The Weekly Ringer

The University of Mary Washington Student Newspaper

Staff Ed: Witches, ghosts, superheroes… serial killers?

3 min read
A carved pumpkin sitting on a doorstep. The eyes are triangle, the nose is a star, and the mouth is made of triangle teeth.

A carved pumpkin sits on the front steps of a house in College Heights. | Sarah Sklar, The Weekly Ringer


Many people look forward to Halloween all year, getting out their decorations the second it becomes fall and wearing extravagant costumes all Halloweekend long. Though Halloween is often seen as a fun, unproblematic holiday, issues arise when people who dress up for Halloween leave behind the traditional, time-honored costumes and don more controversial ensembles that glorify harmful people.

Over Halloweekend, many of us were troubled to see people dressed up as notorious serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer, a trend that likely spurred from Netflix’s recent Jeffrey Dahmer series. On a day when people can dress up as anything they want, too many chose to physically embody a serial killer who would drug his victims, engage in sexual activity with them and then brutally murder them. 

“Over the past weekend I saw so many people dressing up in the Dahmer costumes,” said senior historic preservation and English double major Grace Schumacher. “One person going as far as to carry fake date rape drugs. Honestly I don’t think people would have even considered it as a costume idea if it wasn’t for this new Dahmer craze sparked by the new Netflix series.”

These costumes reached such an extent that they were banned by many LGBTQ+ bars in Dahmer’s hometown of Milwaukee, Wis., according to an article by Pink News. Additionally, eBay banned the sale of any “Dahmer” costumes and merchandise saying that those violate their violence and violent criminals policy. Large costume chains such as Spirit Halloween and Party City reportedly are not selling the costume, according to an article by New York Magazine

The disturbing surge of fanfare has drawn backlash from Shirley Hughes, whose son was murdered by Dahmer in 1991. 

Over the weekend, Hughes told TMZ that the costumes were “evil” and traumatizing. “If Netflix hadn’t streamed the show,” she said, “none of the families would be revictimized … and then there’d be no Dahmer costumes this year.”

Hughes continued, “It’s already super triggering to see a hit Netflix series about the serial killer, much less folks dressing like the killer.”

Olympic gymnast Simone Biles also criticized Dahmer costumes even before Halloweekend. She said in an Oct. 18 tweet, “I’m just gon go ahead and say it, put the Jeffrey Dahmer costumes back in the closet. We ain’t having it!!!” 

While men are just now coming under scrutiny for problematic costumes, women are long used to being shamed for the outfits they choose to wear for this holiday. The stigma for women on Halloween is extremely different from men—women have historically been called sluts and whores, accused of showing “too much,” while men have been able to dress up as serial killers without anyone batting an eye.   

Halloween is meant to be a day when people can dress up in a lighthearted way and enjoy some free candy—the twisted horrors of reality should stay out of it. 

This staff editorial was led by Abby Knowles and Emily Hemphill.