The 10-part miniseries "Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story" that landed on Netflix on Sept. 21features a number of momentspulled from original reporting about the horrific murders perpetrated by Dahmer over several years and discovered in July 1991.
Was everything in the show as it happened,or were some details glossed over a bit? As any fan of true-crime television will tell you, "based on a true story" can often mean a wide range of interpretation ofthe facts.
This particular series played things pretty faithfully to the reported information, though there were a couple notable story beats that diverted from reality.
(Reviews of the series have thus far been mixed.)
With the guide of original reporting from the Milwaukee Journal and Milwaukee Sentinel, as well as former Journal reporter Anne E. Schwartz's book on the topic ("Monster: The True Story of the Jeffrey Dahmer Murders"), here's alook at the fact and fiction ofeach episode.
More:The building where Jeffrey Dahmer committed gruesome murders was torn down in 1992, and the lot at 924 N. 25th Street still sits empty today
Warning: Some details may be unsettling to readers, and these details will reveal the events of the series.
EPISODE 1: EPISODE ONE
Glenda Cleveland didn't live in the Oxford Apartments building
One of the biggest changes to real events is the character of Glenda Cleveland (Niecy Nash). In the show, shelives adjacent to Jeffrey Dahmer (Evan Peters), who resides in apartment 213 in the Oxford Apartments on 25th Street in Milwaukee.
The real-life Cleveland lived in a building next door. It seems likely that the show attempted to amalgamateCleveland and neighbor Pamela Bass into one character. It's Bass who said that Dahmer made sandwiches for others in the building, which becomes the subject of an unsettling exchange between the Dahmer and Cleveland characters later in the show.
The Milwaukee Police incident on the news might not have happened
For as many details as the show gets right, it makes some curious choices on its newscasts. The first words you hear in the series are from a television news program being watched by Cleveland, starting with,"Five white police officers stand accused of beating a fellow officer in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, a Black man on undercover assignment," going on to indicate that the event happened during a traffic stop.
If that happened, we couldn't find any record of it, and certainly not in the months leading up to the 1991 arrest of Dahmer (which happens in subsequent scenes after this newscast is airing).
There was, however, an incident that fits the description that took place in Nashville, Tennessee, in December 1992.
Dahmer did show Tracy Edwards 'The Exorcist'
Dahmer indeed showed the movie "The Exorcist" to Tracy Edwards (Shaun J. Brown), the man who escaped Dahmer's apartment and later led police back to the scene where Dahmer was discovered (though in one interview he said it was "The Exorcist III"). Another of Dahmer's preferred movies, "Return of the Jedi," is also mentioned in the series.
How many locks were on Dahmer's door?
The episode chronicles the night of July 22, 1991, when Dahmer was captured after 32-year-old Tracy Edwards escaped his apartment and flagged down police. Edwards is shown on the show fiddling with the locks and trying to escape, which actually became a point of contention in real life.
Edwards' story changed throughout the aftermath of Dahmer's arrest, including appearances on talk shows in which he talked about the numerous locks on the door, while photos of the scene showed only two.
The other evidence police find in the apartment during the episode, from the painted skulls to the heads in the refrigerator, were real details from the scene.
EPISODE2: PLEASE DON'T GO
Milwaukee police officers did return victimKonerak Sinthasomphone to Dahmer, then radioed about needing to be 'deloused'
"Ten-four. It'll be a minute, my partner's gonna get deloused at the station."
They are the words of officer John Balcerzak, who reported to the Oxford Apartments with partner Joseph Gabrish on May 27, 1991, for an encounter that would become a major wedge between the Milwaukee citizenry and its leaders.
After infamously returning Dahmer victim Konerak Sinthasomphone to Dahmer — the killer had convinced the cops that the disoriented 14-year-old was actually his 19-year-old lover who'd had too much to drink— the officers returned to their car and radioed in. They later reported that the smell they observed in the apartment resembled someone recently using the bathroom and not something more sinister, and "deloused" was a word emphasized by critics as an indication of law enforcement's flippant or recoiling attitude toward the gay community.
Both officers, as well as a third who assisted (Rick Porubcan) were suspended once Dahmer's murders were discovered, including five more after that night.The two were fired by police chief Philip Arreola, then reinstated by a judge in 1994 and continued a long career in law enforcement.
Dahmer indeed stole a mannequin from a department store
It was a Boston Store — a now-defunct Milwaukee-based chain.
Dahmer did get angry abouttadpoles he gave a teacher
The episode pulled a real-life anecdote from Dahmer's childhood, whenhebecame upset when the tadpoles he gifted a teacher were handed off to a friend. Even more sinister than the show portrayed, Dahmer said he angrily went to the friend's house and killed the tadpoles by pouring motor oil into their jar.
Dahmer was convictedfor sexually assaulting the brother of one of his future victims
Dahmer was convicted of sexual assault of a minor — Sinthasomphone's brother — in 1988. Thishas largely been regarded as a horrifying coincidence. On the show, he buys Konerak beer from a convenience store and doesn't make the connection between the two brothers when Konerak brings it up. Dahmer in real life said he met Konerak at Grand Avenue Mall.
EPISODE 3: DOIN' A DAHMER
Ohio police let Dahmer go with damning evidence in the back seat
Dahmer revealed in his testimony that in 1978, after killing his first victim at age 18 (Steven Hicks), he was pulled over nearhis Ohio hometown with garbage bags in the backseat that contained Hicks' remains.
Though he was swerving and pulled over at 3 a.m., Dahmer convinced the officers to let him drive off. This interaction is portrayed in the episode.
He eventually stored the body and disposed of it two years later after returning from military duty, scattering the remains all over the yard of his parents' home.
Investigators found the remains in late 1991.
Dahmer's jogger story is partially accurate
Dahmer in real life did say that he became fascinated with an area jogger and thought about attacking him with a baseball bat, though it doesn't appear he ever did, vowing that if the jogger came by again, he'd finally act (but the jogger never came back).
In the show, Dahmerwinds up stalking the jogger and approaching himaggressively with the bat butthen bringing the jogger back to his house for a drink — an interaction that is revealed to be a fantasy.
Dahmer did pose with the Honor Society for yearbook photo, even though he wasn't in the group
It's true that Dahmeronce posed in his school's honor society yearbook photo even though he didn't belong to the organization. His face was blacked out, just as it was portrayed on the show.
EPISODE 4: THE GOOD BOY BOX
Dahmer did workat the Milwaukee Blood Plasma Center but didn't drink bags of blood
One scene on the show shows Dahmer getting a job as aphlebotomistat the Milwaukee Blood Plasma Center and bringing a bag of blood home to drink.
The real-life incident Dahmer described to law enforcement was less gory but also more daring.
Dahmer said he tried a vial of blood to see how it tasted and did so on the roof of the center. Dahmer said he spit the blood out on the rooftop.
Yes, Dahmer was arrested for indecent exposure at the Wisconsin State Fair and was kicked out of a bathhouse
His fine was $50 for the former offense and he was accused by the manager of drugging two patrons in the latter incident. The manager later testified at Dahmer's trial.
Dahmer said he killed his first Milwaukee victim at the Ambassador Hotel
As portrayed on the show, Steven Tuomi (Dahmer's first victim in Milwaukee)was murdered at the Ambassador Hotel, though Dahmer was never forthcoming with details about that night, saying that he'd blacked out. It's portrayed that way on the show.
Dahmer was not officially charged with Tuomi's death because no remains were ever recovered, though Dahmer did describe parts of the encounter.
EPISODE5: BLOOD ON THEIR HANDS
Ron Flowers' close call
In Schwartz's book, Dahmer said he didn't eventually decide to kill Ron Flowers— a man he led back to his grandmother's house in West Allis and drugged— because Flowers weighed 250 pounds and Dahmer wasn't sure he could move the body.
The Ron Flowers in the show (Dyllón Burnside) isn't that imposing, but he does get saved thanks to vigilant attention from Catherine Dahmer (Michael Learned). It's unclear if she was as hands-on in real life as she was in the show.
Just as in real life, Dahmer had offered to give Flowers a lift after Flowers' car broke down. Flowers remembered going back to the house and then waking up in a hospital, and he believed he'd been assaulted (the show doesn't include this). Police did question Dahmer afterward but found Dahmer's story to be credible.
TV news reports share odd information
Again, the TV news reports in the background are interesting; one mentions a house fire in Stafford (a community that does not exist) and another cites the Allis-Chalmers plant shutting down its tractor operation by the end of the year. Allis-Chalmers closed in 1985 before the events depicted.
Dahmer was sentenced to spend a year in the House of Correction, whichwas more casual than depicted
The correctional facility in Milwaukee where Dahmer was sentenced to spend a year looks like a jail on the show, but it's more of a "dormitory" setup in real life according to Schwartz.
Judge William Gardnerreceived much more attention in real life than on the show
Gardner received significant criticism for this leniency in sentencing Dahmer for the sexual assault of a minor, though he doesn't wind up emphasized in the series.
It's unclear if he indeed struggledwith thepatriarch Sounthone Sinthasomophone'sbroken English and asked that heenlist one of his children as a translator (as was the case on the show). Schwartz's book indicates that the family wasn't even present at the sentencing hearing because no one had informed them it was happening.
Donna Chester, a probation officerwho had appointments with Dahmer during his killing spree and never grew wise to his murders, also received widespread criticism but does not appear in the show.
EPISODE 6: SILENCED
Tony Hughes and Dahmer knew each other for more than a year, according to a witness
The show ostensibly set out to tell a tale about the victims and those who unwittingly allowed Dahmer's crimes to continue, but this is the first episode that spends prolonged time with characters other than Dahmer.
Tony Hughes first met Dahmer in 1989. The deaf man and Dahmer are shown in this episode having a lengthy relationship, at least by the show's standards.
The real-life Dahmer said in his confession that he never met Hughes before the night he was murdered, but a friend of Hughes' told police that Dahmer and Hughes had been friendly for more than a year, coming to her house six times from October 1989 to December 1990 looking for Hughes.
Another friend verified they knew each other for two years before Hughes became a victim.
Milwaukee newspapers reported on Hughes' disappearance after he went missing, before the Dahmer discovery.
Dahmer didcallfamily members of hisvictims
He menacingly told them to stop looking for their loved ones, as portrayed in the show.
EPISODE 7: CASSANDRA
Glenda Cleveland did repeatedly follow up with Milwaukee police about her suspicions
Glenda Cleveland, who witnessed the May encounter between Dahmer,Sinthasomphone and police, did follow up repeatedly, believingSinthasomphone was a younger child and not a 19-year-old. She called again after she saw a story in the newspaper aboutSinthasomphone going missing, recognizing him from that night.
Police did not act on her suspicions, and she called the FBI, which decided it did not have jurisdiction. Seven weeks went by before Dahmer was arrested.
In the show, Cleveland said she was making calls for "months and months."
Cleveland did get to meet the Rev. Jesse Jackson in Milwaukee
Cleveland was eventually hailed by the city as an example of citizen action, and the Rev. Jesse Jackson came to Milwaukee to highlight the double standard in how law enforcement looked at Black and white citizens, where Cleveland did get to meet him, as she did in the show.
Tenants in the Oxford Apartments did complain about the smell and did hear screams
The manager spoke to Dahmer about the issue at least three times, though it's unclear if he was threatened with eviction as he was on the show.
The manager even helped Dahmer clean out a freezer at one point in an attempt to alleviate the aroma.
But as mentioned above, there's no indication Cleveland and Dahmer ever met, so the menacing exchange in which Dahmer insists she eat a sandwich he gave her probably didn't happen.
Cleveland died in 2011 and never moved from 25th street.
EPISODE 8: LIONEL
The families' testimonies are nearly word-for-word from court transcripts, and they're the most effective part of the show
It wouldn't be surprising to see this show draw criticism for falling short of providing a greater story to the families of victims.
The most effective scene in the series comes toward the end of this episode, when family members are able to speak in court how Dahmer's murders have impacted them. The speeches are almost word-for-word from actual transcripts, but unfortunately, we haven't spent enough time with these people to get a sense of their stories.
That includes a passionate demonstration of rage from Rita Isbell (DaShawn "Dash" Barnes), the sister of victim Errol Lindsey. Isbell really did attempt to lunge across the table to attack Dahmer in the trial.
A representative from the Isbell family questionedthe purpose ofanother re-telling of the Dahmer story with the Netflix release.
Lionel Dahmer did petition Judge Gardner to keep his son locked up
Much of the show focuses on the complicated relationship between Lionel Dahmer (Richard Jenkins) and his son. It's true that Lionel petitioned judge William Gardner tonotrelease Dahmer, believing he needed treatment for alcohol and his other urges, somethingDahmer did not receive during his stay in the correctional facility while serving his sentence for sexual assault.
There was a Jeffrey Dahmer comic book in 1992
On the show, Dahmer acknowledges that he'd heard of another notorious Wisconsin serial killer, "Butcher of Plainfield" Ed Gein, through a comic book. It's unclear if there really was an Ed Gein comic book that Dahmer read when he was younger (there's definitely a graphic novel today), but the Jeffrey Dahmer comic book shown in the series was real, to the horror of family members, in 1992.
EPISODE 9: THE BOGEYMAN
Milwaukee police officers Balcerzak and Gabrish did not receive'Officer of the Year'
One of the show's biggest inventions, a brief scene showsthe two police officers at the center of the feud between citizens and law enforcement— John Balcerzak and Joseph Gabrish— receive an "officer of the year" commendation.
That never happened, though both were reinstated to their jobs in 1994, with back pay, and Balcerzak later became president of the Milwaukee police officersunion.
Cleveland was, however, formally honored by the Common Council and County Board, and mayor John Norquist called her a model citizen. Her recognition is portrayed in the show.
We couldn't find information on Sandra Smith's arrest
In the show, Sandra Smith (the daughter of Glenda Cleveland) is arrested for assaulting a gawker and shattering his camera. We couldn't find record of that ever happening and it might be a show invention. The real-life Smith was present the night the police returned Konerak Sinthasomphone to Dahmer.
It's true that the apartments were razed and nothing took their place
The Oxford Apartments were purchased for $325,000 by the Campus Circle Project, a public/private organization affiliated with Marquette University, and razed in 1992. Even today, the lot at 924 N. 25th Street is vacant, surrounded by a black fence.
EPISODE 10: GOD OF FORGIVENESS, GOD OF VENGEANCE
In what might be seen as one of the series' flimsiest episodes, characters (including Dahmer) try moving on, with a theme offaith and forgiveness.
Christopher Scarver, the convicted murderer who killed Dahmer and another inmate (Cedarburg murderer Jesse Anderson) at the Columbia Correctional Institution, is portrayed as someone seeking God's advice in how to deal with Dahmer.
The real-life Scarver has given testimony saying he believed he was a million years old. He also professed to be the son of God. So he may be prone to embellishment.
Investigators determined that prison staff were not culpable in the double murder. Two life sentences were added to Scarver's initial life sentence.
JR Radcliffe can be reached at (262) 361-9141 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @JRRadcliffe.
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