates. While teachers thought he had good academic potential, his grades were average. Having previously been quiet, he began throwing false fits and taunting people with cerebral palsy.
In his early teens, Dahmer had a brief relationship with another teenager, but he didn’t tell his parents he was gay. He later admitted that he fantasized about dominating a submissive male partner and that those fantasies had begun to include dissection.
Dahmer committed his first murder three weeks after graduating from high school in 1978. One day in June, he picked up 18-year-old hitchhiker Steven Mark Hicks, lured him over to his house for “a couple of beers,” and bludgeoned him with a barbell. Dahmer then strangled Hicks to death, stripped him, masturbated, dissected the body, and buried the remains in a shallow grave in his back garden. He later dug up the corpse to dissolve it in acid and crush and scatter the bones.
Shortly thereafter, Dahmer enlisted in the US Army for a few years. He continued to drink heavily. He was released in 1981, and in the mid-1980s, back in Milwaukee, he began visiting gay bathhouses, where he would sedate and assault men. In the late 1980s he committed his second murder, this time of a man whom he took back to a hotel. He then began assaults and murders in his grandmother’s house.
Dahmer’s grandmother begged him to move out, largely because of his drinking, his habit of bringing young men back late at night, and the foul smells emanating from both the basement and the garage — where Dahmer stored and disposed of his victims. He moved into an apartment in Milwaukee and the killings and dismemberments continued into the 1990s.
Many of his later murders involved necrophilia, cannibalism, and the permanent preservation of the skeleton.
Although he was arrested many times in his life, once for groping a young boy, authorities only discovered Dahmer’s murderous activities when he was arrested after one of his victims escaped in 1991. Walking down a Milwaukee street with a pair of handcuffs dangling from one wrist, Tracy Edwards told police that Dahmer tried to kill him.
That day, police found body parts and severed heads in Dahmer’s refrigerator, freezer, filing cabinet and kettle at Dahmer’s apartment.
In 1992, Dahmer was sentenced to life imprisonment. He failed to convince the jury that his cannibalism and necrophilia were the result of insanity, despite being diagnosed with borderline personality disorder, schizotypal personality disorder, and a psychotic disorder. He was sentenced to 15 consecutive life sentences and was told he would never be eligible for parole.
His trial contained some of the most gruesome evidence ever heard in a US courtroom. In his testimony in court, Dahmer said: “I never wanted freedom. To be honest, I wanted death for myself. I knew I was sick or evil or both.
“The doctors told me about my illness and now I have some peace. I know how much damage I’ve done. I feel so bad for what I did to these poor families.”
Dahmer was later sentenced to a 16th life sentence for another murder committed in Ohio in 1978.
On November 28, 1994, Dahmer was beaten to death by Christopher Scarver, a fellow inmate at Columbia Correctional Institution in Portage, Wisconsin.
More than 20 years after the incident, Scarver spoke for the first time about why he killed Dahmer.
Scarver said he fatally hit Dahmer twice over the head with a metal bar after being spooked by the killer, who he claimed would make severed limbs out of prison food and sprinkle packets of ketchup on them for blood.
“He would put them in places where people would be,” Scarver said The New York Post.
“He crossed the line with some people – prisoners, prison staff. Some people who are in prison repent – but he wasn’t one of them.”
Monsters: The Story of Jeffrey Dahmer will be released on Netflix on September 22nd.