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John Wayne Gacy


Aliases:Pogo The Clown


Active Killing Period:1972 - 1978


Status:Deceased. Executed by lethal injection, 1994.

Modus Operandi:Gacy would promise his victims job opportunities in his construction business, then plied with alcohol. Once they were drunk, Gacy chloroformed them and tied them to a chair. All of his victims were male and ranged from the ages of 9 to 27. All were sexually assaulted, many were strangled or had underwear stuffed into their mouths. Out of his 33 victims, 28 were buried in the crawlspace under his house, and 5 were dumped in a nearby river.


John Wayne Gacy was born in Chicago in 1942. His father was an alcoholic who beat him and taunted him with names like "sissy" throughout his childhood. He suffered an injury to the head which caused him to have periodic blackouts for years.

The first sign of trouble for Gacy came in 1968, when he was arrested for attacking a male employee at the restaurant which he managed. Gacy had handcuffed the boy and raped him. He paid the boy money to keep quiet about the incident, but the boy reported him to the police. Gacy paid another boy to have this witness beaten for testifying against him, and was given a ten year prison sentence. By 1971 he was out of prison, but his wife had left him during his period of interrment.

Gacy remarried and settled down in a Chicago suburb. However, it wasn't long before trouble appeared again. Gacy narrowly avoided another charge of sodomy rape when the victim failed to appear in court.

Outwardly, Gacy gave the appearance of an upstanding member of the community. He ran a successful contracting business, was a community activist and a leeder in the Junior Chamber of Commerce. He was also a Jaycee-elected "Man of the Year". In his spare time he dressed up as Pogo The Clown to entertain hospitalized children. Pictures of him dressed as a clown are well known. He was also known to help both financially and personally those less fortunate than himself.

In 1972, something changed. This was when Gacy first began to kill. His victims were all male and their ages ranged from 9 to 27. Gacy would lure them with the promise of work, get them drunk, then smother them with a cloth soaked in chloroform and tie them to a chair. All of his victims were sexually assaulted, and most were then killed and buried under his house.

Gacy was often witnessed in areas of town which were known to be sites of male prostitution. Although many of the men and boys who Gacy hired were not killed, most were beaten or had other forms of pain inflicted upon them. Neighbours stated that they saw young men entering Gacy's house at all times of the day.

In 1977 Gacy was reported to the police by a victim who survived his attack. He had been beaten with a whip and sexually abused. The victim's memory was hazy at first, since he had been rendered unconscious with chloroform, but he remembered a rough description of his attacker, and what kind of car he drove. He was determined that his assailant shouldn't go unpunished and tracked down Gacy's car, reporting the licence plate number to the police. The police arrested Gacy, but didn't have enough evidence to hold him and he walked free.

In 1978 Gacy's second wife left him, reporting him to be a mean man who often fought with her. Later that year the mother of a missing 15 year old boy, Robert Piest, reported to the police that he had phoned to tell her that Gacy had offered her a job. Police investigators went to Gacy's house with a search warrant. When they arrived the smell of decomposition led them to the crawlspace under the house where they immediately found 3 decomposing male bodies. Police removed floors throughout the house in their search for other victims, and found several bodies in shallow graves and long trenches. Gacy had used quicklime to hasten the decomposition process.

Once the knowledge of the crimes became public, many survivors of Gacy's attacks came forward to identify him as their assailant.

In 1988 Gacy was sentenced to 21 life imprisonments and 12 death sentences. Gacy took it in turns to protest his innocence and to blame childhood atrocities for his crimes. Up until his death he painted many pictures of clowns whilst in prison, which have been known to fetch a lot of money at auction, particularly after his execution in 1994 by lethal injection.

In November 1998, acting on the tip of a former detective, combined with a ground radar survey which indicated the possibility of as many as four bodies buried 3 1/2 feet down, digs were conducted at the old residence of Gacy's mother in North West. No human remains were found.

Analysis:As with many serial killers, Gacy had a difficult childhood, with a violent father. Being surrounded with violent behaviour, Gacy may have been led to believe it was part of the normal course of life. The fact that his problems began in childhood may be supported by the many links to childhood Gacy maintained in adult life. He dressed as a clown to entertain hospitalised children, and the paintings he made in prison were of clowns and disney characters, obvious childhood symbols.

Although Gacy had homosexual tendencies, as shown by his repeated sexual attacks on males, the fact that his father used to call him a "sissy" may have made Gacy feel that these urges were wrong and needed to be supressed. However, as Freud would tell us, if you supress an urge it becomes more powerful and needs an outlet. Despite all of his activities in the community, Gacy found no cathartic release for his supressed energies, and as such they released themselves in the form of violent rape and murder.

Gacy suffered a head injury during childhood, severe enough to cause periodic blackouts for years, and this is a feature of many serial killers. It may be that an injury of this sort has the power to cause abnormal behaviour in later life.

In his work as a contracter, Gacy had access to many victims, since most of the workers would most likely have been male. He could use his position as an employer to lure young men towards him.

Unlike many serial killers, Gacy's crimes were commited in one area, and bodies were not left to be found and searched for evidence by the police. As such Gacy was able to kill many young males without there being any evidence of his crimes.