Longtime Milwaukee tour detailing Jeffrey Dahmer's crimes faces backlash
MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- A longtime Milwaukee tour, detailing the accounts of Jeffrey Dahmer's heinous crimes, is causing trauma and controversy among some people who lived through that era.
"It was horrific and depressing, and people got into the morbid side of it, because the cannibalism and the dismemberment, and so forth. Who the hell wants to think about that stuff?" said George Prentice, former owner of La Cage, one of Milwaukee's first openly gay bars.
It’s a memory from 30 years ago that traumatized a community: the capture and arrest of Jeffrey Dahmer, the city's most notorious serial killer.
Now, Dahmer, and Milwaukee, are once again in the spotlight as the focus of two Netflix series.
"We knew something was going on, just didn’t know what, not until that terrible day," said Prentice.
Prentice opened La Cage in 1984.
The dance club blazed a new and exciting time for the gay community, providing an unhidden place for gay men to gather.
"It was the only place they can go and assemble with other gay people. We kind of underestimated it based on previous experience, how big the community was," said Prentice.
La Cage, a safe haven for gay men in the 80s, would soon become one of Dahmer's hunting grounds.
In February 1992, Dahmer was charged with killing 17 young men.
Dahmer was convicted of 15 of the 16 murders he committed in Wisconsin and was sentenced to 15 life terms in prison; many of those victims stopped in, had drinks, and talked with Prentice during his time at La Cage.
"I knew, on some level, two-thirds of the victims. Deaf Tony, he and I would communicate, sometimes for hours, using pen and paper, and I just got to know him quite well, " said Prentice.
And nearly 30 years later, those memories have been unlocked.
Four blocks away from La Cage, another Milwaukee staple, Shaker's Cigar Bar, offers what they call historical walking tours, providing accounts of Jeffrey Dahmer's life, with mention of his victims.
"Cream City Cannibal has been around for about a decade, and that too is incredibly popular. It's serial killer, it's true crime, that is the hottest segment in both programming and in tours today," said Robert Weiss, owner of Shaker's Cigar Bar.
However, Prentice, who lived through the trauma of those days, questioned the ethical and moral reasons for keeping such a dark stain on Milwaukee's history alive.
"I don’t like the idea of it, I don’t see why anybody would want to do something like that," said Prentice.
Weiss believes his tours are educational.
"This is ugly, and you should take it, and you should think about what goes on amongst yourself, relationships, and the person living next door," said Weiss.
Melanie Santos, a tour goer, said she came from the San Francisco Bay area specifically for the tour. She believed the tour shed light on larger issues in our country.
"Generally, these stories tend to be sensationalized a lot, and what was really nice about the tour was the focus on systemic issues that are going on, that have been going on, and continue," said Santos.
The tour makes a notable stop outside of La Cage.
"We want people to learn the lesson that took place with him, and there are significant lessons that society needs to know today," said Weiss.
Those lessons are lost on some, leaving the legacy of trauma dancing in the shadows.
"Why? My only question: why? What reason?" said Prentice.