MILWAUKEE (AP) — A marketing group in Wisconsin wants to give walking tours of the bar where serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer met and hung out with some of his victims.

But when victims’ families and others found out about the tours this week through a Groupon promotion for a cut-rate tour, they started calling for the tour, which they described as insensitive and in poor taste, to end.

Bam Marketing and Media spokeswoman Amanda Morden said Thursday the company is not deterred and the first two tours are Saturday in Milwaukee and have nearly reached the 20-person capacity for each. That upsets neighborhood group president Victor Ray, who says it’s too soon for a tour since the crimes are just 2 decades old and many family members of Dahmer’s victims are still around.

“I just don’t think this is the right timing,” said Ray, who heads the Walker’s Point Association. “And a tour of the area is not the right thing to do. It’s sensationalism in its finest.”

Ray said he’s received 75 emails, most against the tours, and that some plan to protest Saturday, including some family members of victims. He said he’s been in contact with one victim’s mother, who asked for his group’s help.

“She said ‘Do what you can to stop it,'” Ray said. The woman didn’t want to be interviewed by reporters.

He met with Morden and another tour group representative Thursday night and hoped he had convinced them to quit the tours. But Morden said they have a legitimate, viable product for people interested in the history of the crimes, rather than the sensational nature of them.

Dahmer, a chocolate factory worker, would frequent gay bars in the area. He was arrested in 1991 and admitted to killing 17 young men, some of whom he mutilated and cannibalized. He was serving life prison sentences when a fellow inmate beat him to death in 1994.

His apartment building — where he stored body parts — was eventually razed. There’s been talk over the years about putting a memorial there, but the idea has received mixed reactions. Morden said they hoped to put a plaque with the victims’ names on one of the businesses in the area as a memorial.

She also said a portion of the tour profits will be donated to charity, although a specific one hasn’t been chosen.

Ray called it a token gesture. “I don’t think that’s going to make a difference to the community,” he said.

The area is in the middle of a revitalized section of Milwaukee, with new restaurants and bars in remodeled buildings that once housed bars Dahmer would frequent.

Morden described it as a legitimate walking tour that looked at the killer’s crimes from a historical perspective, rather than with macabre fascination. She compared it to a book or a documentary, but in a different format.

“Whether we like it or not it’s part of our city’s history,” she said. “It’s part of our nation’s history.”

Morden said she thought enough time had passed to look at the crimes objectively. The tour group is sensitive to the victims’ families, she said, but has not sought their feedback.

“We are not being evasive in any way,” she said. “If there is a concern we would be happy to address it.”

At least two schools have expressed interest for educational reasons, she said. Plans have been made to meet with them next week.

Groupon offered two tickets for $25, instead of the normal $60, and called the 1-mile, 90-minute tour a “spine-chilling glimpse” into Dahmer’s life. But only 15 tickets sold before the daily-deal website closed the promotion. Spokesman Nicholas Halliwell said in an emailed statement that it was never Groupon’s intention to offend anyone.

It’s not unusual for gruesome crimes to become part of a city’s lore. There are tours in London about Jack the Ripper, in Los Angeles about Charles Manson, and in Boston about the Boston Strangler.

But local tourism group VISIT Milwaukee won’t promote it.

“We don’t need to give notoriety to an individual like Jeffrey Dahmer who did painful and hurtful things and did nothing to further the community’s image,” spokeswoman Jeannine Sherman said.

Alderman James Witkowiak said the city can’t stop the tours because organizers are using public spaces and they are protected by free speech laws.

It’s more of a gray area for Sara Drescher, who manages a pub in the neighborhood. She didn’t think it would affect business and she doubted there would be much interest in the tour.

She said she supports people being able to start a business but not at the expense of victims’ families.

“It’s a difficult thing, and I don’t know the right way for it to be handled,” Drescher said.

(© Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

Comments (9)
  1. Senor says:

    if you want to go then go, if you don’t want to go becuase it “bothers” you then stay home and watch Wheel of Fortune or something

  2. Wally says:

    It’s a bit disrespectful to the family’s who lost loved ones to this monster. I mean some rotten apples trying to make money off of the deaths of others, it’s sick as sick can be.

  3. Rita says:

    What about the Glensheen mansion in Duluth there were 2 murders there and the University has tours of it and the Daughter walks the streets still I can see the point of it being historical I guess it is everyones different point of veiw It will be part of history just like Johnwayne Gasey or any other murder way back to Bonnie and Clyde just my thoughts

    1. just sayin says:

      Thats more of the historical point of the house- the tour doesn’t represent the murders that took place.

  4. Rita says:

    Oh ya and Ed Gein from wisconsin is in the encyclopedia for gosh sakes that was another killer plus all those bad people have had movies made out of their crimes and millions of people watch them. Not that I dont feel bad for the families I think they would have a hard time stopping the group

  5. Jackbenimrod says:

    Meet family and friends of the victims while on the tour is a huge bonus to take the tour, other wise they would be just a name I wouldn’t of remembered after the tour. imagine the photo ops! count me in.

    1. Debbie says:

      These people don’t want you to be entertained by the fact they lost their loved ones to a serial killer, what a dope.

  6. Ace says:

    Why are people so obsessed with gruesome murders? Something’s very wrong with the human race

  7. Dee says:

    OMG, really?!? Tours of the bars that Jeffrey Dahmer frequented?! SICK!
    Can’t the victims in this horrible act be left to RIP and the families be given sympathy as they still miss their loved ones terribly? No one should be making money off of this whether it be for charity or otherwise! Unfortuneately, yes it is part of WI. and US history and it’s gruesome. Jeffrey Dahmer should have never been allowed to even go to jail, he should have had done to him the same pain and torment that he inflicted on his victims!!! I agree with both Wally and Ace…Disrespectful and many in the human race are disgusting!