Photo: Groups protest selling a tour of the gay serial killer who ate his victims.
Photo: Nicholas Vollmann, a tour guide for BAM Marketing and Media, starts his tour Saturday with a description of serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer’s upbringing. About half a dozen people turned out to take the $30, three-block walking tour on S. 2nd St.
At the beginning of the first Jeffrey Dahmer Tour on Saturday, there was an old man named Bob Braun who claimed to have the Milwaukee serial killer's railing and shower curtain and door - at least he'd thought it was Dahmer's door until he looked more closely and discovered that the apartment number had been changed.
There were half a dozen customers who'd paid $30 for the tour, though most declined to give their names. One identified himself as Paul Smith, a tool-and-die maker from Waukesha, and explained that the way he looked at it, he could spend the $30 in a bar, or go on "an informational tour."
There were as many reporters as paying customers.
There were a dozen peaceful protesters, including Janie Hagen who came "to speak for my brother," Richard Guerrero, one of the killer's 17 victims. She wore a large button emblazoned with her brother's photograph. He was 21 when he went missing and it took authorities three years to determine what had happened to him.
And finally there was the tour guide, Nicholas Vollmann, a tall, young man with a dress scarf wrapped around his neck who told the group, "We're here today to learn from history," then added, "Unfortunately we can't bury our heads in the sand."
Dahmer was arrested in 1991, convicted the following year and murdered in prison by a fellow inmate in 1994.
Billed as a 90-minute tour, the cold trek actually lasted barely an hour, and came off without any violence. Many of the stops were empty lots along S. 2nd St. Much of the "history" centered on Dahmer's life and the lives he took, from the tortured animals to the dismembered human bodies.
Early on Vollmann explained where the tour would draw the line as far as taste: "We're not going to discuss the cannibalism aspect of Jeffrey Dahmer's crimes."
"This sort of thing," Hagen sighed, "I've dealt with it before."
She remembered Dahmer comic books and trading cards and T-shirts. Everybody was out to cash in. Some made money from the murders, others launched their careers, she said.
"We've never seen a red cent. . . . If they are going to make a buck, it's blood money."
Braun, who did not actually take the tour, said he paid $800 for the "Dahmer" door, which turned out to be the door to a storage room. He brought envelopes stuffed with photographs, including Dahmer's mug shot, obtained, he said, from the Sheriff's Department through a freedom of information request.
Braun had hoped to sell some items, and claimed he would have used the proceeds to fund a stop-the-violence campaign.
"I took them off the Internet because people called me morbid," he said, explaining that he felt the protesters were wrong to complain. "There are no evil spirits, witches, none of that crap."
Vollmann started the group off in the alley next to Shaker's Cigar Bar in the 400 block of S. 2nd and emerged onto the street.
"This is the center of what would have been Jeffrey Dahmer's hunting ground," he said.
As he led the group, Vollmann sometimes glanced down at small note cards.
One of the customers smoked a cigar and said, "I really don't want to comment."
"It's history," said another who gave his name only as John. "People go to Auschwitz, right?"
The protesters did not start out with the tour, but confronted the group some 10 minutes in. A Cadillac Escalade pulled up to the group and began honking, drowning out some of Vollmann's words.
A woman, who declined to give her name, ran out of the SUV carrying a sign that read, "Our city will be shamed again."
James Oshkeshequoam, a 54-year-old roofer who was not taking the tour but happened to be on 2nd St., called to the protester. "I'll back you 100%."
"They shouldn't be doing this," he said. "I've lived in this neighborhood for years. It's not something you sensationalize."
The dozen protesters soon emerged, chanting, "Stop the tour." For the most part, Vollmann ignored the shouts.
"To be honest, nobody really wants to know the truth," Hagen said. "The only people who know the truth are the victims and Dahmer, and they're all dead."