The Dahmer Fan Club That Formed When The Serial Killer Was In High School

The impact Jeffrey Dahmer has had on pop culture since his 1991 arrest for murder has been voluminous. His willingness to sit for multiple prison interviews with journalists certainly kept his horrific story in the headlines and made it fodder for exploitation. Even in the years following his 1994 death behind bars, Dahmer captivated society. Subsequent interviews with his father and stepmother, Lionel and Shari Dahmer, documentaries, and various lawsuits against Dahmer's estate and police officials handling the investigations continued to keep him in the headlines. A 1993 comic book titled "Dahmer's Zombie Squad" (via The Comics Journal) and other subversive media also worked to pique people's curiosity.

In 2022, Netflix released its series "Dahmer — Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story" (trailer on YouTube). The show quickly became the second-most streamed show on the platform behind "Stranger Things." The streaming giant followed the Ryan Murphy-created series with the October 2022 release of "Conversations with a Killer: The Jeffrey Dahmer Tapes," a chilling documentary that features Dahmer's taped confessions to police (per The New York Post). 

The two Netflix explorations into the world of Jeffrey Dahmer were not the first times that he was featured on a streaming service. Following the 2017 premier at the Tribeca Film Festival, "My Friend Dahmer" was released on Hulu in early 2018 (per IMDb). The film, based on the 2012 graphic novel of the same name, is a peer's perspective of the high school student who would grow to be one of the most notorious killers of the 20th century.

Dahmer gained fans with his odd behaviors

In the graphic novel, author John Backderf (above) used his high school as the backdrop for his memories of an odd, but interesting, former classmate. The story unfolds over the six years that Backderf knew Dahmer, having befriended the shy and awkward boy when they were in their early teens. Backderf told the New York Post that when he first met Dahmer that he was "another quiet, dorky kid. He was a lab partner of mine for a year. There was really nothing remarkable about him at all. And then ... he changed."

By the time Backderf and his other high school pals were 16, Dahmer began engaging in some pretty bizarre behavior at school. He would fake giant tantrums in the hallways, both shocking and amusing Backderf and his small clique of friends. Dahmer would also fake having cerebral palsy, inspired by a man his mother had hired who had the condition. Though Backderf and his friends would later admit that laughing at this impression doesn't bode well through a modern lens, he didn't want to hold the truth back. 

Backderf and several others let Dahmer into their circle, encouraging his antics. These teens even dubbed themselves "The Jeffrey Dahmer Fan Club," a small group that loved Dahmer's quirky and bizarre behavior and was left with wanting more. Though Dahmer was not yet a killer, his hidden desires were beginning to mount. Unaware of Dahmer's darkest thoughts, Backderf was beginning to have some reservations about his weird high school friend.

Backderf stated that Dahmer began to make him feel uneasy

Backderf acknowledged that the small-town life he and Jeffrey Dahmer (above, in 1978) experienced in Bath, Ohio meant that everyone's business was hung out to air like dirty laundry. According to the New York Post, many in the community were aware of the mental health struggles suffered by Dahmer's mother, Joyce. What wasn't known at the time was that Jeffrey was already killing and dismembering small animals. Backderf recalls the severed head of a dog being found on a spike, and how he and others never attributed it to Jeffrey. "We thought it was a local group of Satanists," Backderf told the New York Post. "And later, Dahmer admits to it, and it's like, 'Oh, holy s***.'"

Backderf also recalled feeling a "sick cloud of doom" seemed to hoover over Jeffrey the last months they were acquainted before graduating high school. Even though Jeffrey had never threatened him, his former classmate remembered feeling like he was in danger and needed to get some distance between the two of them.

The members of The Jeffrey Dahmer Fan Club lost track of Dahmer soon after graduation, left wondering whatever happened to the teenage boy who gave them so much weird amusement. Some of them reunited at the film premiere of "My Friend Dahmer," years after learning that the subject of their high school club killed the first of his 17 victims weeks after the end of their senior year.