Jeffrey Dahmer: Serial Killer Biography Of America's Most Famous Cannibal

By | November 25, 2020

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(Getty Images)

Cannibal, killer, monster: Jeffrey Dahmer has rightfully earned his place among some of the most vicious serial killers in America, and his murders shined an oblique light on the double life of the country's most violent criminals. To anyone on the outside, Dahmer was just a handsome screw-up who couldn't keep a job. The depressed alcoholic showed an aptitude for little more than murder, but everyone who met him and survived described Dahmer as an affable, down-to-Earth guy, so how did he turn from quiet Midwestern kid to killer? Maybe there was no transformation. Maybe Dahmer was always waiting to show the world who he really was.

Young Dahmer

Dahmer was a lonely child. He spent most of his time playing in an imaginary place that he called "Infinity Land," a world filled with corpses that went on forever. He was fascinated by dead animals from the moment he saw his father remove animal bones from beneath the family home, later recalling the feeling of an odd tingling sensation when he heard the bones rattle in a bucket. Dahmer learned how to bleach the bones of rodent carcasses from his father and held onto the bones in a bucket, which he treated like a homemade rattle. Not thinking this a strange toy, his family referred to the bucket of bones that the young Dahmer constantly played with as "his fiddlesticks."

Fiddlesticks in hand, Dahmer was left to explore Infinity Land at his leisure. His father worked constantly, and his mother suffered from depression. When his younger brother, David, came into the picture, Dahmer resented the attention he received and further descended into his own imagination. When forensic psychiatrist Dr. Carl Wahlstrom studied Dahmer following his arrest in 1991, he found that as a young man, the killer's libido was "off the charts." Dahmer's sexual fantasies about corpses took up "about two-thirds of his day."

While living in Bath, Ohio as a teenager, Dahmer fixated on a jogger who passed by his house every day. Isolated and depressed, the 13-year-old Dahmer felt both an attraction to the man and a sense of ownership over their one-sided relationship, so one day, he decided to take action. He grabbed a baseball bat and hid in some bushes to wait for the jogger to pass, but the man never came. Dahmer returned home to beat himself up inside the prison of his mind instead. 

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(Revere Senior High School/Wikimedia Commons)

University, Military, And Murder

Dahmer's alcoholism veered noticeably out of control when he was in high school, as he resorted to slamming sixers in the parking lot before class. He initially began drinking to self-medicate his depression, but by his twenties, he drank to "overcome his natural inhibition" against murder. He committed his first one while living in Ohio in 1978, three weeks after graduating from high school, after picking up a hitchhiker named Steven Mark Hicks. Dahmer brought him to his home, where the two young men drank for a few hours, but after Hicks decided to leave, Dahmer bludgeoned him over the head with a 10-lb. dumbbell before strangling him. The next day, Dahmer dissected Hicks's body and buried the remains in his backyard.

Later that year, Dahmer enrolled in his only semester of college at Ohio State University, but if he attended class, no one has any memory of it. Instead, he seemed to major in drinking. When Dahmer's father paid a surprise visit to his dorm room, he found little more than empty beer bottles. Dahmer dropped out of college three months into the first semester, and the next January, he enlisted in the U.S. Army.

After training as a medical specialist at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas, Dahmer was stationed in Baumholder, West Germany, where he served as a combat medic in 2nd Battalion, 68th Armored Regiment, 8th Infantry Division. He wasn't much of a soldier, and in 2010, two men stationed with Dahmer stated that he repeatedly raped them over a 17-month period. Two years after his enlistment, Dahmer was deemed unsuitable for military service and discharged from the Army.