Jeffrey Dalhmer

Jeffrey Dahmer

Why does a Jeffrey Dahmer happen? How does a man become a serial killer, necrophiliac, cannibal and psychopath? Very few convincing answers are forthcoming, despite a spate of books that propose to understand the problem.

Many of the theories would have you believe that the answers can always be found in childhood abuse, bad parenting, head trauma, fetal alcoholism and drug addiction. Perhaps in some cases, these are contributing factors, but not for Jeffrey Dahmer.

His father, Lionel Dahmer, wrote a very sad and poignant book called A Father's Story which explores the very common phenomenon of a parents trying desperately to give their child a good upbringing and discovering to their horror that their child has built a high wall around himself from which their influence is progressively shut out. While fortunately, most parents do not have a Jeffrey Dahmer to raise, too many have seen their children succumb to drugs, alcohol, crime despite their very best and, often frantic, efforts to intervene.

"It is a portrayal of parental dread... the terrible sense that your child has slipped beyond your grasp, that your little boy is spinning in the void, swirling in the maelstrom, lost, lost, lost."

Lionel seems to be fairly straightforward in recognising the negative influences in Jeff's life. No family is perfect. Jeff's mother had various physical ailments and appeared to be high strung, coming from a background in which her father's alcoholism deeply affected her life.

Lionel, a chemist who went on to get his Ph.D., stayed at work more often than he should to avoid
Turmoil on the home front. Eventually, the marriage dissolved in divorce when Jeff was eighteen.
However, none of this commonplace domestic discord accounts for serial murder, necrophilia, etc.

Jeff Dahmer was born in Milwaukee on May 21, 1960, to Lionel and Joyce Dahmer. He was a child
who was wanted and adored, in spite of the difficulties of Joyce's pregnancy. He was a normal,
healthy child whose birth was the occasion of great joy. As a tot, he was a happy bubbly youngster
who loved stuffed bunnies, wooden blocks, etc. He also had a dog-named Frisky, his much loved
childhood pet.

 
Despite a greater number than usual of ear and throat infections, Jeff developed into a happy
little boy. His father recalled the day that they released back into the wild a bird that the
three of them had nursed back to health from an injury: "I cradled the bird in my cupped
hand, lifted it into the air, then opened my hand and let it go. All of us felt a wonderful
delight. Jeff's eyes were wide and gleaming. It may have been the single, happiest moment
of his life." The family had moved to Iowa where Lionel was working on his Ph.D. at Iowa

 
When Jeff was four, his father swept out from under their house the remains of some small animals that had been killed by civets. As his father gathered the tiny animal bones, Jeff seemed "oddly thrilled by the sound they made. His small hands dug deep into the pile of bones. I can no longer view it simply as a childish episode, a passing fascination. This same sense of something dark and shadowy, of a malicious force growing in my son, now colours almost every memory."

At the age of six, he was found to be suffering from a double hernia and needed surgery to correct the problem. He never seemed to recover his ebullience and buoyancy. "He seemed smaller, somehow more vulnerable...he grew more inward, sitting quietly for long periods, hardly stirring, his face oddly motionless."

In 1966, Lionel had completed his graduate work in Iowa and got a job as a research chemist in Akron, Ohio. Joyce was pregnant with their second son David by that time Jeff was in the first grade and "a strange fear had begun to creep into his personality, a dread of others that was combined with a general lack of self-confidence. He was developing a reluctance to change, a need to feel the assurance of familiar places. The prospect of going to school frightened him. The little boy who'd once seemed so happy and self-assured had been replaced by a different person, now deeply shy, distant, nearly uncommunicative."

Lionel suspected that the move from Iowa to Ohio was the causative factor and Jeff's behaviour was a normal