The "Milwaukee Cannibal”, Jeffrey Dahmer, is one of the most infamous serial killers of all time. Not just a murderer, Dahmer was also a rapist, necrophiliac, cannibal, and obsessive preserver of human body parts—the body parts, of course, of his victims. In a 13-year time period, spanning two different states, this demented man murdered 17 people.
After he was apprehended in 1991, Dahmer was eventually sentenced to 16 life sentences. In 1994, he was killed by a fellow prison inmate. Though several decades have passed since Dahmer’s horrific murdering spree, his crimes, and their devastating impact, continue to loom large in the national psyche.
Here are 10 little-known facts about the notorious American serial killer, Jeffrey Dahmer.
1. A childhood surgery changed him forever
According to his family, Dahmer was a happy and energetic child until he underwent surgery for a double hernia repair. Around the same time, his little brother was born, and the family relocated several times, to different parts of Ohio. Apparently, the combination of these events, starting with the surgery, changed Dahmer forever: He was never again the same happy child he had once been, and he began to retreat into himself.
In retrospect, some experts have suggested that Dahmer did not pull away because of the surgery, but because he might have had undiagnosed Asperger’s Syndrome.
2. He was fascinated with animal bones from a young age—an interest his scientist father encouraged
From the time he was a child, Dahmer was fascinated with animal bones: with the sounds they made, how they fit together, and with collecting them. Dahmer took this obsession to the next level at the age of 10, asking his chemist father what would happen if chicken bones were placed in bleach.
Lionel Dahmer, believing that his strange, anti-social son was finally finding a passion—and a scientific passion no less—was happy to show young Jeffrey how to clean and preserve animal bones using bleach. Such methods, of course, played an essential role in Jeffrey Dahmer’s ghastly rampage as an adult.
3. He drank alcohol, throughout the day, while in high school
Classmates later recalled him smuggling beer, wine, and all manner of hard liquor into class, or stashing bottles in his locker. Even though he was a complete alcoholic by the time he graduated, he was observed to be a quiet and withdrawn but relatively normal student as a freshman. He achieved average grades, which his teachers attributed to slacking off rather than lack of intelligence, and even played tennis and spent a year in the school band.
4. He committed his first murder just three weeks after graduating from high school
Dahmer picked up an 18-year-old hitchhiker named Steven Mark Hicks and murdered him in 1978. The murder of Hicks wouldn’t come to light until the 1990s, after Dahmer had murdered 16 more people and was finally in police custody.
5. He served as a combat medic in the U.S. Army
From 1979 to 1981, Dahmer was stationed in West Germany. He was discharged—albeit honorably—because of his alcoholism.
6. Dahmer killed and stored the remains of up to four men while living at his grandmother’s house
She asked him to move out of her home because of his habit of always bringing men home late at night and because of the “foul smells” emanating from the basement.
7. Dahmer enjoyed the Exorcist films
Tracy Edwards, a would-be victim who escaped, and led the police to Dahmer’s apartment, noted that The Exorcist III had been playing as Dahmer tried to subdue and attack him.
8. He was in the process of building an altar out of the skulls of his victims when he was captured
He told police that had they apprehended him six months later, they would have come across the altar. Dahmer said the altar would be a place where he could “feel at home.”
9. Dahmer became a born-again Christian while in prison
He was baptized in the prison whirlpool in May 1994.
10. Lionel Dahmer wrote a book about Jeffrey after he was captured
Entitled A Father's Story, the tragic book was not meant to defend Jeffrey Dahmer, but rather for Lionel Dahmer to try and figure out how he had failed, so profoundly, as a father. Another notable Dahmer book is the award-winning graphic novel, My Friend Dahmer, written by one of Dahmer’s high school classmates.
In November 2017, Oxygen launched its own investigation into the Jeffrey Dahmer case. Dahmer on Dahmer: A Serial Killer Speaks premiered Saturday, November 11 at 7 P.M. ET/PT. Check out the chilling trailer below, then click here for more info on the two-part true crime special.