A look into Jeffrey Dahmer

Sharing what I watched this evening, beginning with an interview with Jeffrey Dahmer and his parents shortly before he was killed:

Wasn’t keen on Stone Phillips covering that, but what’s done is done. Eh.

Footage from Jeffrey Dahmer’s trial:

Left my comments on both videos.

Makes me think of what Ernest Becker spoke of in his final book Escape From Evil about cannibalism and how one incorporates the mana power of another, how man has a zest for killing and hunting prey, and it also makes me think of how our modern discord can shape individuals who seek power in their own more “primitive” fashion. That being what humans are equipped to be capable of, and there existing a need to strive for some sort of meaning in what’s coming to feel like a nihilistic world.

How a person chooses to create such meaning opens up all sorts of possibilities, including seriously negative and sadistic attempts toward satiation.

That Dahmer was into the movie “Star Wars” I also find interesting since that film was inspired by writings of Joseph Campbell relating to the hero’s journey. And that’s all about trying to carve out one’s destiny and utilize one’s powers to do something, to prove something, to experience life and be what we are. Whatever that winds up being.

There’s an undeniably primal accent on Dahmer’s crimes and what he was attempting to achieve, shaded by modern frustrations and internalized taboos and family strife and whatever else. It’s a very interesting case study, and I am actually appreciative of Dahmer’s demeanor in the end. He confessed guilt once caught, told of his crimes without playing further games, and knew he deserved death as a result. Out of all the serial killers I’ve learned about over the years, this one is most definitely distinctive on several counts.

I could say more but the night is winding down.

Time for a blast from the past: reaction to “An American Crime”

Keep saying I’m going to drag content over from my old blog to this one, yet rarely do so. Perused over there tonight and picked out a little oddity: my thoughts written in early 2011 on the film “An American Crime” and the true back-story it’s meant to depict. The piece follows (re-edited and shortened).


The disturbing film “An American Crime” was based on the real-life events that led to the murder of a teen entrusted to the home of a single mother of a litter of kids back in the 1960s.  The film itself wasn’t terrific, IMO, in terms of exerting power over viewers and creating empathy with the characters, but I appreciate it for introducing me to a significant criminal case that otherwise might have remained obscured from my knowledge.

Two teenage sisters, Jenny and Sylvia Likens, were handed over by their parents to stay with Gertrude Baniszewski as they traveled with the carnival.  Gertrude suggested the arrangement at the cost of $20/week — money she and her kids desperately needed.  But what the Likens parents didn’t realize when relinquishing their daughters to Gertrude’s household, only really knowing beforehand that the woman attended their church, was that Gertrude and her kids were severely disturbed.  Namely Gertrude, as her kids likely became jacked up as a result of having her for a parent.  She became disturbed due to having so many kids and proving unable to rely on her chosen men to stay and help raise them.  Never underestimate the crazy-making potential of lacking a support network.

It’s all rather grizzly.  In a nutshell, Gertrude made Sylvia the household whipping pony.  Abuse was heaped onto 16-year-old Sylvia, who became confined in the basement, in a vain attempt to evidently protect Gertrude’s own kids by venting frustration onto Sylvia.  Going so far as to carve the words “I am a prostitute and proud of it” on Sylvia’s torso.  What’s particularly unsettling is that Gertrude’s children joined in on abusing Sylvia, as did neighborhood children.  They tied her up, beat her, put cigarettes out on her, threw her down stairs, until eventually Sylvia died from her injuries.  She and her sister Jenny had been staying at the Baniszewski residence for only 3 months.

People ask why I subject myself to such atrocious stories and films, and I wonder myself sometimes.  After viewing this one though, the answer seems clearer: because these awful stories serve as microcosms for the greater evils that concern me.  People ask how could Nazis do what they did, and others answer that it was their duty, plain and simple.  But that is not a sufficient answer.  People ask why entire nations of people throughout history have been misled and corrupted by terrifyingly psychotic leaders.  The reply is too often a shrug, as though these were isolated cases, pockets of strangeness throughout history and nothing more.  But that is a lie.  And a convenient lie at that, one we tell ourselves so as not to be forced to shine light on the dark corners of our own psyches.

In this case, children took the stand and repeatedly stated that they didn’t know why they joined in in victimizing an innocent teenage girl.  Some claimed to be afraid of repercussions to their own persons.  But we know better than leave it at that.  We know that people can be excited and exhilarated by violence and especially being freed up to release it on others.  We know that people act very strangely when taking part in activities as a group; and we know that some people for some reason haven’t any real, authentic individuality to begin with.  This is why democracy is so dangerous, as is trusting opinion polls or anything else that supposedly reflects the attitudes of the so-called majority.  Because several people agree on something doesn’t make it right.  In fact, I’d go so far as to assume anymore that the more people who jump on a bandwagon, the less trustworthy the situation may be.

This film made me think about how people so easily succumb to threats and desire to avoid being singled out.  And it’s this very social dynamic that is responsible for so many cruel and pointless tragedies.  People remain mum while watching a girl get beaten by several peers just as they do when faced with powerful ruling parties in government.  Gotta join a team, right? Can’t be the deviant unless deviance is considered cool among a peer group.  If deviance means being left standing alone crying, humiliated and afraid, most will avoid enduring it.  Who wouldn’t prefer to be on the side with the whip rather than belong among the whipped minority?

I am deeply sickened on this night.  This film did upset me, as plenty have and will.  I watch and read and think long and hard because I demand answers that are sufficient.  As a nonconformist with deep sensitivities who’s familiar with the underdog status, I pray to maintain the strength needed to look the weak in the face and carry on regardless.  But what makes the weak so weak?  And by contrast, this does not imply that I am strong.  I feel weak often enough.  But I also have an ingrained identity and sense of what I expect from myself and others, and past a certain extent it becomes non-negotiable.  They will curse you, call you names, call you a whore, slander your family as trash, accuse you of being a man in a woman’s body for having an assertive nature.  People will step on the most sacred and deeply damaged parts of your heart and psyche in an attempt to…to what?  To make you feel small so as to make themselves feel bigger by comparison?  Bullies…the world is full of them.

What I do know also is that I have some of it in me too.  The sadist, the masochist, the bitter, the bitch, the tyrant — I admit to possessing this potential and have been working hard for many years to clip it back, not through suppression but through understanding what it is and where it comes from, along with seeking avenues for expression that I can live with.  Regularly my mind wanders back to the intoxication of however mild or sharp sadomasochistic pleasures, but as time has worn on I’ve changed.  What once titillated now only does so vaguely in an abstract sense, but in actuality I am made physically ill when consciously stepping onto well-worn destructive paths.  It is a blessing — hallelujah — but I am not yet “cured.”  No such thing probably exists, as I’m figuring out, perhaps for any of us.  People wish for certainty that all is changed and the past will be kept in its place, but I am here to tell you that the past will resurface and no magical illusions will suffice forever.  Effort is ongoing.  Life is not intended to be easy.  This is what it means to be human — to make conscious decisions to shape one’s outcome everyday by choices made.

When a person tosses their own free will aside, or harnesses it to the power of a collective mindset, that person ceases being an individual and becomes no better than a slave.  Just as animals are slaves to their instincts.  But humans, through our evolution, have received the extraordinary responsibility for our own selves to direct our lives.  Our instincts are no longer strong enough to guide us everywhere we’re capable of going, and like other primates we need one another to survive and thrive, most especially when young.  What separates humans from the animal kingdom isn’t simply our opposable thumbs, tool-making ingenuity, or higher intellects — we are separate because we each are capable of making conscious, self-aware choices.  Rational or irrational.  Life-affirming or destructively “evil.”  And in choosing not to make hard choices ourselves so as to blend in with “the majority,” we are indeed by default making the choice to be inhuman.  I would say this compares to being an animal, but it’s a pity to look down on the animal kingdom where no such choices exist.  There is a special brand of what we like to call “evil” in our deliberate decisions to escape from the freedom we innately possess, to choose comfort over conscience, and to obey in fear rather than live in love.

The Baniszewski case is but one example of people choosing the inhuman route.  Do note that examples are everywhere, past and present, from the seemingly trivial to the colossal in scope and impact.

Real-life monsters

[Update 2/17/2015: The videos previously posted (and the associated channel) have all been taken down from Youtube. So I’ll post up what other relevant videos I’m able to find but don’t currently have time to review them all and so can’t verify if they’re the same as the originals posted previously.]

1.) Joseph E Duncan III — Child Molester and Murderer:

2.) Fred and Rosemary West — 25 Cromwell Street Serial Rapists and Killers:

Those two were a sick fucking duo.

3.) Charles Ray Hatcher — child molester, rapist and serial killer:

This one I am unable to find a video on, but I recall reading a book about him over a decade ago. The most extensive information I am able to find on the man currently is available on wikipedia.

In the case of Charles Ray Hatcher we see the man was in and out of prisons and mental institutions, and each time he was released he went back to raping children and men across several states, including Missouri, Nebraska, Iowa, and California. He even raped and killed a fellow inmate during one of his spells locked-up, and yet wasn’t convicted for that due to there being too little evidence, and that was way back early on in his criminal career.

What’s always stayed in my mind about this particular criminal was how in one instance he was actually caught in the act beating and sodomizing a six-year-old boy he’d abducted and taken out into the woods, AND YET, though he was charged he was later paroled (once again!) and set free to rape and kill more boys! That went on and on and on with this guy, from between approximately 1960 to the early ’80s. Incredible.

4.) John Duffy and David Mulcahy — The Railway Rapists (murderous duo):

5.) Kenneth Allen McDuff – The Broomstick Murderer:

McDuff’s case demonstrates a few points I like to hit upon when discussing our justice system and criminal behavior of this nature. For starters, it’s common for serial killers to hone their “craft” on victims who are less likely to draw as much public outcry, like lesser knowns, prostitutes and runaways. Another important feature in this case that I see over and over again when learning about violent offenders is how common it is for them to be paroled or to receive lesser sentences than they deserve, with prison overcrowding being the typical excuse given.

Isn’t it interesting that drug-sellers can get the book thrown at them and face incredibly lengthy sentences, yet when it comes to lightening the load of the prison population it’s rapists and violent offenders who wind up being released? Do you imagine that’s an accident or an oversight when records show this happening again and again and again? (Since profit motives seems to tie into everything these days, I wonder why there’d be more incentive to keep drug offenders locked up while letting violent offenders go free. Is it perhaps because they are so likely to re-offend and through doing so wind up requiring a great deal of police resources to investigate their crimes, which in turn provides an excuse to beef up police and sheriffs’ departments? That’s job creation, cynical as it may sound, and that’s the problem with relying on the State to create jobs for us — those are the sorts of jobs a government has to offer. This is meant as a thought exercise, pondering on the role economic incentives might play in what otherwise appears to be sheer incompetence on the part of law enforcement branches.)

And we could go on and on in looking up modern-day monsters among us, but that’s enough for one night.