Why Jeffrey Dahmer's Picture Was Blacked Out In One Yearbook Photo

In the spring of 1978, members of the National Honors Society gathered at Revere High School in Ohio for their annual yearbook photo, based on 1991 New York Times reporting. In their midst was a fellow student named Jeffrey Dahmer, later convicted of brutally sexually assaulting, killing, and eating parts of 17 young men and boys, mostly in the Milwaukee, Wisconsin area (via History). Two years after his 1992 conviction, Dahmer was killed by another inmate while in prison. The complete Dahmer story is told in the 10-part dramatized Netflix series "Dahmer Monster: the Jeffrey Dahmer Story," with Evan Peters in the lead role (via IMDb).

Though Dahmer was there that day in the late '70s when that honor society photo was taken, his head was later inked out of the picture by the editor before the yearbook went to print. It all happened only a matter of months before Dahmer's first killing, and at the time, no one knew the dark secrets harbored in the heart and mind of the teen who would become one the most notorious serial killers in U.S. history. Dahmer was caught and arrested some 13 years later and given 15 life sentences for his crimes. Unaware of the horrific murders the future killer was capable of, the editor at the Ohio High School chose to obscure Dahmer's image because even then, the teen displayed traits consistent with other killers (via the FBI).

In high school, Dahmer was known as a prankster

The 1978 National Honor Society photo incident involving Jeffrey Dahmer's blacked-out image (above) was written about in Catherine Purcell and Bruce A. Arrigo's 2006 book "The Psychology of Lust Murder: Paraphilia, Sexual Killing, and Serial Homicide." In the book, Purcell and Arrigo outline that Dahmer was known as a prankster and class clown while in high school — he faked epileptic seizures and drew chalk outlines of bodies for attention. As a young man, Dahmer was known to kill and store animal skeletons in formaldehyde, and he drank heavily while still a teenager. His home life was also erratic, as The New York Times reports.

Speaking with The New York Times, Dahmer's former classmate, Martha Schmidt, said, "Whatever had gone on in Jeff's life, he couldn't talk about. It seemed so clear all along that it was someone saying, 'Pay attention to me.'" That Dahmer was a prankster and a class clown is consistent with traits of many serial killers outlined by the FBI, though the federal law enforcement agency also clarifies there is no single template to explain what motivates serial murder. According to the FBI website, many serial killers are impulsive, generally irresponsible, and seek stimulation in their behaviors — what Dahmer might have felt when he pulled those pranks. Serial killers are also known to show poor control of their own actions, and all the behavioral issues mentioned, among others, most often show up in childhood.

Dahmer was not an honor society member

Jeffrey Dahmer's head was blacked out in that honor society photo because he did not, in fact, belong to the honor society and had snuck into the photo session. Once the editor realized what had happened, they chose not to retake the picture and obscure Dahmer's head instead. It was also not the first time that Dahmer pulled such a stunt, according to his high school classmate, Martha Schmidt. According to Schmidt (via The New York Times), "[I]t was a very Jeff thing to do. It was part of his trying to be unconventional and to mock everything around him. I think he very consciously chose the honor society because I think in some ways he was laughing at himself and us."

As The New York Times elsewhere notes, Dahmer, who could also be charming, had such a penchant for mischief, and some classmates would say, "Don't do a Dahmer," referring to his frequent antics. Speaking with The New York Times in 1991, forensic psychiatrist Dr. Park Dietz said these types of behaviors point toward a biological fearlessness and "a need to seek thrills that makes criminal risk-taking a high." To this day, Dahmer's darkened head in the 1978 yearbook of Revere High School serves as an eerie reminder of Dahmer's pathology, which took the lives of 17 young men. In "Jeffrey Dahmer: Mind of a Monster," Dahmer's former classmate, Mike Krukal, said of the image (via LADbible), "I just remembered this strange photograph that is so haunting today to look at and know that this person, right dead center in the middle, is Jeffrey Dahmer."