Dear Mr. Gacy is a film based on the book The Last Victim: A True-Life Journey into the mind of the Serial Killer, it depicts the very long correspondence Jason Moss had with John Wayne Gacy. For his university thesis Jason Moss started a correspondence with the most famous serial killer: Ramirez, Dahmer and Manson to name a few and while writing to them he adopted the role of disciple, admirer, surrogate, or potential victim in order to gain their attention. Moss forged the strongest relationship with Gacy but as he felt psychologically manipulated he started to suffer from depression and in June 2006 he died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.
But, how does it feel like to have a correspondence with a serial killer? If I would write to a serial killer it would be Jeffrey Dahmer or Aileen Wuornos but as we know they’re both dead. Luckily for me (and the rest of us) I’ve got the chance to reach Andrea, a very kind girl who lives in London and who has been in corrispondence with Dennis Nilsen, a famous serial killer, from over a year. I asked her a few questions about this “experience” so that she can shed a light on this topic.
Hello Andrea and thank you for joining me today, I really appreciate it! So my very first question is: How and when did it all started?
To be honest, I’m not entirely sure about the how. My friend introduced me to true crime and I became very passionate about it quite quickly. When I came across the name Dennis Nilsen and did some research, I found his case interesting and sort of sad. I mean, how lonely you have to feel to kill fifteen people and leave their bodies in an arm chair so there’s someone waiting for you when you come home from work? When I found out that he’s still alive, I started thinking about writing to him but it took me about two months to actually write the letter. I enclosed a portrait of his deceased dog Bleep that I drew for him..this was mostly because I didn’t know what to write and the letter turned out quite awkward so I needed something to show that although I may not be exactly silver-tongued I can do something a bit special. However my own motives to actually follow through with it are still unclear even to myself. I’d sent the letter on 30th of May 2014 and didn’t really expect a reply so I was stunned when I found a letter from him under my door only five days later and I found it impolite not to write back so I did and we have been in touch ever since.
How would you describe this experience?
In one word? Unique. It still feels like it even after over a year. I know I should be used to it by now but it’s still sort of thrilling and I can’t believe how lucky I am.
Do you have a corrispondence with other serial killers/convicts?
No, Des is my only correspondent. Writing the letters can be quite time consuming but that’s not the main reason. The fact is that out of the serial killers who are still alive none has caught my interest and gained my sympathy but Des. Besides to do this, you either need a PO box or you have to trust the prisoner with your home address. Of course I was a little nervous at first but when I gave it a rational thought, I came to conclusion that there’s nothing to worry about with Des and he has proven to me that I was right. He has been my most caring friend.
Have you ever met Dennis Nilsen? If so, what was it like?
I have visited him for the first time in November 2015. At the beginning of our correspondence the thought of meeting him in person excited me immensely but it took over a year for me to gain the courage to ask him about the visiting rules. It turned out that to be allowed in, I would have to get my name on the Approved Visitors list which would require some paper work and a police interview. I went through all that and the application was successful. It was only when I called in to book the date when I started getting nervous and it grew into anxiety and on the day of the visit I was a thrembling mess. I didn’t expect to be so nervous and the long journey from London to York didn’t help at all. It was only thanks to the taxi driver who brought me to the prison and who was most supportive that I was able to walk into the visiting centre for the entrance procedures. It was all the most intense experience I’ve ever had though. Des was very friendly and talkative, completely understanding my nervousness. Unfortunately I was late for the visit due to the long journey by bus and taxi so we had only about an hour to talk and I felt guilty about it because, as it turned out, Des had been brought to the hall at the start of the visiting hours and has been waiting there for me for an hour. I bought him a coffee, crisps and Twix, completely forgetting about buying something for myself. I left with mixed feelings,not because it wasn’t pleasant but because I felt very awkward during the visit and was worried about him changing his opinion on me. Two days later I received a heart warming letter that was written right after the visit so I guess I didn’t do so badly after all. It was my first prison visit but I hope to be invited for another one.
Have you ever felt mentally manipulated or unconfortable?
No, not at all. I have heard stories from people who had this experience and I read the book by Jason Moss about his little encounter with Gacy but the truth is that every killer is different and it would be a mistake to treat them all the same way. I guess Des is just not that type.He’s never asked me for anything and is very reserved even when I actually ask him for an advice. Of course it might be simply because I don’t fit his victim profile but I don’t think that’s the case. I think there’s a mutual respect between us and I feel comfortable with him.
Do your family and friends know about this correspondence? What was their opinion?
Yes, everyone around me knows. Not everyone is okay with it though. My mother was strictly against me contacting him in the first place and when I told her I did it anyway, she kept giving me lectures for next two months. I guess she was just worried. I probably would be as well if I was in her shoes. After some time she got used to it though and now she’s more curious than concerned. My dad keeps saying that I’m a sociopath just like he is and that I’m weird and mentally ill but I couldn’t care less. As for my friends..well, not all of them are happy about me being in touch with a killer. Some of them stopped talking to me, others just refuse to talk about it but there’s still a few who support it. I have never had many friends though as I’m a loner by nature so absence of friends is nothing new to me.
Do you want to share anything else you’d like us to know?
I think common sense is important when you want to write to a killer. You have to do your research properly and then ask yourself whether it’s safe to give them your home address or to write to them at all. Don’t let your guard down or tell yourself that they can’t do anything to you because they’re locked up. Their inprisonment doesn’t guarantee your safety, not even in cases of lifers. Always remember Ted Bundy’s escape and the girls he killed when he was out. Things like that may be improbable but still possible so don’t take your chances. Pay attention to their psychological profile and if you decide to contact them after all, always remember who you’re dealing with and act accordingly. Yes, I was lucky to pick a friendly and kindly killer and I’m sure there are others like him but there are also guys who will want to hurt you physically or emotionally so be carefull.
Thank you once again Andrea for taking the time to reply to these questions.
So, in case anyone is interested in this topic, or if you really want to start a correspondence with a serial killer or a convict, even if it is for your course of studies, be sure to do your “homework”, do a lot of research, but I also truly believe that giving a go to an experience like this requires a lot of mental strength and courage. I’m very glad that I had the opportunity to have this chat with Andrea, it was very interesting and eye-opening.