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Entry #8: Jeffrey Dahmer's Kaleidoscopic Doppelgängers
In other words, I'm writing about a shapeshifting Gemini.
“Someday you will hear about me again.” —Jeffrey Dahmer
THE ABOVE QUOTE, made when Dahmer was 21, is supernaturally prescient and chilling. After being discharged from the Army in Germany, Dahmer shared his predictionwith a peer before boarding a plane that would return him to America. His forecast had no relevance to his reality at the time, which was that of a spiraling ne'er-do-well with no ambitions other than finding the nearest liquor store. Why, then, would we be hearing about him in the future?
Three years prior, straight out of high school, at the age of 18, Dahmer had already committed his first murder. Shortly thereafter, he made a brief booze-soaked attempt at attending Ohio State University—a ‘semester’ that lasted less than three months. After being expelled, his domineering father intervened and shuttled him into the military. He was then discharged from the Army prematurely due to his raging alcoholism.
Realistically, it was impossible for Dahmer to know the fate that awaited him at such a young age (that he would go on to murder 16 other young men). Although, some seemingly timeless part of his nature was already informed by the act of his first homicide. And how that stain would eventually spread over time. This eerie sort of precognition is, I contend, related to Dahmer’s Gemini Sun, which resides at the zero degree of the sign—an amorphous point where past, present and future merge into a not-of-this-world melange.
I’ve long contemplated these astrological borderlines between worlds (one sign separated from the other). And I’ve empirically studied and countered the misconception that planets (or the lights) positioned on a cusp are influenced by two signs simultaneously. Meaning that if you’re born on the cusp between Cancer and Leo, you will personify both signs simultaneously in a hybrid mash-up within the psyche. This isn’t tenable.
Consider each Zodiac sign as you would a light bulb. A light bulb is either ‘on’ or ‘off.’ It can’t be both expressions at the same time. Cancer is Cancer. Leo is Leo. So what to make of planets or lights positioned at a zero-degree (or, conversely, a 29th-degree) of the sign? These are both borderland realms where the nascent potency or the super-distilled qualities of the sign reside.
Experience has taught me that planets at the 29th degree have a power that is near-manic. Consider Mark Zuckerberg’s Mercury at 29 degrees of Aries. His obsession with the dictatorial Julius Ceasar is the easiest image I can convey to personify his ready-to-leave-one-world-for-another Mercury. Zuckerberg’s mythic icon acts as a compensatory measure for a Mercury that’s become exempt from the dictates of the everyday reality that you and I exist in. If the zero point of a sign is raw and filled with limitless potential, the final 29th degree has an effulgent, near-to-bursting expression about it.
Dahmer’s Gemini Sun is paradoxical and dichotomy-riddled. Being at the zero point amplified the wild-card contradictions of the sign. What of his Mercury, also in Gemini?
The astrological Mercury—the planet assigned ‘rulership’ over Gemini, exists in a realm beyond classifications (except for the classification that it exists beyond classifications). Like the sentence you just read, Mercury undoes and unravels as soon as a clearly defined definition is established. The planet’s motto seems to be “I will not be contained.” Dahmer expressed this in startling high-detail.
Writers come to understand the Mercurial shape-shifting qualities of the planet firsthand. And they learn to use the planet’s indeterminate nature to their advantage. At least, that has been my experience as a writer. When I approach a topic, I pay honor to Mercury by acknowledging that one-half of my brain has acquired knowledge and syntactical skills, while the other half is vacant or, at best, blurry—open-ended and willing to fumble about, waiting to see what Mercury is going to throw at me.
I write this way, too, because I enjoy learning new things, which Mercury will dish out through mysterious synchronic attunements—lightbulb-like ah-ha-revelations. This often happens when I’m writing a piece while listening to music. Often I’ll land at a void in a sentence, and a word from a bit of lyric will flow into my fingers, hitting the keyboard—fitting perfectly into a heretofore blank space.
Gemini and Mercury are two components of a horoscope that relate directly to the constantly shifting world of appearances, best typified by considering the mechanics of the mind, which is forever toggling up and down (and in between)—an incessant flux that echoes life’s central truth: the only constant is change.
If you study the slew of photographs and videos of Dahmer—from childhood until his death—you come away with the eerie impression that he is never the same person twice. As soon as a photo or video was taken, Dahmer effortlessly shape-shifted into another facet of his character. It’s uncanny and, again, highlights the chimera-like qualities of Gemini and its ruler Mercury. Of all of the Zodiacal signs, Gemini is both here and somewhere else simultaneously. This, I believe, relates to Dahmer’s alcoholism and why he preferred that muzzy world to the static, gravity-bound weight of quotidian life. Gemini is the puer aeternus deluxe—the eternal youth who is never earth-bound but floats and flies in the realm of endless possibilities.
These same here-but-gone apparitions overshadow the writing of my novel. As I told a friend recently, trying to structure descriptive syntax around Dahmer is akin to capturing lightning in a bottle. He’s nearly impossible to corral into a linear narrative. And yet the requirement is there to give the reader a sense of continuity. Finally, I had to succumb to his chameleon-like effervescence, allowing the story to fashion its own weird logic—most of which toggles between the world of obsession, dreams, and apparitions. Reworking earlier drafts is always astounding, as I often wonder who or what composed the plot!
People ask me what drew me to Dahmer as a subject, and my answer is multi-faceted and jumbled with nuance. And because most people have the attention spans of gnats, I’ve had to turn my answer into a question. For instance, I’ll ask them, “Imagine you’ve fallen in love with an individual who, in 10 years’ time, will be listed as one of history’s three most ‘evil’ offenders (the other two being Hitler and Stalin). What do you imagine your time with him would be like before his mind had disintegrated into madness?” Someone should write a book about that! (And I am.)
People want concise, packaged answers to pigeonhole uncomfortable subjects quickly. Especially when an unsavory character like Dahmer has become legendary within the collective imagination, all of the easy associations arise—the murders, the alleged cannibalism, the exhibitionism, the child fondling, the dabbling with Satanism.
If someone knows more about Dahmer than the oft-touted cliches, they also are aware of the tragic elements related to his childhood and the exploitation he endured (as most kids experience in school when they are quiet, shy, and effeminate.) Dahmer was so introverted and awkward fellow students in his high school dubbed him Jeffrey Dumber. But again, this was another facet of his Mercurial coping mechanism—the shielding that silence provided. When silence failed, Dahmer would transform into a trickster, hiding behind a self-effacing class clown routine. Dahmer’s IQ was above average, and when he finally spoke, he was articulate and bright—knowing a little about everything, which is the purview of his Sun and Mercury sign.
Dahmer’s rationale, as he repeated hundreds of times, for his taking of lives was that the men he’d brought home to murder would have eventually abandoned him. This is nonsense when considered in light of the fact that Dahmer was never present long enough within himself to offer any ontological permanence. A condition that might have allowed another person to discover and possibly love him. He resided in the floaty fume world that alcohol provided. A place where he could don personas while avoiding the onus of his crimes—flitting like Mercury to wherever his fierce fantasy life led him.
Until next time,
Opening images via YouTube. Collage by FW © 2023, Nightcharm, Inc.
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The quote is detailed in the book Milwaukee Massacre: Jeffrey Dahmer and the Milwaukee Murders by Robert J. Dvorchak.