The Problem with Serial Killers: Jeffrey Dahmer

I’ve mentioned already that I’m currently in the process of writing a novel that deals with serial killers and this has meant a substantial amount of research that has been fun and surprisingly engaging.  My time at the gym is currently spent listening to podcasts about the life and crimes of notorious serial killers and, the more I hear about them, the more I’m beginning to realise that some of these individuals are thicker than shit in the neck of a bottle.

This week I want to look at the stupidity of serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer.

Jeffrey Dahmer raped and murdered 17 men and boys between 1978 and 1991.  The number would have been substantially higher if Dahmer hadn’t been so stupid in 1991 when he was found out.

On the day of his capture, Dahmer had invited 32-year-old Tracy Edwards to visit his flat under the pretence of taking nude photographs. When Edwards arrived, he was immediately hit by the stench and the boxes of hydrochloric acid strewn on the floor. Dahmer explained the hydrochloric acid was being used for cleaning bricks.

Dahmer’s MO involved getting his victim-to-be into handcuffs, pressing a sharp knife against the victim’s chest, and then boasting about his plans to kill. Although cuffed, and most certainly scared, Edwards managed to stay calm and kept Dahmer from attacking him by chatting with him in a calm tone and pretending they were still friends. This simple technique confused Dahmer, who would (apparently) occasionally drop his guard to look away at the TV and lose himself in satanic chants.

Edwards asked to be released from the handcuffs to go to the toilet. Dahmer acquiesced and Edwards took advantage of the opportunity, punched him in the face, and ran away. There are some people who argue that this is not so much stupidity as gullibility, or misplaced trust, on Dahmer’s part.  However, I’d argue that any serial killer wanting to avoid capture should have the brains not to trust someone who he had been about to murder. I’m glad Edwards escaped, and I’m delighted Edwards’ escape led to Dahmer’s arrest and incarceration. But I firmly believe that Dahmer’s stupidity was as much a factor as Edwards’ quick thinking and bravery. Edwards returned to the flat with two police officers later to find Dahmer still sitting there. Dahmer told the officers that it was all a huge misunderstanding and they were ready to believe him, until they discovered a drawer full of Polaroid pictures showing human bodies in various stages of dismemberment. In addition to the photographs, the flat was littered with human remains. Several heads were in the refrigerator and freezer. There were two skulls on top of Dahmer’s computer. And there was a 57-gallon drum containing several bodies decomposing in chemicals, stored in a corner of Dahmer’s bedroom. And, if that’s not sufficiently grotesque, police also found evidence to suggest that Dahmer had been eating some of his victims.

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