This Feral Friday’s post is by fellow Feral teammate, Christina Ward.
Serial Killer Jeffrey Dahmer was arrested at his Milwaukee apartment on July 22, 1991. I was nearly arrested that August for the same crime. He was guilty, I was not.
But the story of Dahmer Summer goes back a few years before 1991.
Punk, gay, weirdo; gay bars did not care. Sure there were punk clubs, but if you were a girl and you wanted to dance your ass off without getting hit on, you went to the gay bar. Pretty soon the straight boys followed. As long as everyone was cool, no one cared who was sleeping with whom. We started hearing something was wrong during the summer of 1990. Posters of missing boys were hanging in LaCage. Whispers of a “gay hunter” was heard among the go-go boys at C’est La Vie. We kept dancing.
In early 1991, everyone knew someone who had gone missing. The cops didn’t care. Activists were warning young men against going home with pick ups. Between AIDS and the disappearances, some thought there was a conspiracy to wipe out the gay male population of Milwaukee.
When summer rolled around, it seemed to fade. We weren’t hearing about any further missing boys. Then the story broke. Jeffrey Dahmer was arrested on July 22, 1991 after a man he tried to “zombify” escaped and flagged down some cops.
Each day the television news and papers were filled with new details. Dahmer was confronted by the cops in May of ‘91 when a naked 14-year-old Laotian boy tried to escape his home. Cops noted it as a “boyfriend/boyfriend” problem and gave Konerak Sinthamsomphone back to Dahmer; who killed him that night. We learned that he started picking up guys in Chicago and bringing them back to Milwaukee because here his potential victim base had grown too cautious. Crazy rumors circulated about neo-nazis and more killers on the loose. You got sucked up in the madness.
I was a young punk girl. I played in bands, bartended, made art. A piece I’d been working on used animal bones to reconstruct everyday objects. (I know, I was young.) Before you can get to the bones, you need to remove the flesh. As someone who spent many summers on a working farm, that’s not a problem. But doing it in the basement of a four-family apartment building might not have been the best idea.
In an early August afternoon, just a few weeks after Dahmer’s arrest. I get a knock on my door. “Do you know anything about bones in the basement?” the detective asks. “Yeah, they’re mine.” He spins me around, cuffs me, marches me outside. I walk out the door to find the building sealed off with the iconic yellow police tape. He sits me down and gives me the strangest look.
I started crying and shouting: “It was a deer! A friend gave me the deer carcass, we were stripping it! Really.”
The Medical Examiner’s office was already in the basement bagging it to take it to the lab for testing. A few minutes later, a high-ranking detective walked up, gave me a cigarette, asked me the same questions, then went into the basement.
There was a crowd of cops, neighbors, kids on bikes, drunks from the bar across the street, all watching the show. I’ll always remember the chief detective yelling as he walked back outside, “Don’t any of you motherfuckers hunt? It’s a goddamn deer.”
With that pronouncement, I was uncuffed.
Dahmer was killed in prison in 1994. He’s become a strange mascot to Milwaukee. Even Anthony Hopkins, in preparation for his role as Hannibal Lecter, visited Milwaukee just so he could see where Dahmer lived. What is it about serial killers that triggers a repulsion/compulsion in us? Can someone who has not killed even understand?
Moors Murderer Ian Brady, if the tabloids’ nearly daily hate fest is any indication, is England’s most notorious criminal, and the late Colin Wilson, along with Brady himself, decided that only a killer can fathom the workings of a murderer’s mind.
The Gates of Janus is that analysis. The new edition is a couple hundred pages larger, and it includes further material from Brady, Colin Wilson, and most of all from Peter Sotos himself. Here is the new cover: