MILWAUKEE — A new series on Jeffrey Dahmer, an American serial killer who terrorized a Wisconsin city from the late 1970s through the early 1990s, was recently released on Netflix.
The 10-episode series is called “Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story."
Millions of people worldwide will watch it, but many people in Milwaukee won't be watching it. For them, Dahmer’s reign of terror still hits too close to home.
“As someone who lived through it, I will not be watching,” said Scott Gunkel, an LGBTQ activist who worked at a Milwaukee gay bar frequented by Dahmer. “It brings back some trauma for the LGBTQ community here. Especially those who knew the victims. They all had families. It’s unfortunate they keep having to see these new movies and series come out. It’s hard to get closure.”
Dahmer admitted to killing 16 young men - as well as necrophilia, dismemberment, and cannibalism - over the course of a decade in Milwaukee.
“When I was a bartender, and he would come in, he was usually already drunk,” said Gunkel. “I remember a couple of times telling him I wouldn’t serve him because he was intoxicated. He was one of those smiling, sit-down, quiet drunks, and he’d just kind of stare at people until he got somebody’s attention. I honestly don’t think anybody had a clue what he was capable of. Even as a couple of the victims, who were also regular customers, were suddenly nowhere to be found and not coming in anymore.”
Dahmer was also a regular at The Fish Factory in West Allis.
“He was a very nice guy,” said store owner Stephen Banach. “Soft-spoken and polite. If you met him, you’d never think anything of it.”
Banach says Dahmer was always a polite customer who rode a city bus to and from The Fish Factory to buy fish or aquarium supplies. One day Dahmer asked for a fish tank to be delivered to his apartment.
“At that time in the 1980s, no one was really delivering things like that, so I told him we don’t do that,” said Banach. “I had a young Asian gentleman who worked here at the time as a part-time employee, and Dahmer pointed to him and said he’d like him to deliver it. I think a week later, he got caught.”
Banach was shocked when he saw Dahmer on the news. He’ll never forget seeing a newspaper photo showing Dahmer’s apartment with one of the fish tanks he had sold him.
“It was what was in that aquarium that still freaks me out,” said Banach. “I saw a couple of big piranhas and two skulls. But they weren’t the kind of skulls I sell in my store as aquarium accessories. I could tell they were real human skulls.”
Milwaukee Police showed up at The Fish Factory days later as part of their investigation into Dahmer.
“The detectives told me Dahmer had solutions that he was keeping things in, in his apartment,” said Banach. "They said they didn’t know what they were, so they needed to take samples of every liquid we had in the store. I never heard from them again.”
According to Netflix, this latest Dahmer series is the first one that centers more on the serial killer's underserved victims and their communities, who were also impacted by systemic racism and the failures of police at that time.