John Borowski lives, breathes, and works in death. The multi-talented, Chicago-based true-crime author, filmmaker, lecturer, collector, and authoritative expert on serial murders and the people who commit them has just stunned again with a new book titled, Dahmer’s Confession: The Milwaukee Cannibal’s Arrest Statements. He is also a featured expert in Investigation Discovery’s miniseries about H. H. Holmes, The Murder Castle.
The book compiles Dahmer’s actual police paperwork, interspersed with images inspired by the case from a stunning roster of cutting-edge artists and illustrators.
Like many of his subjects, Borowski is insanely prolific (although in a far more positive manner). He took some time to talk to CrimeFeed about Dahmer’s Confession, as well as his other works on the diabolical likes of Ed Gein, H.H. Holmes, Albert Fish, and more.
Dahmer’s Confession is an absolute must-read for anyone fascinated by the Milwaukee cannibal in particular, and true crime in general. It will be available to purchase everywhere on October 30, 2017.Related: Crime History — The Death Of Jeffrey Dahmer And The Evolution Of Cruising Serial Killers
CRIMEFEED: You mention in the book that Jeffrey Dahmer was the first serial killer to deeply impact you. Tell us about that.
JOHN BOROWSKI: I grew up loving classic monster movies like Dracula and Frankenstein. Eventually, I moved on to slashers and other gory films. My love for special makeup effects turned into a hobby where I would create makeup effects and masks with my best friend in high school.
One day, my best friend called me and told me I had to come over to his place. When I arrived, he had discovered the Dahmer file in his father’s office. His father was a Chicago detective at the time.
I was shocked by the photos that Dahmer had taken of his victim’s decapitated heads, with their eyes and mouths open in frozen horror. I also read Dahmer’s confession/police statements, which were in the file. The images made such an impression on me that I eventually made a short film in college about Dahmer called State of Mind.
So did Dahmer set you down the path to chronicling serial killers?
Ever since Dahmer’s case, I realized that many horror figures were based on actual people — like the Dracula story was based on the true story of Vlad the Impaler.
This made me fascinated by serial killers and I became obsessed with studying them. Eventually I came across the story of Chicago’s “torture doctor,” H.H. Holmes, which in turn made me wonder why no one had ever made a film on his life. So my first film out of film school was H.H. Holmes: America’s First Serial Killer. That’s still my most popular film to date. It’s streaming on Netflix and Amazon, as well as available on DVD.
How did the idea for the Dahmer’s Confession come to you?
After writing books on H.H. Holmes, Albert Fish, and Ed Gein, Dahmer seemed the next natural progression. I had access to his arrest statements. The reason I write books is to present the information to the public. It is difficult to research these cases, so presenting the actual case files in book format is much more accessible to researchers and others studying serial killers.Related: Crime History — “British Jeffrey Dahmer” Dennis Nilsen Sentenced To Life In Prison
While reading the actual police statements, what qualities struck you most about Dahmer?
What really struck me was how forthcoming and straightforward Dahmer was. Just like his U.K. counterpart, Dennis Nilsen, Dahmer was calm, cool, and collected about every one of his murders.
Sometimes serial killers secretly want to be apprehended, hoping something will intervene and stop their sexual blood lust as they cannot stop the urges themselves — it is an addiction and compulsion that moves beyond their control.
Did anything surprise you about Dahmer?
What really stood out to me is where Dahmer stated that he didn’t want the men to leave him. One of his victims stayed with him for several weeks without incident. But when the guy told Dahmer he had to leave, that is when Dahmer murdered him.
This has always been the most fascinating aspect of Dahmer’s case to me — not so much the cannibalism, but the collecting of body parts. Dahmer was deeply affected and traumatized by his entire family leaving him alone to fend for himself at 18 years of age. So, to me, it is no wonder that he tried to create a gruesome type of surrogate family by having these bodies in his apartment.
Tell us about the artwork in the book.
I wanted to tie Dahmer into the serial killer culture. This ties into my recent film, Serial Killer Culture and my TV show, Serial Killer Culture TV, where I study the public and professional fascination with serial killers, interviewing collectors, forensic psychiatrists, authors, artists, murderabilia dealers, museums, and other experts about their fascinations with the culture of serial killers.
I had placed a Facebook post for a call for artwork, and many people responded. Some, some such as Ryan Almighty and Brian Cain, created artwork specifically for the book. Ryan created a painting of Dahmer that’s painted in his own blood. The limited-edition print of this image is included with the book pre-orders and autographed by Ryan.
Annie Clift’s artwork mesmerized me from the beginning, and I chose to feature her art on the cover of the book. Her art featured two iconic images: Dahmer’s face from his mug shot and the image of the hazmat crew removing the barrel from Dahmer’s apartment building. The segue from Dahmer’s face into the barrel removal is masterful artwork.
What else is in the book?
There are letters relating to Dahmer’s case and letters written by Dahmer to several of his pen pals when he was in prison. One letter is very fascinating, it is written to true crime collector Rick Staton, who was John Wayne Gacy’s art dealer and featured in my film Serial Killer Culture.
The letter is from the Estate of Jeffrey Dahmer and describes how all of Dahmer’s items were up for auction and then ultimately destroyed. It was feared that many of Dahmer’s items would wind up in the hands of collectors. I find this sad because even though there may be some morbid collectors in the world, ultimately these are historical artifacts.
What’s next for you?
I have just completed my feature documentary film Bloodlines: The Art and Life of Vincent Castiglia. Vincent Castiglia paints in his own blood as well as the blood of his collectors. Bloodlines is slated or an early 2018 release.
My next serial killer biographic documentary film is Jesse Pomeroy: The Boston Boy Fiend, which tells the story of America’s youngest serial killer. Currently, I’m busy writing a feature film, Past Murder, to be filmed in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in the spring of 2018.
I’m also writing two books. One is titled Panzram at Leavenworth. The other is Keith Jesperson: It Is All About Timing, a novella about my correspondence with “The Happy Face Killer,” Keith Jesperson.
To learn more about Jeffrey Dahmer, watch the “Vampire/Cannibal” episode of Investigation Discovery’s Most Evil on ID GO now!
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