Updated: Aug 26
For a time I lived almost opposite the North London house once occupied by Dennis Nilsen—a notorious serial killer who murdered at least twelve young men. As was my situation then, he rented a room in what had been a large Victorian mansion. I could just about see his house if I stood right by my window, it was to the left at a diagonal angle. The owners had replaced one roof tile with a novelty tile that had a dragon statuette on it; it was small, really only visible if you went to look at the house up close. I thought it was a strange addition and it recalled to mind the Hannibal Lecter film Red Dragon—and I wondered if the owners made a deliberate macabre reference with this tile choice. Nilsen lived in at least two addresses in North London and, if my research is correct, he never murdered anyone at “my” address—he was later caught out because the body fat from the victims he cut up clogged the drains at his shared house, not to mention the body parts in a suitcase in his room.
I raise Nilsen because he is connected to Jeffrey Dahmer—a contemporary serial killer, except with a definite predilection for cannibalism. Dahmer killed seventeen men in Milwaukee—not only that, he kept the head of one victim in a fridge and kept many painted skulls as well. He aimed to construct a shrine (pictured above). The connection between Nilsen and Dahmer is not just that both were homosexuals (although that is salient to their crimes); in particular, they both killed for the same reason—they killed for company.
Both men were afraid that they could not form a permanent attachment to another man and that other people would inevitably leave them—the logical solution to this problem was to kill men to keep. Nilsen and Dahmer were not sadistic—although Dahmer sometimes deployed handcuffs, he generally knocked his victims out with sleeping pills and took other measures to minimise their suffering. The two men would cradle their victims after death, sleep with them in the same bed—caress them; and, of course, have sex with them. However, the motive was not entirely sexual: Nilsen would dress the corpse up and chat to it—it was true love, permanent attachment.
The homosexual element is key here because homosexuality is ultra-masculinity. What is masculinity? Objectivity. Thus Nilsen was so alienated from his own body that he would lie on a bed naked and look at his reflection in a mirror—look at his back and his buttocks—and would feel that it was another body lying there (a dead body, if he lay very still). Total objectification, even so far as to be outside your own body—even so far as for your own body to become “a thing”.
This relation to the body is aesthetic, since aestheticism requires objectivity—total objectivity. Hence Nilsen was fascinated by The Raft of the Medusa (pictured below) and the way the old man in it cradles a dead body—both Nilsen and Dahmer liked to cradle dead bodies, quite akin to Achilles and Patroclus. So there is more than a hint in this autist-objectivism of the Old Masters—of Leonardo and Michelangelo, of the body seen with anatomic objectivity in a perfectly cold way so that it is beautiful. Indeed, Yukio Mishima, another homosexual aesthete, had early fantasies where he sacrificed beautiful white boys on a marble altar.
Men are more violent than women, more sadistic—and sex is ultimately violence, hence why women euphemistically refer to it as “murder”. Since homosexuality is ultra-masculinity, homosexual men are not only more objective than heterosexuals they are also more violent and sadistic. For the autist-homo, unable to form normal bonds with another person, the only acceptable alternative is to own their love through murder—and, in Dahmer’s case, through consumption of their body. Dahmer was a psychopath; he murdered animals, dogs in particular, when young—he always wanted to find out “how they worked”, to dig into the entrails (in humans this ended in him ejaculating into the entrails and viscera of his victims). This is autism: animals and people are “machines” that I can possess if I take them apart, split them to pieces to figure out just how they work.
We are all cannibals to an extent, of course. How many times have you heard someone say, “You’re good enough to eat. You’re delectable, I could gobble you right up!”? Parents even play that game with children, they pretend to be a lion or a wolf—some monster—and crawl around the floor, “I’m going to get you, I’m going to eat you all up!” “No!” squeals the child in delight—and then the parent tickles them. Lovers bite each other, and the vampire is an erotic symbol for this reason—Dahmer himself, while he worked at a plasma clinic, stole a vial of blood and drank it (he spat it out, couldn’t stand the taste).
Traditionally, warriors would eat the heart or liver from a fallen opponent to take on his strength and power—to own him forever. So the Dahmer intuition was in line with traditional societies—and, indeed, for a real Christian the wafer and wine literally become the body and blood of Christ at Mass. “You’re cannibals,” squeal atheists. “Yes, cannibalism is a normal and healthy part of human life; we eat Christ to gain his strength,” so Christians should reply, though they rarely do—and, of course, it is so much better to eat the body and the blood of a god than some random chap you met at the gay bar.
So far we have stayed within the bounds of normal psychology, nothing supernatural. The desire to eat a person to possess them could be looked upon as a purely biological process whereby you digest their chemical composition—they “live again” in you biologically. However, Dahmer was not just about being a homo-autist with an ultra-masculine desire to “get to know you” (so shy) via strangulation and dissection.
In fact, Dahmer was possessed by a Red Indian spirit, the wendigo. This cannibalistic creature-spirit ranges within the regions where Dahmer lived, the Great Lakes and the Great Plains. How did this possession come about? At about age nine, Dahmer began to play what he called “the Infinity Game” where he would draw circles within circles—and then have little stick men die in the circles. He purposively “escaped into infinity”; and this idea of circles within circles has been noted by the esotericist Miguel Serrano as being constitutive of a model of the universe at the metaphysical level. These were the portals that Dahmer had opened himself—further, the young Dahmer liked to deal with his anger by leaving the house and whacking sticks against trees; a sure way to summon spirits.
The wendigo has a particular relationship to bones—it is said to be constituted from very thin bones, it is gaunt in appearance with bones that seem to stick out from the skin. It looks like a recently disinterred body—a zombie, a fact we shall return to in due course. Dahmer was fascinated by bones: when he began his youthful attempts to “take animals apart” he fixated on the bones—he frequently ground down the bones of his victims; and on one occasion he tried to cook a skull in his oven (it began to crack and explode—don’t cook skulls in the oven). His first victim was a hitchhiker whom he killed and initially stuffed in the crawlspace beneath a house owned by his parents; when the body had rotted down, he took the bones into a wood and ground them up. I think all these antics with bones bound him as one with the wendigo spirit.
There was a hiatus between his initial murder of a hitchhiker and Dahmer’s main spree that primarily killed homosexual men. The killing that sparked his main spree began when he tore into a sleeping partner’s chest; he was fascinated by the chest—the sight of a chest, the chest bone, was enough to send him into a murderous phrenzy. This first “main sequence” murder was to get at the bones, not the heart.
Dahmer’s apartment ended up covered in body parts—a head in the fridge and organs stuck to the bottom of his freezer, and, at one point, two cadavers in the bath (with which he showered); although it appeared to be clean and orderly on the outside, a foul odour emanated from it. A visitor reported that not only was there a peculiar odour from the apartment but that it also had a strange aura to it too—it would have, being suffused with death. If you read account of the wendigo, the conditions which Dahmer created in his apartment match the sensation field that surrounds the beast.
Indians possessed by the wendigo are said to become detached and unemotional; they are characterised by a lust for human flesh and kill again and again to satisfy this lust. Dahmer was already a homo-autist, but this condition was accentuated by his possession—and his desire for man flesh did indeed increase to such a phrenzy that he eventually lost his job and was about to be evicted from his apartment when he was caught…and yet he kept on killing right up to the end.
Dahmer’s plan to construct a shrine in his room that was to be mainly constructed from the bones of his victims constituted, to my mind, a shrine to the wendigo spirit that had possessed him. Dahmer was cagey about why he wanted to construct the shrine—he suggested, possibly in jest, that it would “help him with real estate”. Yet he also alluded to the idea that when completed the shrine would allow spiritual power to flood into him. Dahmer decorated his shrine with griffins—the griffin in medieval lore was associated with indissoluble marriage; it symbolised the very thing Dahmer wanted, someone who would never leave him—perpetual union.
Dahmer had a very slight occult flavour about him; and as a teenager inveigled his friends into a séance that they fled in terror. He went to church with his grandmother when he lived with her, but he also read LaVey’s Satanic Bible. If you look at the picture below, admittedly from Halloween, you can see that Dahmer (on the left) seems to have instantiated outright Satanic energy early on; remember, his experiments with “Infinity Land” begun at nine. His mother was partly Welsh, he had the Celtic blood—and Celtic blood is very sensitive to the supernatural.
There is an uncanny element in the Dahmer story. The police seemed to virtually ignore him, and this started with his very first murder—carried out when he was only a teenager himself. He chopped the hitchhiker’s body into pieces and put them in garbage bags and drove out to a remote spot the dump the remains. The police pulled him over and actually examined his black garbage bags. Dahmer claimed he was visiting the city dump late at night as a distraction from his parents’ messy divorce. The police accepted the story; if they had just opened the bags, they would have found the remains of the first victim—the whole saga would never have happened. In a synchronicity, the officer who stopped Dahmer that night was the first to interview him when he was finally arrested for his murder spree.
Dahmer attempted to murder a young Laotian boy—tempted him up to his apartment with the offer of money to pose for photos; the victim escaped that time. Three years later, Dahmer bumped into the boy’s brother in a mall—offered him the same deal and this time murdered him. It seems remarkable that the boy, since he knew what happened to his brother, fell for the same trap—almost an enchantment. On the same occasion, in which the police really should have believed black women, Dahmer’s Laotian victim escaped his apartment—the police ignored the black women who tried to warn them and the officers delivered the victim right back into the apartment. There was even another body in Dahmer’s bedroom—an officer poked his nose in and saw nothing (the light was off). There was luck involved, the luck of the devil.
Dahmer liked his media in three forms: hardcore gay pornography, Exorcist II, and The Return of the Jedi. Dahmer identified with the figure of Emperor Palpatine: he went so far as to buy yellow contact lenses to make his eyes appear as the Emperor’s do in the film—he wore these out to bars. This is no minor matter, for in esotericism to put on the mask of the god is to become that god. So Dahmer became the Emperor—the man who wants to possess people absolutely (if you recall, the Emperor schemes throughout the trilogy to “own” the Skywalker family—Anakin, Luke, and Leia).
Exorcist II is significant because it is set in Rio and Africa—where the demon Pazuzu possesses an African boy with telepathic powers. This is significant because almost all Dahmer’s victims were black men—and he lived in a rundown black neighbourhood, the only white man in his apartment complex. Being America, this aspect to the case was politely covered up. The judge observed that Dahmer was attracted to a “body type” not a “skin colour” and so the case had nothing to do with race. This is merely typical liberal evasion: race is not just skin colour, it includes body features and much else besides. Dahmer really was “objectifying black bodies”. He took it to the limits: he descended on homosexual black men like some vampire-slaver—the master oppressor.
There is a parallel in the way Dahmer objectified black bodies and his contemporary the New York photographer Robert Mapplethorpe—a homosexual man who also used a camera lens to objectify and aestheticise black bodies. Dahmer also created an extensive photographic record of his murders—each posed in an unusual, probably magically significant, posture. The sensibility is that of the dandy; the nihilist who lives in the twilight world where all that counts is the hard and cool aesthetics that emerge from an encounter with death (as with marble, so like death itself). You can see this in their images: Dahmer left, Mapplethorpe right.
So it’s all about big black cocks, then? Mapplethorpe certainly liked to concentrate on the black penis; however, as you can see from the photo above, he also aestheticised the entire black body (sorry if this sounds like a cultural studies lecture, but this is the appropriate vocabulary). Similarly, Dahmer was fascinated by the chest—the bones; and, further, as you can see from his gymnastic pose, there was something about the whole body that fascinated him (although he did specifically preserve a penis one time, even repainted the tackle to make it “more realistic”). You have to remember that Dahmer’s primary motivation was to own someone—not to be left alone; he seems to have been fascinated by black bodies (literally) as a machine to own and possibly that was because blacks have historically been slaves (a slave-machine will never leave you).
Late in his career, Dahmer tried to make zombies; again, this connects to Exorcist II and its Afro-Latin themes—the zombie and Brazil, the zombie and the Caribbean. Dahmer would have Exorcist II on non-stop when he lured boys back to his apartment—he would make them watch it (he even had cassettes in Latin and books on biblical numerology—for he admired the priest in Exorcist II). Dahmer’s attempt to make zombies was basically an amateur lobotomy: he drilled into their heads and added a little acid or boiling water. The victims eventually died, but not before they wandered round in a daze—one “zombie” being the man who escaped to the outside for a time, before the police returned him to Dahmer.
Dahmer’s father was a chemist and rather pretentiously always insisted on being referred to by his PhD title. This is significant because Dahmer often used acids of various sorts to dissolve his victims; he would put them in a large blue plastic barrel and dissolve them into a black sludge and then pour them down the toilet. Dahmer’s interest in chemical disposal seems to have been inherited from his father—in a Frankenstein touch he also considered reanimating a man with a shock of electricity delivered right through the head.
He was smart—there is some disagreement as to his IQ, but the lowest figure given is 117 (other sources claim 145). However, Dahmer was uneducated—he hardly worked at high school and dropped out of college, wendigo lassitude. Pre-spree he was a diligent employee at the Ambrosia Chocolate Company, where he was a chocolate mixer—ambrosia, nectar of the gods; and, indeed, it seems to me that serial killers are driven by gods, driven by the need to make a blood sacrifice (Dahmer likened himself to an Aztec born too late).
Cannibalism is inextricably bound up with religion—with spiritual powers that we need to contact—even if it is carried out symbolically as in the Mass. Dahmer’s Celtic blood was animated in mid-America and put him in contact with forces, with the wendigo. I feel these connections have been synchronistically confirmed to me because I read the wendigo thesis, put forward psychologically not spiritually, in a book by Brian Masters; that evening, I looked up old BBC arts documentaries and happened to click on one that was about the Moors murders—the first talking head to appear was Brian Masters on Myra Hindley.
The serial killer is a link back to our primitive religious intuitions, once tamed by Christianity in a symbolic form and now—as the Christian age closes—let loose to wander the night.