From the outside, apartment 213 on North 25th Street in Milwaukee looked completely ordinary. Nothing on the exterior would indicate the horrors that were concealed within. Nothing, save for the rancid odour emanating from that particular apartment. Smells, of course, were explained away by its occupant as being caused by a broken freezer spoiling the food inside or, on one occasion, pet fish that had recently died.
Who was this occupant? One, Jeffrey Dahmer, who by the time he was apprehended in 1991 had taken the lives of seventeen boys and men. As if the murder of these innocent victims wasn’t enough, his crimes also involved necrophilia, cannibalism and the dismemberment of their bodies to preserve and keep.
When investigators were finally able to gain access to Dahmer’s macabre workshop, they could never have prepared themselves for the absolute horrors that lay within. Put yourself into their shoes as we walk you through Jeffrey Dahmer’s apartment as they found it…
Dahmer committed his horrific murders over a period of thirteen years without being detected. So what was it that finally led police to his grisly domain?
Near midnight on the 22nd of July 1991, two police officers on patrol were approached by a frantic Tracy Edwards who, bizarrely, had a pair of handcuffs dangling from his wrist. Of course, the police assumed that he had escaped from another officer. That was until Edwards started recounting them with a story of a “weird dude” who handcuffed him and threatened him with a knife.
Despite their skepticism, the officers, led by Edwards, visited the apartment where he claimed to have been held. They were surprised when a good-looking, blonde man opened the door with a great deal of calm. The man, Jeffrey Dahmer, admitted to handcuffing Edwards and told the officers that they key was in his bedside drawer, if they wished to undo him. As the officers moved towards the bedroom, Dahmer attempted to push past them to retrieve the key, prompting one of them to tell him to “back off”.
The first discoveries
The large knife resting on the bedside table was to be the least of the officer’s worries as what lay within the drawer would trump anything they had seen before. Inside lay piles of polaroid pictures of dead human bodies in various stages of decomposition and dismemberment. The decor in the pictures matched that of the very apartment in which they stood.
Once Dahmer noticed that the officers had found his polaroids, his calm demeanor shattered. As one attempted to restrain him, the other opened the refrigerator and exclaimed “there’s a [expletive] head in the refrigerator!”.
Now pinned to the floor, Dahmer, finally defeated, said: “for what I did I should be dead”.
Aside from these gruesome artefacts, in plain sight in the apartment was several boxes of muriatic acid on the floor. Dahmer had previously told Edwards that it was to be used to clean bricks however, more likely it would have been used to strip the flesh away from his bones later.
The hidden horrors
The clean and tidy flat was simply a mask for what lay beneath, in the refrigerator, drawers, closets and pots were artefacts the the medical examiner likened more to a medical museum than a crime scene.
A total of four severed heads were found in Dahmer’s refrigerator and freezer alone. Along with a box of baking soda that barely covered the scent of decomposition rampant in the room. Two human hearts were also discovered here, with a tray at the bottom to collect any blood that dripped. In the freezer, investigators found frozen meat galore — a full human torso, a bag of human organs and some remnants of flesh frozen stuck to ice.
Next, we step from the kitchen through a door fitted with a deadbolt lock into the bedroom which had a closet and bathroom attached. In the closet, an innocuous looking stockpot was opened to reveal its dastardly contents as being even more severed body parts. Two skulls were also found on the shelves of the closet. Here, Dahmer’s tools of choice were also discovered: containers of ethyl alcohol, chloroform, and formaldehyde weighed down the shelves. Disturbingly, male genitalia preserved in formaldehyde were also found here.
Even more polaroid pictures were found showing Dahmer’s victims both before and after death — these alone spoke volumes about what had happened in apartment 213.
Elsewhere in the bedroom and apartment, a fifty seven gallon drum was discovered. Horrifically, it contained dismembered torsos dissolving in muriatic acid.
The madness behind the method
Of course, murderers usually dispose of their victims away from any location that could tie them back to the crime. So why would Dahmer have preserved parts of his victims so carefully, in his own home nonetheless?
During questioning, he told police that he was in the process of building an altar. An altar made of his victim’s skulls on the black table in his lounge, the very table where he often photographed the victim’s bodies. The altar was to be guarded at each side by the complete skeletons of two of his victims. Incense sticks, a large blue lamp and a black curtain to cover the window would have completed the look. He told investigators that the altar would have been dedicated to himself as a place where he could meditate, gather power and simply feel at home.
Aside from this macabre construction, what drove Dahmer to these crimes is quite contentious. He even once said that he never enjoyed the actual killing – he just wanted to acquire the dead bodies. Some expert claim that he was controlled by his fantasies and is differentiated from other serial killers in that typically the killer stops once the victim is dead, but Dahmer continued and even relished in the ritual afterwards. You can read even more about these types of killers here.
However, one explanation is yet to be agreed upon and it is a sad truth that we may never truly know what made Dahmer tick.
Your turn: What can you tell about Jeffrey Dahmer’s personality based on what the police found in apartment 213? What do you think motivated him? Let us know in the comments below — we’d love to hear from you.