Home Killer Briefs John Wayne Gacy – The Real Life “Killer Clown”

John Wayne Gacy – The Real Life “Killer Clown”

John Wayne Gacy, often called the “Killer Clown” was the one of the worst serial killers in U.S. history, raping and murdering at least 33 young male victims, burying most under his house.

Name: John Wayne Gacy Jr.

Moniker(s): The Killer Clown

Date of Birth: March 17, 1942

Date of Death: May 10, 1994

Victim Count: 33

Years Active: 1972-1978

Region Active: Chicago, Illinois, USA

Date of Arrest: December 21, 1978

Photo Credit: Ghost Theory

John Wayne Gacy is perhaps America’s most prolific serial killer. Gacy earned himself the moniker “Killer Clown” for his hobby of dressing up as a clown. Dubbing the character “Pogo,” he attended children’s parties and visited children in Chicago area hospitals.

Some of the children later claimed to have developed a severe case of coulrophobia—fear of clowns—after a visit from “Pogo.”

Over the years, Gacy became the cops’ main suspect in the disappearance and murder of close to three dozen young men and boys.

Gacy had a troubled childhood. His father, an abusive alcoholic, who delighted in degrading his young son. Gacy, a self-proclaimed “mama’s boy,” was often called a “sissy” and worse by his father.

His fragile health was yet another reason John Sr. was ashamed of his son, viewing the boy as a sickly weakling. Gacy longed for his father’s approval, but it was always just out of reach.

Gacy was allegedly molested by a family friend at age seven but never spoke up about it for fear that his father would blame him.

After dropping out of high school, Gacy left home. He moved from Chicago to Las Vegas, Nevada, to start a new life, putting distance between himself and his father’s ever-present disapproval. His escape didn’t last long. Once he ran out of money, he worked until he made enough to return home, where he enrolled in Northwest Business College.

Gacy was a natural-born businessman. His charm and innate ability to smooth-talk his way through any situation primed him for salesmanship. During this time, he developed a knack for clever and effective business tactics. After graduating from college, he got a job at a shoe company as a trainee manager. In a matter of weeks, he was transferred to Springfield, Illinois, to manage one of the company’s clothing outlets. Shortly after his promotion, Gacy married a coworker from a well-off family, named Marlynn Myers.

Gacy became active in local organizations, including the Springfield chapter of the Jaycees, of which he became vice-president in 1965. The next year, his wife’s parents bought several Kentucky Fried Chicken franchises. They offered Gacy a management position at one location in Waterloo, Iowa. He accepted, and the couple moved to Waterloo.

Things seemed to be going well for Gacy, who was now a father. He was once more active in his local community, joining the local Jaycee group and being named vice-president in a short time. However, his true nature began to show after he opened up his basement to local boys.

In his “club,” alcohol flowed freely to the teenagers, as did Gacy’s sexual advances on them. The seedy basement activities were over just as quickly as they began. Two boys, aged fifteen and sixteen, alerted the authorities of Gacy’s activities and stated he sexually assaulted them.

Police quickly arrested Gacy, and though he protested his innocence, he was convicted. His wife promptly filed for divorce. Gacy was sentenced to ten years, though he only served eighteen months before being released on parole.

He moved back to Illinois and stayed with his mother while he got back on his feet. Life at home was more relaxed than ever—his father had died while he was in prison.

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Gacy buried his conviction and past indiscretions and started his life over. He got a new job, this time as a cook, and with his mother’s help, he bought a house. But his demons followed him, and in 1971, he was charged with disorderly conduct after a teenage boy came forward, saying Gacy had attempted to assault him sexually. However, the boy failed to appear in court to testify, so the court dropped the charges against Gacy.

Photo Credit: Murderpedia

The next year brought with it another incident. Gacy was arrested after another boy told authorities Gacy had lured him into his car by flashing a sheriff’s badge before raping him. Once again, charges were dropped.

Around this time, Gacy married a childhood acquaintance, Carole Hoff. She, too, was recently divorced and had two children from her previous marriage. She and her two daughters moved in with her new husband.

Gacy opened his own construction company in 1975. It was around this time that his wife began noticing something was not quite right. Gacy wanted little to do with her, especially in the bedroom. He would go out and stay out all night, and she found gay porn hidden around the house along with young men’s drivers’ licenses.

She divorced him in 1976. Little did she know, the truth about her husband was far darker than what she suspected. He had already killed two boys.

Gacy was thriving in his decompartmentalized world. His company was taking off, and it had already provided him with one victim, a teenager who worked for him.

By day, Gacy was a business owner and aspiring politician. He hosted big, elaborate parties for the neighborhood and local bigwigs. It was during this time he created his clown persona “Pogo.”

By night, he was a ruthless predator, luring in boys, imbibing them with drugs and alcohol, sexually assaulting them, then choking the life from their bodies.

Gacy often lured the boys to his house with the promise of work. They were all young with lives full of promise and dreams waiting for fulfillment when they entered his home at 8213 West Summerdale Avenue.

Most of the young victims, who ranged in age from fourteen to twenty-one, ended up buried in his crawlspace, in shallow graves often overlapping one another. Once skeletonized, bones from various bodies mingled and, years later, made it difficult for investigators to determine at first how many there were.

Ultimately, it was determined Gacy crammed no less than twenty-nine bodies into the cramped crawlspace. Near the end of his killing spree, once his crawlspace was full and his back too weak to dig graves, Gacy dumped four bodies in the Des Plaines River.

Gacy’s violent rampage came to an end when he propositioned Robert Piest. Robert was a fifteen-year-old high school student working part-time at a local pharmacy.

Gacy had gone to the pharmacy to discuss a remodeling job with the owner. The following day, Robert told acquaintances he was going to a house down the street to talk with a contractor about a job. That was the last time anyone saw him alive.

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Robert’s mother came to pick him up from work that day and stood waiting in the pharmacy for what felt like hours. She was confused as to what was taking her son so long. As time wore on, her confusion gave way to worry, and she began to search the store and the street outside. She felt a sinking feeling in her gut as she realized her son was missing.

Robert was reported missing within three hours. Immediately, the police wanted to speak with Gacy. Upon paying him a visit and asking him to accompany them back to the station for an interview, Gacy calmly explained he couldn’t leave the house at the moment.

There had been a death in his family, he said, meaning he must stand by the phone in case anyone called. In actuality, he had other business to attend to. The boy’s body was still in his house, and it needed to be disposed of.

Gacy showed up at the police station hours later and calmly explained he knew nothing about Robert’s disappearance.

Police ran a background check on Gacy and found his conviction on the rape of the boy in Iowa. Gacy was now a prime suspect and a warrant was obtained to search his house.

Inside the house, they found several suspicious items, but the bodies in the crawlspace went unseen. One suspicious item was a roll of film belonging to Robert Piest. Also confiscated were his cars, one of which contained hair that, upon later comparison, matched Robert Piest’s hair.

When police eventually checked out the crawlspace, they were confronted by a horrendous smell that they thought to be sewage. Lime was spread across the floor of the crawlspace but looked undisturbed.

Gacy was called to the police station and informed of the items that had been confiscated. They had no grounds to arrest him, but they did interview him further about Robert Piest’s disappearance and put him under twenty-four-hour surveillance.

Investigators could not find enough evidence to charge him with the abduction of Robert Piest. They resorted instead to arresting him for possession of marijuana and Valium; two drugs found during their search of his house.

It was around this time that the roll of film was confirmed to belong to Robert Piest, by the coworker who had given it to him. Spurred on by the lead as well as Gacy’s recent confession to police that he’d killed someone in self-defense, investigators searched Gacy’s house once more.

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This time, they decided to investigate the crawlspace further. Gacy had mentioned having buried the person he’d killed under the garage, but the smell in the crawlspace could not be ignored. Under a suspicious-looking mound of earth, the remains of a body were found.

On December 22, 1978, John Wayne Gacy cracked and confessed to police that he had killed at least thirty people, most of whom he buried in the crawlspace.

He explained that he would handcuff his victims, stuff socks or underwear in their mouths, and strangle them to death as he raped them.

The floorboards were removed, and the crawlspace divided into sections, overseen by the county medical examiner. Day after day, the team worked to dig up each bone and decomposing, fragile body.

News cameras swarmed the little house and filmed as one-by-one, authorities removed twenty-seven bodies from the crawlspace. By this point, two bodies had been recovered from in or around the Des Plaines River. They found two more bodies under Gacy’s patio, another pulled from the river, and one found under Gacy’s recreation room.

Many of the young men still had their socks or underwear lodged in their esophagus. Police had unearthed thirty-two bodies in total, but Robert Piest was still missing.

Winter crept in to spring, and investigators found no more bodies. Finally, in April 1979, Robert Piest’s body was pulled from the river. An autopsy revealed the boy had died after suffocating on paper towels that his killer shoved down his throat.

Photo Credit: Chicago Tribune

Gacy’s trial began on February 6, 1980. Gacy plead not guilty by reason of insanity.

His lawyer, Sam Amirante, explained that Gacy had been insane only when he murdered the victims. But, Amirante told the jury, Gacy was wholly sane when he prepared to abduct them and when he disposed of their bodies.

The jury did not buy this reasoning. Gacy was found guilty of thirty-three counts of murder on March 13 and sentenced to death.

While on death row, Gacy passed his time by painting and corresponding with anyone who wished to contact him. His paintings, mainly of his clown alter ego, “Pogo,” have become collectibles, selling for about ten thousand dollars each at auctions.

Several books have been compiled of his correspondence with others from prison. Perhaps the most famous book that came out of corresponding with Gacy was Jason Moss’s, The Last Victim: A True-Life Journey into the Mind of the Serial Killer, which was eventually adapted into a movie.

Jason was around the age of Gacy’s victims, and he took an interest in corresponding with killers to study their minds, originally for a college paper. He developed the closest relationship with Gacy, who even began to make routine Sunday morning calls to him.

Moss stated that he felt controlled and manipulated by Gacy, who attempted to control his life, all while protesting his innocence. Sadly, Moss committed suicide in 2006, perhaps truly making him Gacy’s last victim.

John Wayne Gacy was executed by lethal injection on May 10, 1994.

His final words were, “Kiss my ass.”

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