Aurora Dimitre

So Why Is Dahmer The Monster?

            He killed over fifteen people, all young men, many of them minors. He sexually assaulted them, raped them, he tore their bodies apart. Sure, this is Jeffrey Dahmer[1]. But it’s John Wayne Gacy, too. Gacy, who killed more than thirty people—thirty-three confirmed, to Dahmer’s seventeen. With Dahmer, you’ve got the sensationalized idea of Dahmer being a cannibal, of Dahmer playing with dead bodies[2]. With Gacy—I mean, he was a clown, and that’s pretty fuckin’ creepy.

            But why is Dahmer the most monstrous American serial killer we can think of? Why isn’t it Gacy?

            The big three of American serial killers are Dahmer, Gacy, and Ted Bundy. Dahmer and Gacy are more comparable, though (if you wanna compare Bundy to someone, compare him to Ramirez, or Pickton, or Ridgeway, or Rader)—both of them were gay. Okay, Gacy claims bisexuality, and maybe the fact that he didn’t kill women is just because his attraction to men was less acceptable and he needed the release… but I don’t buy that reason for killing with Gacy. I can buy it with Dahmer. I can buy Dahmer being a killer because he didn’t understand his homosexuality, he couldn’t find a way to explore it, he had a history of mental illness in his family, and killing drifters and male prostitutes became his secret little way of getting his rocks off[3]. But Gacy, though he’s easier compared to Dahmer in terms of victims, is Bundy-like in manipulation.

            Here’s the thing: nobody liked Jeff Dahmer. Jeff Dahmer was always the weird kid, and then the weird guy, and nobody was surprised when they cracked open his apartment and, woops, he’s got… bodies in there[4]? But Gacy was well-liked. Gacy had wormed himself into every aspect of every town he lived in. He especially liked the status that came with being well-liked by law enforcement and politicians[5]. And while Dahmer picked up prostitutes and sometimes ended up lobotomizing and killing and eating them[6], Gacy, while he picked up his fair share of drifters and prostitutes, also killed a helluva lot of his employees. When Gacy’s trial was going on, the courtroom was full of family members of the victims. The reason John Wayne Gacy got caught is because he was too cocky and picked up a kid that people cared too much about. The reason Dahmer got caught is because one of his guys[7] escaped and the cops were like, “Yeah, okay, this is like, not the first time, the apartment stinks, Jeff’s kind of a weird guy, let’s check out the apartment.”

            Not all of Gacy’s victims were killed. Some of the witnesses the prosecution put on the stand were victims Gacy decided not to kill[8]. You could make the argument that if Dahmer got you, you didn’t get away[9], because he was working toward making his perfect sex slave that wouldn’t leave him or do anything he didn’t want it to do ever, which resulted in a lot of amateur lobotomies[10] and that’s harder to walk off than a pair of handcuffs and repeated dunkings[11], But the thing was—Gacy actually let some of these kids go. He didn’t kill all of them.

            In the case of Donnelly, Donnelly actually asked him why he hadn’t killed him already and Gacy responded, “I’m getting around to it.”[12] But he didn’t. He dropped Donnelly off after hours of torture because nobody would believe him. And nobody did believe him, not until Gacy went after the wrong kid, the kid’s family really wanted to know what had happened to their son, and huh, that’s a bad smell coming from John Gacy’s house.

            This is something that marks a huge difference between Gacy and Dahmer. Dahmer’s victims were primarily very young men and boys, mostly non-white. Mostly male prostitutes. Gacy had a type, and his type was[13] sixteen-to-twenty-one, white, and he liked blonds. He had plenty of victims who weren’t blond, but he apparently had a liking for blonds.

            But that’s not why I think Gacy’s more of a monster than Dahmer. The reason is that Gacy had power over a lot of his victims, and I’m not just talking physical power, because Jeff Dahmer was a big strong guy—you don’t think of that when you think about Jeffrey Dahmer, but he was six foot one and a hundred and eighty pounds, so he wasn’t exactly small. And Dahmer was athletic, too, to a point; Gacy was big but he was less ‘big and strong’ and more ‘big.’ So while Dahmer had physical[14] power over his victims, a lot of the time, Gacy was the boss or potential future boss of his victims. It makes the workplace awkward when the guy you work for propositions you, or straight-up gets you in handcuffs and tries to sodomize you[15]. A lot of kids quit after this. A lot of kids didn’t get the chance to quit, because they were rotting in the crawlspace.

            Gacy’s more of a monster because he had more societal power. Gacy’s more of a monster because he straight-up killed more kids. Gacy’s more of a monster because of his cockiness. Oh, I’m sure Dahmer was cocky, too; it takes a certain amount of cockiness to be a serial killer[16]. But Dahmer didn’t let some of his victims go because he figured nobody would ever believe them, even though he went after the “less dead.” Gacy didn’t go after the “less dead”, and he still knew that nobody would believe a kid over this fine Democrat. Gacy went after kids with families, and when he went after Rob Piest, that became his downfall. Gacy’s cockiness was in the end his downfall.

            To put it into perspective the differences in perception between Dahmer and Gacy, take a look at their prison life. Dahmer is beat to death within five years. Gacy lives the high life on death row[17] for fourteen years. Dahmer was the weird guy, Gacy was the upstanding member of the community. Dahmer had the blood of at least seventeen male prostitutes on his hands and in his intestines, and Gacy had the bodies of at least thirty-three young men (sometimes male prostitutes or drifters), some of whom worked for him, some of whom he had actual power over, under his floor[18]. They’re both monsters, but I don’t think Dahmer is The monster. I think that honor goes to Gacy.

            Also, he was a fuckin’ clown.


[1] This is not going to be a Dahmer apologist essay. This is not going to be a Dahmer apologist essay.

[2] This is bad, by the way. Super-creepy of him to do that.


[4] I mean, beyond the surprise that someone you know did something like that.

[5] And? Rosalynn Carter?

[6] Which was like, not cool, dude.

[7] Well, more than one of his guys escaped for a little bit, but eventually the police started listening to them.

[8] If you want to really get a good idea of how sadistic Gacy could get, look up what he did to Robert Donnelly. And Donnelly lived to talk about it—and most of the bodies found in that crawlspace were nothin’ more than bones, so we don’t know what he really did to the kids who didn’t survive.

[9] And if you managed to, the police would just hand you right back over to him, as was the case with Konerak Sinthasomphon.

[10] Lobotomies: not a word you want to see “amateur” in front of.

[11] Not making light of what Gacy did to these kids. Because it was a lot worse than handcuffs and dunkings.

[12] Second in creep factor only to Eric Harris’s “Peek-a-boo” to Cassie Bernall on April 20, 1999.

[13] Roughly, there were outliers.

[14] And also um, drugged them. But all of this is stuff Gacy had too.

[15] Although there were an amount of kids who. Continued working for him after this which I’m not even gonna touch, actually.

[16] Hell-o Bundy, Hell-o Ramirez, Hell-o—

[17] And you can tell, looking at the sort of things he got up to during this time, his time on death row was very unlike the time of Damien Echols.

[18] Okay, he ran out of room under his floor and eventually started having to dump them elsewhere. Shoulda gone the Nilsen route and flushed them down the toilet.


From Aurora Dimitre:

“I am a young author from rural North Dakota, currently working at my local public library and finishing up my Bachelor’s Degree in English.”