Written by David Baker
It was the evening of July 26th 1976. A young man, David Cram, aged only 18, stood by the side of the road on Elston Avenue, in a rather sketchy part of Chicago, Illinois [ill-anne-oi]. A silver Oldsmobile pulled up alongside him. The ugly-looking 1970s station wagon was driven by an equally unsightly man. Dumpy, obese, and greasy-looking, in roughly his mid-thirties, and sporting a rather weak pornstar-slash-paedo moustache, John Wayne Gacy leaned across the passenger seat and offered Cram a ride.
It turned out that Gacy and Cram were not headed in the same direction. But Cram noticed a sign in the back window of the car that said “PDM Contractors.” Cram, always eager for work, asked the driver, “Hey, buddy, how did you get into construction? What kind of money does the work pay?”
Gacy replied, “I started the company myself. If you’re looking for work, I could offer you $3.66 an hour. The 66 cents would go toward taxes, and you’d have 3 bucks an hour to spend.”
While not an exorbitant wage, that was pretty good for unskilled labour in 1970s Chicago. And David Cram wasn’t exactly bursting with prior experience. Gacy gave Cram his phone number, and said, “Give me a call if you’re interested.” Then the clunky station wagon pulled away and disappeared, heading north down Elston Avenue.
A couple hours later, Cram dialed Gacy’s number from a payphone in the back of a dive-bar. Cram informed Gacy that he was interested in a job. Twenty minutes went by while Cram sank a couple beers. Another young man arrived, an employee of Gacy’s, and the two set off northwest toward the Chicago suburb of Des Plaines [diss-planes, Yankee Pron.]. The two arrived at 8213 [eighty-two-thirteen] West Summerdale Avenue. The house of John Wayne Gacy. A gaggle of teenage boys were loitering outside the front of the house, as Gacy chatted away idly to them.
David Cram got out of the vehicle and walked up to Gacy. They shook hands. “Glad to have you aboard,” Gacy said pompously. He explained that they had a last-minute job to do that evening, painting a hot dog stand. The other boys on the job piled into a pick-up truck and headed off. Gacy meanwhile instructed David to hop into the Oldsmobile with him. They were alone together for the ride.
On the way, Gacy did most of the talking. He lied to Cram that he had an undergraduate degree in sociology and another degree in psychology. This was utter bullsh*t. Gacy had neither such degree. Nevertheless, Gacy opined, “The psych degree is good to have in the construction business, because it allows you to manipulate people. You plant a seed in someone’s head and let it grow like a forest.”
Gacy went on to exaggerate that his construction company was projected to earn somewhere between 500,000 and 1 million dollars profit in 1976 alone, which is between 2.5 and 5 million dollars in today’s money. And yet the owner of PDM Contractors was headed off that night, with a bunch of teenagers, to paint a hot dog stand. Gacy explained to Cram that if he proved himself a reliable worker, he’d get a much greater salary than the starting rate. “You scratch my back, and I’ll scratch yours,” Gacy winked.
It was at that point that Gacy clumsily worked into the conversation that he was a bisexual. He added that he had a bunch of booze back at 8213 Summerdale Avenue and that he regularly had his workers round for drinks after the job was done. He also liked throwing cocktail parties for important local figures, he said. Cram, seeking a steady source of money, commented as little as possible about all this.
The crew painted the hot dog stand without incident, with Gacy joining in the work. The teenage boys were duly paid and sent on their way.
Despite some of the creepier sh*t Gacy came out with in conversation, David Cram kept working for PDM Contractors. One day, Gacy had hired Cram to clean out his garage at 8213 Summerdale Avenue. There Cram found a bunch of wallets and drivers licenses. They all belonged to young men. Cram found one of a man aged 21, whose picture vaguely matched Cram’s description. Aged only 18, David Cram could not yet buy booze in the state of Illinois. Cram asked Gacy if he could take the driver’s license so he could use it as a fake ID.
Gacy laughed. “Sure, I didn’t want to keep those wallets anyway. Those are all IDs left over from my work with ‘the Syndicate’, an organisation of hitmen I occasionally work with. I don’t kill people myself, mind you, but I sometimes help set up their targets.” David Cram wasn’t quite sure whether to believe Gacy, since he had long since established himself as a blowhard and a fantasist. But living in the rough side of Chicago, Cram was no stranger to talk of organised crime, and he had no love for the police. So Cram shrugged it off and pocketed the driver’s license, so he could get hammered that night.
A month passed. On August 21st, Gacy approached Cram with a proposal. Gacy had a few spare bedrooms at 8213 Summerdale. He told Cram he’d rent him one for 25 dollars a week. That would mean Cram would pay his rent with just a little over one day’s work, and the rest of his weekly earnings he could spend on himself. Cram leapt at the idea and moved in without delay.
The next day, on August 22nd, David Cram went out with friends to celebrate his 19th birthday. Cram got absolutely sh*t-faced that night, along with smoking a couple of joints. Staggering in the front door of 8213 Summerdale around 1 am, Cram’s eyes immediately landed on a fat clown standing in the middle of the front room, his sinister, grinning face illuminated by the light of a single lamp.
Pogo the Clown stood at 5 foot 10 and weighed 230 pounds (or 177 centimetres and 104 kg). His poofy clown suit was half solid red, the other half candy-stripes of red and white. A couple of pom-poms of various colours hung off the suit as fake buttons. Pogo’s collar was a white and red “ruff” shaped like an old tea doily. The clown also wore a red and white pointed cap, which was adorned with three more multicoloured pom-poms. White foundation was slathered on the clown’s face. Around his eyes were large triangles of light blue, drawn at sharp angles and stenciled with black. The bottom half of the clown’s face was painted bright red, with the corners sharply upturned into a facsimile of a ghoulish smile. The bright red had the effect of making Pogo’s already yellowed teeth look a sh*t-stained brown. And Pogo bore those putrid fangs at David Cram in an exaggerated and psychotic grin.
“I’m just preparing for a charity event I’ve got tomorrow,” Pogo explained in a deep, normal voice. David Cram blinked and nodded. Cram was already aware that John Wayne Gacy occasionally worked as a party clown, dressing up in a ridiculous and creepy outfit and going by the name, “Pogo the Clown.”
Gacy continued to explain, “I thought that, given it was your birthday, it would be rather cute if I left on my costume to greet you.”
That was a bit weird, but Cram was drunk and didn’t care. The two walked together toward the living room at the back of the house, where Gacy kept a massive bar. The clown poured the already sozzled birthday boy a shot of Everclear grain alcohol, which had a strength of 190-proof or 95%. The two men also smoked some weed and Gacy busted out the Valium. It was turning into a real party.
A few more shots of Everclear later, Gacy began playing around in his Pogo persona, his voice becoming high-pitched and cartoonish. The clown showed Cram some of his puppets that he used to entertain the kids. Pogo then offered to teach Cram an escape-artist trick, where one could escape from a pair of handcuffs. “Maybe someday you’ll need it,” Pogo joked in a squeaky voice, giggling a little.
David Cram let Pogo cuff him. For a brief moment of silence, Pogo stared into Cram’s eyes, just inches from his face. Then the clown spoke. “The trick to escaping a pair of handcuffs,” Pogo laughed mockingly, “is to have the key.”
Cram told Pogo to get the handcuffs off him. Instead Pogo grabbed the handcuffs by the chain linking them together, and started to spin around in circles, forcing Cram to swing along with him as if they were playing “ring-around-the-rosie.” Pogo’s bulky weight made it difficult for Cram to resist the spin.
“Get these the f*ck off me!” David Cram slurred with some difficulty.
Pogo ignored him and they spun around yet another time. Then Pogo started to chant in a sing-song voice, “I’m going to rape you! I’m going to rape you!”
Suddenly Pogo let go of the handcuffs and a dizzy David Cram staggered backward, bumping into the large TV in the living room. Pogo grinned at him, laughed, and charged forward. David Cram turned to the side and snapped off a quick high-kick which hit Pogo square in the face, snapping the clown’s head backward. The clown immediately collapsed into a massive, corpulent pile of blubber and brightly coloured cloth.
David Cram scrambled over to where the handcuff keys now lay, and unlocked himself. With a groan, Pogo raised himself again to his feet. Cram stood there with his fists at the ready. Pogo and his intended prey stood there for what felt like an eternity, staring at each other. Pogo was no longer smiling. No words were exchanged. But it was clear to Cram that Pogo would not dare to make another attempt to rape the young man. For now. Cram quickly turned, ran to his bedroom, and barricaded the door. He was too drunk to consider leaving the house or going to the police.
Despite the horrific incident which had just occurred, David Cram had consumed enough alcohol, marijuana, and sedatives that evening to quickly drift into unconsciousness. As the teenager slumbered in a dreamless sleep, so too did the corpses of other young men, which rotted just a few feet below him, buried in the dirt of the crawl space beneath John Wayne Gacy’s house. David Cram had no idea how close he’d come to joining them.
Meet John Wayne Gacy
John Wayne Gacy was born March 17th 1942 in Chicago, to parents John Senior and Marion Gacy. He was the middle child of the family and the only son. His older sister Joanne was born 2 and a half years previously, and his younger sister, Karen, would be born in 1944. His father, John Senior, was the son of Polish immigrants, whose name was originally “Gatza” before it was Anglicized at Ellis Island as “Gacy.” John Senior was a veteran of World War I and he later worked as an auto-mechanic and local handyman. John Senior was thoroughly assimilated into American culture and behaved like a typical Chicago bluecollar working stiff. His wife, Marion, was an American of Scottish and Danish descent, and lived quietly as a housewife raising her three kids.
The baby John was named after his father, but also the movie star, John Wayne, in the hopes that the actor’s masculinity and grit would rub off on the boy. It did not, much to his father’s bitter chagrin.
John Senior was a drunk and a violent one at that. In 1944, when John was just two years old and his younger sister Karen had just been born, the family was sitting around the dinner table. Suddenly, an inebriated John Senior picked up some hot food and threw it in his wife’s face, and then he punched her savagely, instantly breaking Marion’s nose and knocking her off her chair. John and his four year old sister Joanne started screaming. Marion Gacy got off the floor, blood streaming down her face, and bolted out of the house. She began running for her life. John Senior only broke off the chase when a neighbour intervened. Instead, John Senior went back into the house, collected a gun he had stashed there, and took off without a word for a few days of heavy drinking. Marion Gacy went and stayed with her brother for a few days while she investigated her options for separating from John Senior. Back in the 1940s, the support system for single mothers wasn’t that good, and Marion’s brother said he could not support two families. So, Marion went back to John Senior and they reconciled. Marion herself said she never learned what led to John Senior’s violent outburst that night. It would not be the last.
John Senior was physically abusive to all three of his children. The girls as well as his son. His disciplinary tool of choice was a leather strap he used to maintain his straight-razor for shaving. The thick leather strap hung on the wall of the kitchen. It was double layered, and heavy. John Senior used it as a flogging device for even the slightest infraction or mistake. He also used it to drive home a moral lesson or after he had won an argument, even when the children had done nothing wrong. Because John Senior was also a drunk, during those floggings it was not used sparingly.
When John Wayne Gacy was four years old, he was lured to a field, undressed, and molested by a fifteen year old girl with Down’s Syndrome. This caused an uproar in the Gacy household that the young John did not quite understand. Meanwhile the sexual assault was quietly internalised by John’s fragile psyche. That same year John was watching his father repair a car, and the young boy picked up an engine part to try and hand it to his dad. Despite being just four years old, he was thoroughly beaten with the thick leather strap for “messing up the car parts” that his father had carefully laid out.
In 1948, when John was six, he stole a toy truck from a store. His mother, Marion, made John take the truck back and confess to his crime. She later told her husband, at which point the young John was beaten so brutally that Marion started to refrain from informing her husband about her boy’s misdeeds.
When John was seven years old, he was discovered, naked, with a neighbourhood boy and the boy’s sister. John and the neighbour boy were both molesting the young girl. John was again brutally beaten by his father. Also, when John was seven, he was regularly sexually abused by a work colleague of his father’s. He was taken on car rides, engaged in quote-unquote “wrestling” with the man, and the situation always devolved into inappropriate touching and the man forcing the boy to fellate him. John’s father never found out about these particular incidents, because John Junior was fearful of being punished by his father if he told him. Essentially John Senior’s abuse had cowed his son into silence, even when he desperately needed to ask for help against a rapist paedophile.
John’s abuse-driven timidness affected his schooling. He became jumpy and paranoid about a strange collection of things. He was afraid of loud noises and the sirens from firetrucks. He was afraid of urban myths, crime reports from the news, and tall tales, for which John was relentlessly teased and bullied by his classmates as a “fraidy-cat.” That being said, John was a kind, friendly sort of boy, and he did make a few loyal friends. Many of them felt sorry for him and they regularly stuck up for John.
As a child, John Wayne Gacy was interested in animals, in gardening, and in building things. He was fat, in poor health, and had no interest in sports, which disgusted his father. In his early years, Gacy hung out in a treehouse that he had built in an empty lot next to his home. Then when construction workers came round to build on the empty lot, the treehouse had to come down. The construction workers kindly left tearing down the treehouse till last, so the boy could enjoy it for as long as possible. But when it inevitably came down, John Senior beat his son till the boy bled for the disgraceful offense of crying at the loss of his treehouse. John Junior built a second hide-out under the porch of his house, and he spent a lot of time there hiding from his father. From that point forward, the idea of concealing things below a house held a fascination for him. This subconscious association may have been doubled by the fact that his father, John Senior, spent most of his time in the basement, not allowing anyone to disturb him, while he got roundly sh*t-faced all afternoon until it was time for dinner.
Again, in 1949, the same year of his repeated sexual abuse by his father’s work colleague, John was caught stealing his mother’s underwear. One evening, when John Senior and Marion were dressing up to go out somewhere, Marion found her underwear drawer was empty. The garments were found in a paper bag that John Jr. had hidden in his hide-out under the porch. Again, John was severely beaten by his father. Later, when John was a teenager, his mother Marion would make him wear her underwear as a quoteunquote “punishment.” This was worse than it may seem. His mother’s punishment was cruelly psychological, since she’d make John sit in his room wearing nothing but her underwear, fearful, but his penis shamefully erect, until his father came home. If John Senior saw his son, he would be in for the beating of his life. However, Marion never went into details of John’s infractions to her husband, and kept her own brand of punishment a secret from her spouse. Also during John’s teenage years, he graduated from the leather strap in the kitchen to John Senior frequently punching him in the face and kicking him while his son lay in agony on the ground. John never tried to resist his father’s beatings.
So, unlike many accounts of Gacy, it is clear that he was abused by both of his parents, though John Senior definitely took the lead. In many cases, Marion took sides with her son against John Senior, and tried to shield the timid boy from his father’s drunken abuse. John Wayne Gacy’s parents certainly were not allies in their abuse of him, yet they both were abusive, all the same, in different ways.
Yet John never really denounced them for it. He’d always make excuses for them and claimed that he loved them (though he would later opine that there was a thin line between love and hate). John would always justify his father’s behaviour, saying, quote, “I was never good enough for him. He was always trying to make me better. To teach me with punishment.” When it came to his mother, John could not praise the woman highly enough. The two were extremely close. Driven to each other by their mutual victimization by John Senior, and also by Marion’s perverse and psychologically abusive routine of sexual humiliation and feminization. Of course, the patriarch of the family did not like the fact his son was so close to his mother, saying that, quote, “that mama’s boy… will probably grow up to be a queer.”
Although Marion Gacy tried to protect her children from their father, she was also his enabler, as is far too common with the spouses of violent drunks. Marion cooked up wild justifications for her husband’s excessive abusiveness. She told her family and the neighbours that John Senior’s violent outbursts were the result of a medical condition. According to Marion, he had a blood clot in his brain. When John Senior drank, his inflamed blood vessels pressed against the blood clot, restricting blood flow, making him go a bit crazy. The best thing one could do, argued Marion, was not agitate him further. Just agree with whatever he had to say, so you did not send him into a rage.
If this story sounds somewhat delusional to you, rest assured that this is not even the most outlandish justification I’ve heard an enabler give for their violent spouse. I once heard a woman who lives just down the street give justifications to a bartender as to why her husband nearly beat a man to death in the restroom of the local pub. Apparently it was a tragic misunderstanding, and her husband was a good guy, really, and it was mostly the other man’s fault for his head knocking a sink off the wall. You see, the other man had bumped into her husband aggressively at the bar. As far as I know, husband and wife are still together with a troubled teenage son. And this is in the 2020s, not the 1940s and 50s.
If there is any reasonable excuse for John Senior’s violent outbursts beyond the fact he was a massive alcoholic, it is the theory that John Senior suffered from PTSD after his time in World War I, and that he had adopted binge drinking as a coping mechanism. A habit he had retained as he became a husband and father decades later. Combined with his alcoholism, recurrent memories of the war may have set off John Senior’s temper. Though, to be honest, there are enough violent drunks in the world who don’t have such an excuse, so it is more than likely that he was just a nasty piece of work.
In 1951, John Wayne Gacy allegedly gained a heart condition, causing him to have regular fainting spells from the age of 9 onward. He would fall unconscious for anywhere between 10 minutes to an hour. His medical condition also made John engaging in any strenuous physical activity impossible. So that ruled out any kind of sports. Naturally, having an already effeminate, timid, and quiet son, who had been caught wearing women’s underwear, constantly fainting and refraining from sports, gravely displeased John Senior. He accused his son of faking his medical condition because he was lazy, a coward, and a pantywaist. No matter how bad the fainting spells got, John Senior never believed they were real.
John Wayne Gacy later said that, quote, “I was a disappointment to my dad, because I was weak and he was strong. He hated a weak person. Even weak emotions. And physical illness, even when it couldn’t be helped, was a weakness.” In 1957, at the age of 15, John began complaining of severe stomach pains. His father again accused him of faking. In reality, John’s appendix had burst and the boy nearly died.
When Gacy was eleven, his father invited him to go fishing. This was a tremendous honour for John Junior, since there was nothing his father liked more than going fishing. It was a clear opportunity for father and son to bond. But it began raining heavily, and so John Senior began drinking heavily as well. He began hurling verbal abuse at his son for the slightest mistake, and even if the boy began fidgeting. The fact that they did not make a single decent catch on the trip somehow became his son’s fault. The following year, John Junior was disinvited by his father, and he was never asked to go fishing ever again. John nevertheless did his best to impress his father throughout his adolescence. But nothing was ever good enough. His father, already an unpleasant misanthrope, absolutely loathed his son.
In 1958, a sixteen year old John was playing cards and drinking a couple beers with a few friends in a neighbour’s basement. John passed out. When he was later revived, John began having some sort of fit, kicking and screaming. As a result, he was placed in a straight-jacket and taken to hospital, where he spent a month being examined by doctors, and his violent fits became so frequent that he was briefly threatened with being permanently committed to a mental health ward. This pleased his father, John Senior, to no end: “You see? It ain’t something physical. My son is just a degenerate who is f*cked up in the head.” The young man was released soon after without serious psychiatric evaluation. But John Junior made frequent returns to hospital. Between the ages of 14 and 18, he spent a total of 12 months in hospital beds, but the exact cause of his condition never satisfactorily diagnosed by doctors.
John’s teenage years did not involve dating many girls. Or even surreptitiously hooking up with guys, since it was becoming pretty clear that he was bisexual. John had thoroughly suppressed his sexuality at the time, due to childhood trauma, and also due to the bizarre pseudo-femdom relationship he had developed in his teenage years with his mother. Not that John Wayne Gacy was very much in demand. He had developed an appearance that one of his schoolmates would later liken to Mr. Potato Head.
As John approached his eighteenth birthday, although he never had the makings of a varsity athlete, John was more physically capable of standing up to his abusive father, who was by that point pushing 60, and had put himself through the ringer with a lifetime of hard drinking. One night, John Senior had gotten horrendously drunk and was beating Marion. John yelled at him to stop. John Senior turned and threw a punch at his son, but he was so drunk that his fist slammed into the nearby refrigerator. The old man yowled in pain, and then charged at his son. John Junior, now weighing 200 pounds or 90 kg, simply used his immense bulk to press his father up against the wall and hold him there. Father and son stood there, grappling in the kitchen, for half an hour. They stood face to face, as John Senior struggled to get free and drunkenly threatened to kill his son. John Wayne Gacy later remembered the incident vividly. He said that he could remember his father’s hot, booze-reeking breath hitting his face. He could remember tears streaming from his own eyes as he begged his father to stop. And John Wayne Gacy remembered one more thing. As he stood there, pressing his father up against the wall, Gacy remembered becoming incredibly, unbearably, and achingly aroused. Once his father’s anger and energy subsided, Gacy released him, and he hurried to his room, where he furiously masturbated.
An Attempt at a Normal Life
One of the things that John Wayne Gacy inherited from his monster of a father was his capacity for hard work. Gacy had held jobs since he was a child. When he was little, he ran a paper route, and mowed his neighbours’ lawns. In 1956, at the age of 14, Gacy got a job delivering groceries. He also volunteered around the neighbourhood, enacting household repairs for the elderly and people in need. It was clear from the start that John Wayne Gacy had a talent for being a tradesman, something that was fostered when Gacy transferred to a local vocational school, where he became a star pupil. Gacy also served as a Civil Defense captain, an organisation set up in the 1950s during the ineffectual “duck-and-cover” mentality of the early Cold War. Gacy’s responsibility was to rush off as a first responder to fires, accidents, and disasters, or, god forbid, a nuclear war. All these undertakings actually gained the otherwise troubled, timid, and sickly teenager quite a favourable reputation in his community.
In 1960, when Gacy turned 18, he began getting involved in politics. Chicago was (and still is) a bastion of the American Democratic Party, with every Democratic mayoral candidate since 1931 being guaranteed election, regardless of how many scandals or allegations of corruption may plague their campaigns. And so, Gacy quickly realised which paymasters he should serve if he wished to advance in the city. He got a job working for the Democratic candidate for the alderman of the 45th Ward. Around the same time, Gacy, a nominal Catholic, got involved in the “Holy Name Society.” He began calling for reform to the youth programs, since he felt that teenagers were getting tempted away from the church by sex, drugs, and rock and roll. In response, Gacy founded his own youth program, the “Chi Ro Club” [cairo club], which held dances, get-togethers, seminars, and charity events. Gacy also volunteered to fix his local church, which was in constant need of maintenance, and spent much of his spare time playing cards with the parish priests. It was at this time Gacy became effortlessly [effort-less-lee 😉] charming.
It was also around this time that Gacy considered becoming a priest himself. He liked the idea of helping people and he had still largely repressed his sexuality, which meant that the vow of chastity was no problem. And what trysts he did have had not gone spectacularly well. Once, when Gacy was still 18, he had been making out with a girl in a discrete location. Things moved to second base, and then, before he knew it, Gacy had gotten the girl undressed and it looked like Gacy was going to lose his virginity. Then he fainted. When Gacy regained consciousness, the girl was fully clothed again, and freaking out because she did not understand what was happening. Needless to say, Gacy did not get laid that night.
John’s medical condition also got in the way of his schooling. As he turned 19, he still had not graduated from his vocational high school, despite his obvious talent as a tradesman. His illnesses caused him to take long breaks from school for months at a time, and his teachers were concerned about letting a student with a propensity for fainting work with heavy machinery. In short, Gacy had hit a wall and, despite his recent progress, he began to feel hopeless, trapped, and wretched once again.
Meanwhile Gacy’s festering sh*tbag of a father was up to his old tricks. John Senior had bought Gacy a new car, since his teenage son did not have the money to buy one of his own. You’d think that was a nice thing for a father to do, but it only became another source of abuse. Since John Senior had paid for it, he considered the car “his” until his son paid him off. As such, John Senior would randomly confiscate the keys at the smallest pretext. This carried on for years and made it difficult for Gacy to go to work, go to school, or attend his many volunteer obligations. In 1962, when Gacy was 20 years old, he became so frustrated that he simply got the car keys copied, and then kept driving the car in defiance of his father. John Senior responded by removing the distributor cap from the car’s engine, so the thing wouldn’t start, and he kept the cap for three days. Gacy, not realising he could just buy a replacement, got so agitated that he fell ill. The same day that John Senior returned the distributor cap, Marion Gacy asked her son to give her a ride home. Gacy did so, and upon dropping his mother off, he told her that he was going to get some air in the tires and drove away. She did not see him again for three months.
Gacy had decided that the only way to be free of the tyranny of his father was to break out on his own.
He drove all the way to Las Vegas. There, without a high school diploma, Gacy got a job working for the Palm Mortuary. Gacy at first worked as an ambulance driver for the mortuary for a few days, but when his employers realised he was 20 years old, instead of the minimum age for that job of 21, he was switched to the job of attendant in the morgue. His job was to help load and unload bodies and fetch things. In order to save money, Gacy lived in the morgue and slept on a cot in the embalming room. During the night, Gacy conducted little experiments of his own on the corpses, taking particular interest in the bodies of young men who had died prematurely. The exact nature of Gacy’s “little experiments” is unknown, but Gacy himself implied they were sexual. All we know is after three months, Gacy found the work unsatisfying, and he called his mother to ask if his father would allow him to return home.
Despite his shame at returning home, Gacy did not let the grass grow. He managed to bluster his way into Northwestern Business College, despite not having a high school diploma, something unthinkable today. After taking a standard year-long certificate, he scored a job as a management trainee for a shoe company for $65 a week, or roughly $600 in today’s money. Not bad for a training position with minimal education, but not great either. Nevertheless, Gacy threw himself into the work and impressed his employers and his colleagues. Meanwhile he moved out of his abusive parents’ house and in with his aunt and uncle in Springfield, Illinois, who by all accounts were decent, well-adjusted people. Gacy was finally free of the ego-blistering assaults of his father and the perverted coddling of his mother.
It was like taking his first breath of fresh air as a fully-fledged human being, rather than the malformed quivering wretch that Gacy had felt he was during his entire childhood. Gacy began dating on a regular basis, increasingly being considered something of a “catch” despite his superficial physical deficiencies and lack of stereotypical male grit. He also joined the United States Junior Chamber of Commerce, or the “Jaycees.” This was a young person’s leadership organisation that also functioned as a networking club. It was designed to instill the values of free enterprise, liberty, and public service. Numerous politicians and business magnates have moved through the Jaycees over the years, including US Presidents Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, Gerald Ford, and Richard Nixon, along with businessmen Howard Hughes and, my former patron of sorts, Bill Gates. The Wikipedia page listing “Notable U.S. Jaycees” is a bit f*cking hilarious. Among its list of just two dozen grandees on the page are the names John Wayne Gacy and Edmund Kemper. Both serial killers. Not sure what this implies, though I am fairly certain that several other people on the list (not to name names) are also psychopaths. Functioning psychopaths, in the same way one can be a functioning alcoholic, but psychopaths all the same. Anyway, let’s move on before we get sued for slander.
It is perhaps illuminating that the Jaycees absolutely loved Gacy. He was charming, hardworking, and conformed to the core ideals of the networking organisation to a tee. In 1964, when Gacy was 22 years old, the Jaycees nominated Gacy as their quote-unquote “Key Man” for the month of April. The next year Gacy was elected the vice president of the local chapter of the Jaycees, and was declared an outstanding first-year member, and he attained third place as the most astounding member in Illinois. It just goes to show that one can express devotion to a set of ideals without actually believing in them. As we shall see, Gacy didn’t give a toss about classical liberal ideals. He was merely interested in self-advancement. He’d pay lip service to any prevailing set of societal morals: Capitalist, Stalinist, Fascist or otherwise. It just so happened he lived in 1960s America. He was perfectly happy to parrot those ideals. As he put it himself, he drove himself hard during this time to prove his father wrong. That was his primary motivation. He was worth something. He could and would succeed. Gacy would attain prominence no matter the cost. And he would have done so, as many psychopaths could have done, if his more subterranean appetites had not come slithering toward the surface.
At the forefront of Gacy’s demons were sexual damage and confusion. He had only been in Springfield six months before he married a coworker of his, Marlynn [marilyn] Myers. Blinded by false hypergamy, she admired Gacy as a hardworking, charming man who was “going places.” Little did she know that a few weeks before their marriage, John had his first fully-fledged sexual experience with a man.
Richard Stuart was Gacy’s co-worker and a closeted gay man. They went out drinking after work, admiring the local skirt, and doing their best and failing to gain any interest from the local lasses. The two men continued to drink, getting fairly hammered, at which point Richard Stuart gave his sales pitch, saying, “You know, you go out looking for women, you strike out, and you probably go home and play with yourself. Me, I don’t give a sh*t who blows me. A mouth is a mouth. So if I strike out with a woman, I pick up a guy. Which means on any given night, I got twice the chance to score that you do.” A clever play in that day and age. Little did Richard Stuart know that Gacy was bisexual. He didn’t exactly need that much convincing. Or alcohol. But in the end, it was Richard Stuart who wound up blowing Gacy. However, when Gacy woke up the next morning, lying next to Stuart, he felt violated. Not because he had disliked the night’s experiences. But because he felt it had undermined his attempts at proving his father wrong. He’d worked hard professionally, but here he was, behaving like a quote-unquote “queer.” His father had won this round.
Gacy also resented how Stuart had chatted him into a sexual encounter. Gacy felt outwitted. Less of a man. As a result, Gacy vowed that if he ever dabbled in gay sex again, he would make sure that he, not the other man, had the upper hand. Suddenly, sex for Gacy became not just a matter of satisfaction, or social validation, but about power and control.
Somewhere, somehow, at this point in the script, I can hear Pogo the Clown laughing.
The Point of No Return
There comes a point in every person’s life where there is a line. No matter their past traumas. No matter what they have suffered. There is a line where a human being has to choose between remaining human or becoming a monster. Most people choose to retain their humanity. They back away from the brink. And there, lying just beyond the realm of human decency, lingering in the back of your mind, is the line. A set of actions so horrific, so repugnant to the human soul, that if you choose to cross it, you ultimately have to be responsible for your actions. No matter what sort of madness fills your head. No matter what poison afflicts your soul. You just have to be. Because, at a certain point, the story ceases to be about you, and it becomes about your victims. And, with John Wayne Gacy, we are fast approaching that line.
John Wayne Gacy’s bride, Marlynn, came from a fairly well-to-do family. Her father, Fred Myers, bought 3 franchise restaurants for Kentucky Fried Chicken in Waterloo, Iowa, 300 miles or 480 km to the northwest of Springfield, Illinois. Fred wished to set up his daughter with a good life. Myers hired Gacy to be the manager of those restaurants, where Gacy insisted that his employees and colleagues refer to him by the nickname, “The Colonel.” Gacy also lied that he was an honorary colonel in the Illinois Governor’s brigade. Myers bought Gacy and his daughter a new home in Iowa. And he paid Gacy $15,000 a year, or $138,000 a year in today’s money, plus giving Gacy a 20% share in the profits from the three restaurants, which were considerable. Gacy also became a rising star with the Iowa Jaycees, where he soon sat on the Board of Directors and became the club chaplain. It seemed apparent to all and sundry, that Gacy had politics in his future. Gacy himself planned to run for alderman in Waterloo, followed by running for mayor, then the Iowa Senate. Ultimately, Gacy saw himself taking a crack at running for President on the Democrat ticket. Imagine a President Gacy, for a moment, if you will.
Marlynn and Gacy had two children. They will not be named. Their birthdates will not be specified.
In 1967, Gacy and Marlynn were having dinner at the house of Charles Hill, the president of the local Waterloo Jaycees. As Marlynn and Hill’s wife were in the kitchen, clearing up from dinner, Gacy turned to Hill and asked, “Do you like Marlynn’s dress?” Hill replied that he did.
Gacy pressed him, “Do you like her?”
Hill replied platonically, “She’s a good woman. I’ve always liked her.”
Gacy then leaned toward Hill and whispered conspiratorially, “Marlynn likes you too. Do you want to f*ck her?”
Hill was caught off guard. He stuttered, “John… um. Marlynn and I are just friends… You understand?”
Gacy suddenly smiled and pulled back, laughing. He said that he was just joking around. But he was not. Unbeknownst to Charles Hill, Gacy had created a gang of wife-swappers within the Jaycees. Evidently Marlynn voluntarily and enthusiastically took part in this arrangement.
Also, Gacy and his fellow Jaycees circulated hardcore pornography amongst each other (the kind that was illegal in those days), did hard drugs, and ran a prostitution ring, where Waterloo strippers would give the Jaycees a share of their profits from their after-work activities in exchange for access to wealthy local clients. Meanwhile, Gacy kept the cops at bay by staying on friendly terms with them, occasionally getting a prostitute to “honeypot” a cop at one of Gacy’s sex parties, so the cop wouldn’t come asking questions about the wider operation, and, more mundanely, by giving the cops free fried chicken.
In 1967, Gacy’s father, John Senior, came to Iowa to visit his son. John Senior kept relatively sober for once and treated his son with a certain degree of respect. He was genuinely impressed with how Gacy had secured a fabulous wage, a wife and family, and was proving to be the “big man on campus” with the Jaycees. Not bad for a simpering pantywaist. When it came time for John Senior to leave, he proffered his hand, which Gacy shook. John Senior looked his son in the eye and said, “I was wrong about you.” Here, without question, was the crowning moment of John Wayne Gacy’s life.
Everything was about to fall apart.
In August 1967, John Wayne Gacy was driving to work when 15 year old Donald Vorhees [vore-heez] shouted out from the side of the road for Gacy to stop. The two knew each other. Vorhees had a father in the Jaycees, who was actually a political rival of Gacy’s. The adult man asked the kid what he was doing out by the side of the road. Vorhees explained that he had been at his girlfriend’s house and was walking home.
Gacy then abruptly asked the 15 year old boy, “You been laid yet?”
The young boy replied that he had. And then Vorhees asked whether it was true that Gacy had shown porn films at his parties.
Gacy replied, “Yeah, we showed some films. I still got them over at my house. You’re getting to an age where you can get a good educational experience out of watching something like that. Come on back to the house. I’ll set up the projector and we’ll watch a couple of them.”
Gacy drove the boy to his house and led him into the basement. He set up the projector and put on a porn film for the 15 year old to watch. Gacy’s wife, Marlynn, wouldn’t be home that night. She was sleeping with another man. Gacy plied the child with alcohol. When the film was over, Gacy began peppering the boy with inappropriate questions. Stuff about how often he had sex with his girlfriend, or whether she had ever gone down on him. Gacy then launched into a diatribe about how some men have sex with other men before they start having regular sex with a woman. Gacy then performed oral sex on Vorhees. When it came time for the boy to perform oral sex on Gacy, the older man assured him that, quote, “It tasted no different than sucking your thumb.” Vorhees returned to Gacy’s home several more times, demanding money, and, again, Gacy engaged in sex acts with the minor.
A line had been crossed and Gacy had no intention of going back. His activities widened and intensified. For the rest of 1967, and in the early months of 1968, Gacy engaged in sex acts with several underage boys. Some victims Gacy paid. In another instance, Gacy arranged for the boy to have sex with his wife, Marlynn, and then Gacy blackmailed the boy into engaging in sex acts with him as well.
After numerous requests for increasing amounts of money, Donald Vorhees demanded $100 from Gacy, or $807 in today’s money, so he could buy an amplifier for his rock band.
Gacy negotiated with the boy and gave him enough money to rent an amplifier instead. He then told Vorhees that he had better not come round demanding any more money. When Vorhees threatened to tell people what had been going on, Gacy replied that he would just deny everything, and, quote, “Who do you think people are going to believe, asshole?”
In March 1968, Donald Vorhees informed his father that Gacy had been sexually assaulting him. The boy’s father immediately went to the police. The authorities launched an investigation into Gacy, who denied the charges. It was his word against the boy’s. Gacy also alleged that Vorhees’ father had manufactured the charges because he opposed Gacy’s bid to become president of the Waterloo Jaycees. Eventually police got a warrant and they found pornographic films in Gacy’s house, corroborating the boy’s story. As the pressure mounted, Gacy demanded to take a polygraph test, which took place on May 2nd 1968. For some reason, Gacy felt certain that he could beat the test. Instead, the test showed a spike in his heart rate when he was asked about sexually assaulting Vorhees. Nevertheless, Gacy continued to deny the charges.
Another one of Gacy’s victims came forward: Edward Lynch, who had worked as a bus boy at one of the Kentucky Fried Chickens that Gacy managed. Lynch claimed that at the end of August 1967, like Vorhees, he had been lured to Gacy’s house where he had been shown pornographic films and where Gacy had attempted to talk Lynch into sex acts. At one point, Gacy threatened Lynch with a knife and backed him into a bedroom. A struggle ensued where Gacy cut the boy’s arm, but Lynch managed to fight Gacy off. The older man got a band-aid for the cut, apologised, and managed to convince Lynch to stick around to watch another pornographic movie. Gacy then convinced Lynch to quote-unquote “try something” and allow him to bind his arms behind his back with a chain and padlock. He reassured the boy he wasn’t going to hurt him. Lynch, only being 16 years old, and in the face of the only boss he had ever known, permitted this to happen. When Gacy tried to initiate sex, Lynch headbutted him and demanded Gacy remove the chains. Ignoring him, Gacy left the room, and came back wheeling a folding cot. Gacy then pushed the boy onto the cot and began to strangle him. Lynch partially lost consciousness, but he remembered, as he was blacking out, that Gacy relented and began rolling him onto his side and freeing him of the chains. Gacy then apologised and Lynch demanded to leave. Gacy let him go. A few days after the incident, Gacy fired Lynch from his job at Kentucky Fried Chicken.
On May 10th 1968, Gacy was arrested at his home for the crime of committing sodomy with a teenage boy and attempted sodomy with a second teenage boy. Gacy continued to protest his innocence and claimed that this had all been cooked up by his political opponents. A staggering number of people believed Gacy, including Charles Hill, the outgoing Waterloo Jaycees president. Gacy was one of the most respected members of the community. And, moreover, Gacy had deliberately fabricated a reputation for being something of a lady’s man, constantly telling his friends about how many women he’d slept with that week. It was still unsure whether the case would go to trial. Gacy was nominated as a candidate for Waterloo president. He withdrew from the nomination, citing the current controversy. In the eyes of his supporters, Gacy was making a noble sacrifice for the greater good of the organisation, to spare it controversy. At the same time, people felt that the conspirators against Gacy had won, which only increased sympathies for Gacy. Only a couple months later, in July 1968, the Jaycees defiantly awarded Gacy another one of the “Key Man” awards. This was a guy looking down the gun barrel of charges for being a paedo. Such was the faith of Gacy’s supporters that he had done nothing wrong.
Gacy tried and failed to beat a second polygraph test. It consistently showed he was lying when he denied having sexual relations with Vorhees. People in the county prosecutor’s office joked that, quote, “the only thing Gacy got right was his name.”
It was at this point that Gacy got rattled and made the blunder of altering his story. He claimed that he had picked up Vorhees and asked him about a rumor that he gave blowjobs for cash. According to Gacy, Vorhees said yes, claimed he was a regular prostitute, and that he charged $40. Gacy claimed he negotiated Vorhees down to five. Gacy told police that he couldn’t maintain an erection because he was super-duper 100% straight. According to Gacy, Vorhees insisted on trying again another day, and it was at this point that Vorhees began harassing Gacy for sex and more money. Gacy claimed on two more occasions that he relented and paid for the service out of, quote, “curiousity.”
Despite the fact that Gacy had just admitted to soliciting the sexual services of a minor, a number of Democrats in Iowa were putting pressure on the county prosecutor’s office to not take the case to trial. Here was a future presidential candidate, after all! A lot of them had been caught up in wife-swapping at Gacy’s parties, and had allegedly participated in the use of hard drugs and the running of prostitutes. The same went for a few of the local cops. There were concerns that Gacy could expose them should he be prosecuted. Even at this point, Gacy might have skated without the issue ever going to trial.
But Gacy was not aware that the county prosecutor was wavering about bringing him to trial. So Gacy took matters into his own hands. On August 30th 1968, Gacy burglarised a lumber store with 18 year old high school student, Russell Schroeder, pretty much for kicks and to win the kid over, and during the course of that evening Gacy mentioned he wanted Donald Vorhees intimidated from testifying. On August 31st, Gacy promised to pay Schroeder $300 to intimidate Vorhees from providing witness testimony at trial. On September 5th 1968, Schroeder lured Vorhees to a park, 5 miles outside of town, claiming he had recently stolen 20 cases of liquor, which he wanted to share with him. There Schoeder sprayed Vorhees in the face, twice, with a can of mace that Gacy had supplied, told him not to testify against Gacy, and repeatedly kicked the boy in the ribs while he lay on the ground. Schroeder drove to Gacy’s to return the mace. Gacy did not pay him that night, nor would Schroeder ever collect.
Vorhees immediately went to the police. On September 6th, the police arrested Schroeder for assault. After several days of interrogation, and pressure from his parents to come clean, Schroeder admitted he had been put up to it by Gacy. On September 9th, Gacy was arrested for witness intimidation. He was bailed for $1000. On September 12th, Gacy was arrested again for pointlessly burglarising the lumber store, and bail was set for $10,000, two-thirds of a year’s wages, an amount that Gacy could not raise. He remained in prison and that same day a judge ordered that Gacy undergo a psychiatric evaluation.
Meanwhile, under interrogation, Gacy began to do what his fellow Jaycees and allies in the Democratic party had feared. He spilled the beans and named people involved in wife-swapping, hard drugs, and prostitution. And, as Gacy languished behind bars, even more victims started to come out of the woodwork. 17 year old Richard Westphal, another employee at Kentucky Fried Chicken, claimed that Marlynn Gacy had seduced him, and when John Wayne Gacy caught them in the act, he coerced Westphal into fellating him. Another boy claimed that Gacy got him drunk and held him at gunpoint, forcing him to play a game of Russian Roulette. Another boy claimed that Gacy was constantly getting boys drunk at his house, where he kept a well-stocked bar. There, the boys would play pool, with Gacy constantly badgering them to bet on pool games where the prize was a blowjob.
The most perverse part of this underage drinking club at Gacy’s house was that the perpetrator charged the boys monthly dues for access to the club. As if it were a privilege to be preyed upon.
Another unnamed boy claimed that Gacy had told him he was a sex researcher, acting under orders of Iowa’s governor, to explore the bounds of homosexuality and sex with teenagers. Gacy met with the child on several occasions, got him good and drunk, and sexually assaulted him in several ways during the socalled “experiments.” Allegedly, Gacy used the same lie with multiple boys.
And bear in mind that all this happened in just a few months between August 1967 and March 1968.
On November 2nd, Gacy was transferred from prison to a mental institution to be evaluated over the course of the next 17 days. He complained about the lack of cleanliness of the place. But he also charmed the nurses, whom Gacy believed came to like him. In reality, they were creeped out by him and considered Gacy something of a slimy con-artist and a bully. Gacy told the doctors of his fainting spells as a child, claiming to have a heart condition. Upon a physical examination, the doctors could find no evidence of a heart defect, and no signs of heart disease. Whatever had caused Gacy’s fainting spells as a youth, along with his violent fits, it had not been his heart. John Senior, had he been told, would have smiled triumphantly at the news. Conversely, the doctors found that, aside from being fat, Gacy was in fairly good health. Whatever was going on with him, it was clearly psychological.
When Gacy was evaluated by psychiatrists, he ran his mouth as usual. His testimony was wildly inconsistent with the testimonies of all his victims. Dr. Eugene Gauron wrote, “John Gacy prided himself on being a good talker. There was an element of control in his garrulousness [gah-rue-less-ness]. It was apparent that John would twist the truth in such a way that he would not be made to look bad. My general impression was that he was a smooth-talker and an obscurer who was trying to whitewash himself of all wrongdoing.” Gauron found that Gacy had an IQ of 118 [Note to Simon: as a point of interest, I’m 180 so the “Colonel” can go f*ck himself]. Gauron also determined that Gacy had a high level of social intelligence. Neurologically, Gauron found nothing wrong with him. No brain damage. Yet, Gauron wrote, “He had a total denial of responsibility for anything that has happened to him. He can produce an alibi for everything. Everything points to a diagnosis of sociopathic personality disturbance, and an anti-social reaction.” This amounted to diagnosing Gacy with either sociopathy or psychopathy. For those of you tuning into the Casual Criminalist for the first time, that denotes an utter lack of empathy and conscience. We get quite a few of those around these parts.
Gacy’s psychological examination concluded that he was fit to stand for trial but added that his mental pathologies were unlikely to benefit from known medical treatment. Both of which were accurate. However, the psychiatrists fell short in other aspects of their analysis. They had bought the story that Gacy had been harassed by Vorhees, who had allegedly been acting as a male prostitute, and that Gacy had purchased the boy’s sexual services out of “curiousity.” The psychiatrists, bleeding-hearts that they were, also recommended that Gacy shouldn’t get jail time, but should be let off on probation.
Things looked even better for Gacy. He struck a plea bargain where he admitted to sodomy, in exchange for the charges of burglary and witness intimidation being dropped. But the prosecution pushed the judge for the maximum sentence for sodomy. In the end, on December 3rd, Gacy was given 10 years imprisonment at Iowa State Reformatory in Anamosa. Gacy, who had been sure he would skate free, was furious. On the same day, his wife Marlynn, who had been allegedly complicit in his predations on young boys, filed for divorce and custody of the children. Gacy never saw any of them again.
Pogo’s Adventures in Prison
While imprisoned at Anamosa, John Wayne Gacy stuck to doing what he knew best. He became a society man. He quickly rose to become head cook in the prison mess hall and secured higher wages for the other inmates who worked there. He went around the prison as a convict-turned-handyman and fixed things up so conditions were generally better for the inmates. He converted increasing numbers of inmates over to the Jaycees, from 50 to 230 members in the prison population, now devoted to liberty, entrepreneurship, and the American way. Gacy was always busy with some damn project. The guy never seemed to sleep. In the spring and summer of 1969, Gacy even built a mini-golf course within the prison, with the assistance of his Jaycee compatriots, and Gacy himself put 370 hours into the project. The story even hit the newspapers. Gacy was regarded by the prison warden as a model inmate. Gacy thus was given special privileges. He didn’t have to wear prison denims like the rest of the inmates. He wore a white business shirt. The guards snuck in cigars for Gacy. He somehow got his hands on a black business briefcase, which he always carried around, though god knows what he really needed it for.
You’d think the prisoners would immediately despise a guy like Gacy. A child predator who swanned around the place, dressed like a businessman, kissing the warden’s ass, and chumming about with the guards, would usually have had the sh*t beat out of him. Or worse. Yet Gacy spun some lies in order to earn himself some respect. He told the other inmates he was a prominent politician who had been framed by his enemies for showing porn movies to 17 year old girls. Girls, not boys, who were nearly of adult age, which in the eyes of the inmates softened the charges of being a kiddie fiddler. Plus, he was framed. Gacy also told the inmates that his ex-wife was the daughter of Colonel Sanders, the founder of Kentucky Fried Chicken, rather than the daughter of some rich dude who had bought three of the restaurants. Gacy also told the lie that he had once served faithfully as a US Marine, a falsehood he also circulated in his Waterloo days with the Jaycees. While this story was not enough to win over the more hardened criminals at Anamosa, it was enough to win over the non-violent offenders and first timers. Gacy also told his new found friends that he had recently developed a heart condition, and that if he engaged in the slightest bit of violence, it would probably kill him. This prompted a lot of the men to keep Gacy out of conflicts, and warded off the more violent men who would have liked to take a pop at Gacy, but didn’t want to take a murder charge for simply punching a guy in the face.
On the subject of gay sex in prison, this is a perplexing topic regarding Gacy, whom you’d think might be having the time of his life. Especially given the major predatory sex drive that landed him there. We don’t have any admissions on Gacy’s part. And in order to maintain an air of respectability amid the overwhelmingly straight prison population, Gacy expressed more distain and hatred for homosexuality than many of the other prisoners. So, if Gacy was having sex at this time, he was doing it very, very, surreptitiously. On the other hand, Gacy had preferred underage boys. It is possible that Gacy avoided having sexual relations while in prison in order to avoid the risk of becoming “the bottom.” As we’ve seen, ever since his night with Richard Stuart, Gacy’s entire approach to sex was about power and control, something the overweight, relatively weak Gacy may have been forced to surrender to another stronger adult male inmate.
In June 1969, after serving just 7 months of a 10-year sentence, Gacy’s application for parole was denied. On August 28th 1969, the Iowa Supreme Court rejected Gacy’s appeal against his sentencing. After studying behind bars, in November of 1969, at the age of 27, Gacy finally got his high school diploma. If he was going to be stuck in prison for a few years, Gacy was determined to keep busy.
Outside of Alamosa’s walls, hundreds of miles away in Chicago, Illinois, on December 25th, John Gacy Senior dropped dead from cirrhosis [seer-roe-siss] of the liver. He had lived just long enough to see his worst fears about his son realised – that he was a homosexual – in the worst possible way. His son was a homosexual who preyed on underage teens. Allegedly, John Senior cried when his son was sentenced to 10 years’ prison for sodomy. I cannot confirm this claim. Yet it seems more likely, given his history, that John Senior was more crying out of shame and frustration, than a deeply buried love he felt for his son.
When John Wayne Gacy got the news, he fell to the floor sobbing. In later years, John would assert that his quote-unquote “innocent curiousity” about young gay boys had killed his father. While still in prison, John commissioned a man who had murdered someone in a bar fight to paint his father’s portrait.
In May 1970, Gacy applied again for parole. His good behaviour whilst incarcerated spoke for itself. He was released on June 18th 1970, with 12 months’ probation, after serving just a year-and-a-half of a 10 year sentence for what amounted to the repeated statutory rape of an underage boy, and the assault on and attempted rape of another boy. Along with a number of other likely acts of sexual assault and predation on teenage boys that never made it to trial. When Gacy was released from prison, his old friend Charles Hill, former president of the Waterloo Jaycees, picked him up and took him to dinner with his wife. In Hill’s eyes, Gacy was innocent and had been raked over the coals for political reasons.
Hill said to Gacy, “John, now that it’s over, keep your nose clean.”
Gacy stared at his friend for a moment and then replied, “I’ll never go back to jail.”
Hill nodded and smiled and the conversation moved on to other topics. Little did Hill know that what Gacy meant was he planned to never let another victim like Donald Vorhees live to tell the tale.
The Murder House
Despite claiming to his supporters in Waterloo, Iowa, that he intended to remain in the town and fight to re-establish his reputation, Gacy immediately relocated back to Chicago, Illinois, feeling that it would be easier to ply his trade with a clean slate. Charles Hill, Gacy thought traitorously, could go f*ck himself. Chicago was a big city, in another state, and it was where he grew up. Most people had little awareness of what had befallen Gacy back in Iowa. He moved back in with his now widowed mother, Marion, and got a job as a short-order cook at a local dive bar, Bruno’s Restaurant and Lounge.
On February 12th 1971, 8 months after John Wayne Gacy was released from prison, he was arrested for sexually assaulting a teenage boy. Gacy had picked him up from the Greyhound bus terminal (Simon’s favourite mode of transportation). The charges were eventually dropped because the victim failed to show up to court in order to testify. I do not know if the boy was murdered or moved on. Gacy meanwhile lied to his friends and associates that the charge was for beating up a homosexual who had made a pass at him. The Iowa Parole Board never got wind of the incident, thanks to Gacy’s old Democratic Party friends in Iowa, and he faced no consequences for violating his probation.
John Wayne Gacy disliked his cooking job and sought to go into business for himself. So, in June 1971, he started PDM Contractors, standing for “Painting, Decorating, and Maintenance.” Initially a one-man company, Gacy got his start by doing odd-jobs on his days off from the dive bar. One of Gacy’s first gigs was to paint the apartment of one of his fellow fry-cooks. While he was working at the apartment, the cook’s roommate came home.
No sooner had the roommate said “hello” and “who are you?” that the roommate declared that he was gay. A few days later, this same roommate showed Gacy a picture of himself in drag, and asked if he could give Gacy a blowjob. Gacy accepted. After Gacy had orgasmed, the two got to talking. The cook’s roommate told Gacy about how, at the corner of Clark and Broadway, you could pick up young male prostitutes for sex.
The following month, in July 1971, Gacy was trawling the corner at Clark and Broadway, when he encountered a young man named Mickel [mick-kell] Reid. The two had sex and talked about Gacy’s construction business. Reid was in need of a job, and Gacy agreed make use of him at PDM Contractors.
On August 15th 1971, John Wayne Gacy and his mother, Marion, moved into 8213 West Summerdale
Avenue. A 1950s home with multiple bedrooms and a large crawl space for quote-unquote “storage.” Gacy agreed to co-own the house with his mother, to whom he made monthly payments. Mickel Reid helped Gacy and his mother move in, and took one of the spare bedrooms. Another man, from the dive bar Gacy had worked at, took another room. Gacy’s Aunt Florence also moved in for three months. All three of the tenants paid rent. Financially, it turned out to be a pretty good move.
Occasionally, Gacy and Reid would have sex, but not on a regular or passionate basis. It was more of a way for Gacy to scratch an itch. For Gacy, something was obviously missing from these encounters. Reid and Gacy would also go out on jobs together for PDM Contractors. They argued occasionally, mostly about money, but it was not like they had a tempestuous relationship. Once, without any hint of an argument between the two men, Gacy came at Reid with a tire iron while the younger man’s back was turned, but stopped short of hitting him, when Reid turned around and caught him. On another occasion, Reid and Gacy were in the garage at 8213 Summerdale, and out of nowhere Gacy hit Reid in the head with a
hammer. Gacy was going to hit Reid again, when the younger man grabbed Gacy’s arm and asked him what the hell he was doing. Again, Gacy relented and patched up the wound on Reid’s head. The next day, Reid moved out. In retrospect, there is very little doubt that Gacy would have murdered him, if he had stayed.
Meanwhile, Gacy rekindled a relationship with Carol Lofgren [loff-gren], a woman he had briefly dated in high school. In 1971, Carol had just gone through a divorce and had two daughters, whose birthdates will not be revealed and who will remain unnamed. Carol had been experiencing trouble making ends meet, so rekindling things with Gacy was like finding water in the desert. According to Carol, “He swept me off my feet. I don’t think I loved him, but he treated me well. He told me he did time in Iowa for showing pornography to younger boys. He told me he was bisexual. At first, I didn’t understand what a bisexual was. I took it as a joke. I really didn’t believe it.” It was the 1970s, after all.
On December 25th 1971, the second anniversary of his father’s death, Gacy had some sort of nervous breakdown beside John Senior’s grave. He began sobbing uncontrollably, something which was very unusual for him, utterly wailing. He was brought home, but was unable to stop weeping for hours. At the time, Gacy was fairly incomprehensible. But according to Carol, he was upset that he wasn’t able to attend his father’s funeral two years ago because he was in prison. Although the details of the Christmas Day breakdown are sketchy at best, many analysts attach some significance to this event, hazarding a guess that something finally broke in Gacy’s mind at the time.
This was because, only a week later, Gacy would brutally butcher a teenage boy.
“The Greyhound Bus Boy”
On New Year’s Eve 1971, Gacy had to work at the dive bar But Carol had her mother watch her daughters so she could show up to Bruno’s, in order for Gacy and Carol to ring in the New Year together. They got back to 8213 Summerdale at 3am on January 1st 1972, slept for 5 hours, and then Gacy drove Carol back to her own house. Gacy informed Carol that his Aunt Pearl had just died, and he wouldn’t be able to see her for a few days, and drove off. That afternoon, he picked up his mother, Marion, and drove her to a relative’s house. There Gacy’s family threw a big New Year’s Day party and Gacy got stinking drunk. His mother refused to drive home with him, and stayed the night. Gacy, meanwhile, took off at 12:30am on January 2nd, hammered, but insisting on driving anyway.
Apparently at random, John decided to drive to the Civic Centre in downtown Chicago to look at the ice sculptures. Then maybe he’d pick up a young gay man from the nearby Greyhound bus station, take him home, and have sex with him. Gacy duly admired the ice sculptures, then at 1:30am he picked up a 16 year old boy from the Greyhound bus station, who was hanging out there in the freezing cold in the middle of the night, with a group of other young boys, possibly waiting for their next bus connections the following morning, possibly for the express purpose of male prostitution.
From this point forward, there were no independent witnesses and we are entirely dependent on Gacy’s later version of events. This account is almost certainly full of inaccuracies. And by inaccuracies, of course, I mean goddamn cat-piss-soaked, snake-sucking, titty-f*cking lies. Police didn’t even know the name of the “Greyhound Bus Boy” until Gacy identified him as one Timothy McCoy, who was from Michigan, travelling on his way to Nebraska. This was later confirmed via missing persons and forensics.
According to Gacy, he picked up Timothy and they drove around Chicago, so that Gacy could show him the sights. All the while, John peppered him with questions about sex. Gacy claims that McCoy was getting hungry, so they drove back to 8213 Summerdale, where nobody else was staying that night, and Gacy fixed the boy a sandwich. He cut the meat for the sandwich with a big butcher knife. Along with the food, Gacy plied the kid with beer and shots of Everclear 95% alcohol. The two discussed sex quite a lot, apparently, including mutual fellatio. But, according to Gacy, nothing happened between them. Given his future M.O., however, it is almost certain that sometime during the course of this conversation, Gacy attempted to rape Timothy McCoy.
Yet, according to Gacy, he offered McCoy a bed to sleep in, and with that, Gacy staggered off to his own bedroom. Then around 4am, Gacy claims that he awoke. Timothy McCoy was allegedly standing in the doorway of Gacy’s bedroom, with the butcher knife in his hand. According to Gacy, Timothy was stealthily making his way toward the bed in an attempt to murder him. Gacy leapt from the bed and grappled with McCoy in an effort to defend himself. In the ensuing struggle, Gacy claims he sustained a rather nasty cut on the arm. As they fought, Gacy claims he asked McCoy, “Why are you doing this?” Indeed, there seems to be no clear reason why Timothy would attack Gacy. Probably because this entire story is bullsh*t. What followed was conveniently unclear in Gacy’s own memory. Evidently, Gacy’s bulk forced Timothy to the ground, and Gacy managed to turn the blade against the boy. From there, the account is probably true: Gacy proceeded to stab Timothy McCoy five times in the chest. Gacy attests that Timothy choked on his own blood for a good long while. Then the 16 year old died.
What is more likely to have happened is that after picking Timothy up from the Greyhound bus station at 1:30am, they drove around Chicago while Gacy spun his usual yarns, leading into sex talk. We do not know if the boy was receptive, straight or gay, and we don’t really know whether he was working as a prostitute or was merely on his way to Nebraska. And the idea that Gacy went to sleep only to wake up at 4am doesn’t add up. Driving around Chicago, plus food and drinks at Gacy’s house, would have taken time. It was also a fairly long drive from downtown Chicago to West Summerdale. And Gacy usually made sure his victims were good and drunk before he jumped them, which, again, would have taken time. And Gacy liked to run his mouth. Thus it is likely the rape or attempted rape happened around 4am without either of them going to sleep. It is then likely that the 16 year old put up a fight against the flabby, relatively weak, 30 year old Gacy, and so in the course of the struggle Gacy turned a knife on the boy, having his own arm cut. That detail seems unlikely to have just been fabricated, given his sister Joanne later testified to the wound, but rather it inspired the whole “attempted murder” story. Then Gacy finally managed to overpower his inebriated and terrified victim, stabbing him to death.
From there, by Gacy’s own account, he washed the blood off the knife and put it back in the kitchen. Then Gacy walked to the bathroom and washed the blood off his hands, face, and clothes, while he listened to Timothy McCoy suffocate on his own blood. By the time Gacy returned, Timothy was dead. Gacy dragged the corpse over to the trapdoor leading to the crawl space. He opened the door, and simply rolled the body into it. According to Gacy, he could not bear to enter the crawl space or bury the body at the time. He did that at a later date. Closing the trapdoor, Gacy cleaned, as best as he could, the blood that had spilled out from the murder. The next day, after checking studiously for any further signs of bloodstains in the house that his mother might notice upon her return, Gacy rested easy.
To quote Gacy himself, “It was just a nicely kept secret. Nobody knew about it.”
Bodies Under the House
John Wayne Gacy married Carol Lofgren on July 1st 1972. Nine days before the wedding, Gacy was arrested for sexual battery. Gacy had impersonated a police officer to force a teenage boy into his car, where he forced the boy to perform oral sex on him. When Gacy stopped at some traffic lights, the boy jumped out and ran away. Gacy tried to run the boy over with his car. The charges, however, were dropped. Evidently, the victim made the mistake of trying to blackmail Gacy for money following the crime, which caused the police to drop the case. Gacy convinced his wife, Carol, that the kid had simply attempted to rob him and was lying about the sex stuff.
Carol moved into 8213 Summerdale, and Gacy’s mother, Marion, moved into an apartment to give the newlyweds some space. Carol’s two daughters immediately took to calling Gacy “daddy.” Throughout July and August 1972, Carol complained about a rotting smell coming from the crawl space, which was worsened by the summer heat. Gacy claimed that it was probably a broken sewer pipe. Gacy eventually put down a layer of concrete on top of where he had buried Timothy McCoy’s body and the smell subsided. Nevertheless, Carol claims that, as long as she lived there, every now and then she got a whiff of the faint sweet putrid smell of rotting flesh.
A tip for criminals: the smell is everything. Exert all your chemical research on that issue. Dispose when possible. Beyond that, it is unlikely any landlord will come looking for the bodies you have in your place.
In 1973, Gacy quit working at the dive bar to focus on PDM Contractors full time. Gacy told Carol that the burden of his work made him too exhausted to have sex. Carol found gay porn under the sink, and found a pair of semen-stained men’s silk panties, which did belong to Gacy, in their bed. The couple began to argue, and Gacy occasionally got violent with Carol. Gacy increasingly spent more time sleeping on the couch. He would frequently go out in the middle of the night for quote-unquote “business meetings.” Also in 1973, one of Gacy’s teenage employees came to the house and beat Gacy up. Carol was told by Gacy that the employee was angry about money, when in actual fact Gacy had attempted to rape him previously. A few months later, Carol accused Gacy of having an affair with a woman. Gacy denied this. And so, Carol said, “well, you’re having affairs with boys then.” Gacy denied this as well. Carol would continue to accuse Gacy of having affairs for the rest of their marriage.
Gacy claims he murdered another teenage boy in January 1974. We don’t know who this boy was. Gacy said he put the body in the closet before burying the victim under the house. According to Gacy, fluids leaking from the body stained Gacy’s carpet. This apparently caused Gacy some distress.
On Mother’s Day 1975, Gacy and Carol were in bed together. At that point, Gacy told his wife, “This is the last time we’ll have sex.” He said he was just too exhausted from work to have a sex drive anymore. Carol felt confused and humiliated. The truth was in May 1975, Gacy had met Tony Antonucci, a 15 year old, and he had grown infatuated. Gacy hired Tony to work for PDM Contractors. Several times, Gacy tried to pressure Tony into sex, which the boy resisted. Each time, Gacy said that he was either joking or, quote, “testing the boy’s morals.” In late July 1975, Gacy showed up at Tony’s house while his parents were out. He showed Tony several porn films, after which Gacy grabbed him and placed some handcuffs on him. Gacy left the boy on the floor and went into the kitchen to find a weapon. While Gacy was out of the room, Tony managed to wriggle loose of the cuffs. When Gacy returned, Tony tackled him to the ground. Tony then turned the tables and handcuffed Gacy. It was at that point that Gacy asked for mercy and promised to leave. Tony uncuffed him and the older man left. It is now clear that if Tony had not managed to wriggle loose of his restraints that Gacy would have raped and murdered him.
John Butkovich [butt-ko-vitch] wasn’t as lucky. Butkovich was 17 years old, a high school drop-out, and worked for PDM Contractors. He proved a hard-worker and a kind young man, occasionally coming over to the Gacy household for dinner, where he played gleefully with Carol’s two daughters. On July 30th 1975, just a week after Gacy’s attack on Tony Antonucci, Butkovich came over to Gacy’s house with a couple of friends to threaten the older man. Butkovich had done some work for Gacy, who was disputing how much money he owed the boy. Carol and her daughters were in Arkansas visiting relatives, so Gacy was alone that night. Gacy immediately offered the young men some drinks and struck a compromise with Butkovich about the money, and Gacy promised to pay the boy soon. The group drank more and smoked some pot together. After getting thoroughly wasted, the boys left.
The next night, July 31st, Gacy was drunk again and cruising around Chicago in his car. He spotted Butkovich on the street. The boy was also drunk, having been at a party. Gacy waved for Butkovich to get in the car. The two argued again about Butkovich’s paycheck. Gacy suggested they go back to 8213 Summerdale, have a drink, and discuss things. The two got back to Gacy’s house. Carol was still out of town. According to Gacy, Butkovich was pushed over the edge by having just one more beer, and became absolutely sh*tfaced. At that point, Gacy convinced Butkovich to try on a pair of handcuffs, claiming he wanted to, quote, “show him something cool.” Gacy then pushed the boy onto the floor. Gacy claims he laid beside the boy for a while as Butkovich struggled against the restraints.
Then, around 3am, Gacy straddled the boy’s chest and used a rope to strangle Butkovich to death. Gacy has denied raping Butkovich, but take that claim for what it is worth. Leaving the boy’s body where it lay in the living room, a drunken Gacy got up and went to bed. The next morning, Gacy rolled up Butkovich’s body in a plastic tarp, and stored the body in the garage. He initially had intended to bury Butkovich’s body in the crawl space, but Carol and her daughters arrived home before he had the chance to move the body from the garage. Now Gacy was in a quandary. He could not move Butkovich’s body out of the garage without being spotted by his wife. Instead Gacy buried Butkovich under the concrete floor of his garage. Carol and the kids weren’t permitted to go in there while Gacy was working. The entire job took 2 days of work. Gacy excavated a hole where he originally was going to place a drain tile, placed Butkovich in the hole, and poured fresh concrete over top of the body, sealing him inside.
When Butkovich’s car was found by his father, Marco, and it contained his keys, jacket, and wallet. When Marco reported Butkovich’s disappearance to the police, he was told that the boy had likely run away. And, legally, the police told him, a 17 year old was free to leave home if they wanted to. When Marco phoned Gacy, trying to track down his son, Gacy denied all knowledge of Butkovich’s disappearance, and offered to help in any way he could.
Shortly after murdering Butkovich, Gacy was appointed secretary-treasurer of the Norwood Park street lighting committee. It was a thankless pen-pushing job, and mostly just involved balancing the books and dealing with complaints about streetlights. But it was Gacy’s first foray back into politics. Gacy also volunteered PDM Contractors to clean the local headquarters of the Democratic Party for free. Later that year, Gacy was named director of Chicago’s annual Polish Constitution Day parade, and as a result became well known and respected amid Chicago’s Polish population. Gacy the politician was back in action. It is clear Gacy wanted to pick up where he left off before his arrest for sodomy in Waterloo.
At the end of 1975, Gacy joined the Moose Lodge, a local fraternal club which people used for socialising and networking. It is there Gacy volunteered to entertain the children of the other Moose Club members by acting as “Pogo the Clown.” Gacy made the clown costume himself. He kept fairly busy as Pogo the Clown, doing the Easter, Christmas, and Halloween parties of the club, picnics for the Democratic Party, along with visiting sick kids in hospital, and taking part as Pogo in about a dozen parades a summer. Gacy provided all of these services free of charge. Gacy later said, “Pogo was a way of running away from myself. I enjoyed making people happy. I loved the laughing faces, especially the children. It was like regressing into childhood, becoming someone else, a whole different person.” And as a clown he was permitted to do and say things that he wouldn’t have as John Wayne Gacy. Gacy recalled walking into the crowd at a parade and groping a woman’s breasts, making a “honk-honk” noise as he did so. The crowd, including the assaulted woman, just laughed and did not bat an eye.
There is one story that Gacy told about being Pogo the Clown that stands out to me. Pogo was working a
birthday party and was handing out candy to the kids. One child, with already bulging pockets, came up to the clown and lied that he hadn’t been given any candy. Pogo leaned down and pinched the kid’s cheek, which is usually an affectionate gesture, albeit one that is less commonly seen nowadays. But Pogo deliberately applied so much pressure to the child’s cheek that it was actually painful. Pogo then hissed at the child, “Get your ass away from me, you little motherf*cker,” and went immediately back to clowning for the rest of the kids, while the lone little boy cried in the corner. The boy did not explain to his parents why he was crying.
1976: Horrific Escalation
Carol and Gacy’s marriage was on the rocks. Carol begged her husband to quit PDM contractors and get a job where he only had to work 40 hours a week. Gacy replied that he needed to keep managing PDM because he needed to pay for Carol’s frivolous spending on her children. Of course, Gacy didn’t actually work the long hours that he claimed, but was spending the majority of his time engaging in various perverted activities with his employees and Chicago prostitutes. Things did not improve. In October 1975, Carol asked Gacy for a divorce. Gacy leapt at the opportunity, realising it would be easier for him to carry on his activities without her. In the divorce papers, Carol cited the reason for the separation as Gacy’s infidelity with other women. Generally speaking, however, the split was fairly amicable. Carol and her daughters continued to live with Gacy until February 1976, and continued to socialise with Gacy thereafter, sometimes coming to his house for parties.
After Carol moved out, Gacy began drinking heavily, and at the same time developed an addiction to pills, taking various uppers and downers, to get him going in the morning and putting him to sleep at night. He also began cruising downtown Chicago twice a week for gay sex. Gacy said that he did not find consensual sexual encounters satisfying. Occasionally, he’d recruit the young gay men to work at PDM.
Gacy later claimed to have no memory of any of the boys he murdered in 1976. The first was Darrell Sampson, aged 18, on April 6th. Gacy buried Sampson in the crawl space of the house underneath where the dining room was. On the afternoon May 14th, Gacy abducted and murdered 15 year old Randall Reffett as he was returning home from a dentist’s appointment. That same day, at 11:00pm, Gacy abducted 14 year old Sam Stapleton, just one block away from his house, took him back to 8213 Summerdale and murdered him as well. Gacy buried both boys, who were known to be friends, in a common grave in his crawl space.
On May 22nd, Gacy met 16 year old Michael Rossi, and invited him to work for PDM contractors. Gacy later claimed to have developed a sexual relationship with Rossi after tricking the boy into handcuffs and attempting to rape him, when the events turned quote-unquote “consensual.” Rossi has denied under oath ever having sex with Gacy, being handcuffed by him, or knowing anything about the murders. Rossi went on to work for Gacy for a total of two years. We’ll be returning to Rossi shortly.
On June 3rd Gacy abducted and murdered 17 year old Michael Bonnin [boe-nin] who was travelling from Chicago to nearby Waukegan [wock-kee-gan]. Bonnin was later found buried in the crawl space underneath a spare bedroom, with a rope still tied around his neck. Strangulation had fast become Gacy’s preferred M.O.
Only a week later, on June 10th, Gacy murdered 16 year old William Carroll, after picking him up from the streets of Chicago’s “Uptown.” Then between June 13th and August 4th Gacy murdered three more victims who have never been identified. All of these victims were later discovered in Gacy’s crawl space.
On August 5th, Gacy abducted and murdered 16 year old James Haakenson [hah-ken-son] via suffocation or strangulation. His family last heard from him that evening, when he phoned them, possibly when he was already at Gacy’s home. The next day, August 7th, 18 year old Rick Johnston was abducted by Gacy as he was coming home from a concert in Chicago’s uptown. He was buried on top of Haakenson’s body in the crawl space. Gacy murdered two further unidentified victims in August and September.
On August 21st 1976, PDM employee David Cram moved into a spare bedroom in Gacy’s house. On August 22nd, Cram’s 19th birthday, Gacy had tried to rape Cram while Gacy was dressed as Pogo the Clown, but the younger man had fended the clown off and barricaded himself in his room. Cram was exceedingly lucky. At this point, Gacy had murdered over a dozen young men just like David Cram, and buried them under his house. One or two of those victims were murdered and placed in Gacy’s crawl space while David Cram was still living there.
Surprisingly, David Cram did not move out following the attempted rape. This was due to the fact that the rent was low, giving Cram a large disposable income to spend on partying, and the youth thought he could quote-unquote “handle” the older man’s lecherous advances. Over the course of the next month, Gacy would occasionally enter Cram’s bedroom while the teenager was asleep. Gacy would not be wearing trousers and would have his erection in his hand, slowly stroking himself. Cram had taken to wearing jeans, fastened with a belt, instead of pajama pants, in order to give himself time to wake up and fend Gacy off before he had a chance to rape him.
But David Cram was playing a dangerous game. One night, in late September, Cram awoke to hear the high-pitched singsong voice of Pogo the Clown, calling to him from the master bedroom: “Dayyy-vid, you know what I wah-ooo-ahhhhnt…” A few minutes passed. Gacy then appeared at the threshold of Cram’s bedroom, masturbating, and said, quote, “Dayyy-vid… Dayyy-vid… Oh, David. You don’t really know who I am. What I’m capable of. Ooo, baby boy. Maybe it would be a good idea if you gave me what I want.”
Gacy then leapt onto the bed and grabbed David Cram by the throat. Gacy was apparently growling like an animal. Cram kicked Gacy off of him. Gacy immediately lunged back at Cram, grabbing a hold of David’s jeans, which ripped as Cram pulled away. The two struggled, and Cram managed to get on top of Gacy, and Cram was about to beat the living sh*t out of the older man. Then Gacy either fainted or pretended to faint. After Cram got off of him, Gacy quickly quote-unquote “regained consciousness.” Gacy got up, walked to the door of the bedroom, then turned to Cram and smirked at him. Gacy said, still using Pogo’s voice, “Awwwww, shucks, you ain’t no fun…”
David Cram moved out the next day. It is unknown how many of Gacy’s victims in 1976 that the older man raped and murdered while using the clown persona.
Michael Rossi moved into Gacy’s house not long after David Cram moved out. Rossi also occasionally took part in Gacy’s clowning performances as Pogo’s sidekick, named “Patches.”
In the early hours October 25th, Gacy picked up 16 year old Kenneth Parker and 14 year old Michael Marino at the gay cruising corner on Clark and Broadway, and brought them both back to his house and murdered both of them at once. A day later, on October 26th, William Bundy, aged 19, who worked for PDM Contractors, was invited by Gacy to 8213 West Summerdale Avenue, where he was murdered and buried beneath Gacy’s bedroom. Then, sometime between November and December 1976, Gacy abducted and murdered 21 year old Francis Alexander, whose body was later found buried beneath Gacy’s home office.
On December 12th 1976, Gregory Godzik, 17 years old and a recently hired employee of PDM Contractors, dropped off his girlfriend off at her house after a date. Godzik had recently been digging some trenches in Gacy’s crawl space, which the older man had explained were for drainage tiles. In reality, by this point Gacy had murdered approximately 17 young men, and he was tired of doing the grunt work himself when the time came to bury his next victims under his house.
Godzik had strict instructions about where and where not to dig. Gacy lied that this was so Godzik did not damage any sewer lines, but, in truth, it was so Godzik would not disturb any of the graves. The lie about the sewer lines also conveniently explained why there was a foul stench emitting from the crawl space of the house.
Once Godzik had completed the work, he was invited to Gacy’s on the evening of December 12th where he was murdered. Gacy later recalled waking up the next morning and finding Godzik on the living room floor, with his hands cuffed behind his back, and a rope wrapped around his neck. Gacy buried Godzik in the trenches that the boy had just dug. When Godzik’s family later contacted Gacy asking if he knew anything about the lad’s disappearance, Gacy lied that Godzik had told him he was planning on running away. This was also enough for the Chicago police to not investigate. Gacy also claimed that Godzik had phoned him while he was already on the road, leaving a message on Gacy’s answering machine. When his family asked to hear the message, Gacy lied that he had deleted it.
When later asked why the police did not investigate the disappearance of Gregory Godzik, Officer Harold Thomas of the Chicago police explained, quote, “You must realise that you don’t treat every missing person case as a possible homicide.”
The Slaughter of ‘77
At the beginning of 1977, John Wayne Gacy was appointed “precinct captain” of the Democratic Party at Norwood Park. His star continued to rise in local politics.
On January 20th, a little over a month after he had killed Gregory Godzik, Gacy was cruising the streets of Chicago where he came across 19 year old John Szyc [shitz, unfortunately, but often pronounced by American commentators as zick]. The teenager claimed he wanted to sell his car in order to have the money to leave town. Gacy offered to take Zick back to 8213 Summerdale to discuss the sale. Gacy said he could not remember if his young tenant, Michael Rossi, was there at the time or not. Gacy and Zick drank heavily while they chatted. Gacy then claims he blacked out, waking at 7.30am the next morning, discovering Zick’s body on the floor of one of the spare rooms, handcuffed with a rope tied around his neck. Michael Rossi was, according to Gacy, sleeping on the couch in the living room. Gacy dragged the victim’s body toward the trap door of the crawl space and dumped it down. He did not have the time to bury Zick at that time. Possibly because Rossi didn’t know about the murders, possibly not.
Over breakfast, Gacy told Rossi about the boy’s car. They drove to Clark Street to get it: a 1971 white Plymouth Satellite. Gacy forged the registration with a sloppy approximation of Zick’s signature, and sold Rossi the car for $300 (though Gacy himself had never paid for it). Rossi made weekly payments that Gacy simply deducted from the young man’s paycheck. Rossi later told police that he had never met John Zick, and had believed the lie Gacy had told him about buying it. Police and the state attorney’s office decided that Rossi’s version of events seemed the most plausible. One, if Gacy had killed Zick in front of Rossi, then the teenager could have blackmailed Gacy to get the car for free. Two, if Rossi had killed Zick himself, then why would Gacy feel that he owned the car? Police did not consider a third explanation at the time, that Rossi had fallen under Gacy’s spell, had become his lover, remained loyal, was implicated in other murders, and so it never occurred to Rossi to blackmail Gacy.
Nevertheless, Rossi was never formally charged by police, who did not see much chance of getting him convicted, and Gacy himself was always vague about Rossi. The only difference of opinion Gacy and Rossi seemed to have, is that Gacy claimed Rossi was his on-tap source of sex while he lived at 8213 Summerdale, while Rossi denies ever sleeping with Gacy. Given Gacy’s proclivities, and his conduct toward David Cram, it seems unlikely that the young Michael Rossi could have lived with Gacy all that time without ever being accosted and sexually assaulted by Gacy. He’s quite frankly lucky he wasn’t killed. But the extent to which Rossi participated in Gacy’s murders, if at all, will never be known.
In the same month of January, John Wayne Gacy began dating a woman regularly. Her name has been withheld.
On March 15th 1977, Jon Prestidge [press-tidge] was last seen leaving a restaurant in downtown Chicago. He had recently claimed to have landed some construction work but didn’t name the company. His body was dumped in the crawl space, on top of Francis Alexander’s rotting corpse, who had been killed at least four months earlier. Around the same time, Gacy murdered yet another unidentified victim and buried him in the crawl space.
In April 1977, Michael Rossi found an apartment and moved out so that Gacy’s new flame, the unnamed woman, could move in at 8213 Summerdale. Rossi continued working for Gacy. For the next few months, Gacy’s murders ceased. He got engaged to his new female companion. There was friction almost immediately in their relationship. When they attempted to have sex, Gacy would fail to sustain an erection, something which he blamed on the fact his fiancée had a colostomy bag, which put him off, whenever she disrobed. Furthermore, Gacy disliked how his new fiancée was into feminism. She didn’t like to cook, and she refused to clean the house, insisting Gacy hire a housekeeper. Gacy was further annoyed that his fiancée, unemployed, talked a big game about sharing expenses and women in the workplace, but didn’t help out with PDM Contractors, and hypocritically seemed to have no problem spending Gacy’s money. Gacy broke off the engagement in June, went on a business trip for a week, and told his ex-fiancée, quote, “By the time I get back, I want you gone.”
On July 5th, a few days after the woman’s departure, Gacy struck again. He abducted 19 year old Matthew Bowman as the young man was making his way from south Chicago to a courthouse to dispute a parking ticket. His body was later found in Gacy’s crawl space.
A month later, in August 1977, Gacy instructed Michael Rossi to dig more trenches in his crawl space. Gacy was very specific about where he wanted Rossi to dig, and marked the area out with sticks. He’d also get Rossi to supervise other workers digging in the crawl space. But Gacy would frequently stick his head through the trapdoor to monitor their efforts, becoming furious if the boys started to deviate from the route he had laid out. This account from Rossi is possibly one of the most significant exculpatory testimonies that might imply – though not prove – that the teenager had no knowledge of the murders.
That same month, Rossi was caught stealing gasoline for his car, the 1971 Plymouth Satellite. The license plate of the car still had it registered to Gacy’s house. When questioned, Gacy told police that he had bought the car from a young man, John Zick, before selling it on to his employee, Rossi. Police confirmed Gacy’s story, and informed Zick’s mother that her son, a presumed runaway, had sold his car in order to have the money to head out to, as Gacy told it, the state of California to become an actor.
A few weeks later, on September 15th, 18 year old Robert Gilroy was hitchhiking just four blocks from 8213 Summerdale to the Blue Ribbon Stables. His body was dumped in the newly dug trenches. The date of his abduction is puzzling, because Gacy was known to be in Pennsylvania on business at the time, which is why some analysts theorise that Gacy did indeed have accomplices who were carrying out murders of their own. Rossi, of course, is foremost among the suspects.
Ten days later, on September 25th, Gacy picked up 19 year old John Mowery as the young man walked to his apartment after visiting his mother. Gacy claims to have had no memory whatsoever of this murder, yet his body was later found in Gacy’s crawl space. A month later, on October 17th, Russell Nelson, aged 21 who was in Chicago from Minnesota visiting friends, was last seen outside of a bar, not too far from the city’s gay district. Gacy murdered him and buried him in the crawl space. Nelson had a fiancée back in Minnesota and they had already picked out the names of their potential children.
On November 11th, Robert Winch, a 16 year old runaway from Kalamazoo, Michigan, was abducted and murdered by Gacy, and thrown into his crawl space. The following week, on November 18th, Tommy Boling, aged 20, had been hanging out at a Chicago bar on the North Side, watching the movie, Bonnie and Clyde, on a television there. Tommy exited the bar, going home to his wife and one year old son. When his body was later exhumed from Gacy’s crawl space, his wife identified him by his wedding ring.
On December 9th, David Talsma [tahlz-mah], a 19 year old, still living with his mother, having just finished his basic training in the US Marine Corps, waiting to be deployed, departed his home at 7pm in order to go to a rock concert in Indiana. He hitchhiked his way there and somehow wound up in John Gacy’s Chicago crawl space instead.
This rounded out the year of 1977 with Gacy’s total body count being 28 or 29 victims.
The Torture of Robert Donnelly
But the year was not yet over. On the night of December 30th, according to John Wayne Gacy, he pulled up to a Chicago bus stop on Montrose Avenue, a little after midnight. There he found 19 year old Robert Donnelly, and offered the teenager a lift. As they were driving, Gacy proposed to Donnelly that they make a BDSM sex arrangement. Donnelly named a price for his services. Gacy claimed to police that this was all worked out “consensually.” That night, Gacy said they bound each other and roleplayed through several Dominance and Submission sex acts using dildos. Then Gacy claimed, after about 7 hours, Donnelly took a shower and Gacy drove him to work. Gacy later told police he didn’t wind up paying Donnelly for his services, probably in order to avoid the charge of soliciting prostitution.
Donnelly, however, staggering into a local police station on December 31st, told a slightly different story. He said that Gacy had impersonated a police officer and held him at gunpoint, telling him to get in the backseat, where he was immediately handcuffed. There was no talk of payment. Donnelly was not a prostitute. He was not gay. Driving back to 8213 Summerdale, Gacy forced the teenager inside. There he threw a glass of Everclear in the young man’s face and forced another one down his throat. Donnelly claimed he was then raped several times, during which Gacy wrapped a rope around Donnelly’s neck and choked him. Gacy then aimed a gun at him and played a game of Russian Roulette. Gacy pulled the trigger multiple times. One click, followed by another click. Then BANG the gun went off. Donnelly was still alive. The round in the gun had obviously been a blank. Gacy laughed at Donnelly mockingly. Then Gacy choked Donnelly with his hands, forcing the teenager to pass out.
When Donnelly awoke, he was in Gacy’s bathroom, cuffed and gagged. His head was then dunked repeatedly and held underwater, while Gacy mocked him in a high-pitched sing-song voice saying things like, “Aren’t we playing fun games tonight?” On the fourth time Donnelly’s head was submerged, he passed out. At one point, Donnelly was in so much distress and pain that he begged Gacy to kill him. Gacy merely giggled and replied, “I’m getting round to it.” The next morning, Gacy drove Donnelly to his place of work and dumped him there, telling him that if he went to the police that nobody would ever believe him. As Gacy drove away, Donnelly took note of his license plate number.
Gacy was pulled in for questioning by Detective Ted Janus on January 6th 1978. When Janus called state attorney Jerry Latherow, asking to charge Gacy with kidnapping and sexual assault, Latherow refused. He stated in both versions of the story, Gacy had quote-unquote “offered” Donnelly a drink. He had driven Donnelly to work the next morning. Gacy was a respected member of the Illinois Democratic Party. Donnelly by contrast was in and out of therapy after the death of his father. He also appeared mentally unstable, according to Latherow, and spoke with a stutter. Latherow added, “Even though Gacy had a sexoffense conviction from Iowa from several years ago, he was much more credible than Donnelly.” And with that utter miscarriage of justice, Gacy was free to continue his crimes in 1978.
Given that Gacy later claimed “amnesia” about a lot of the murders, and given that Donnelly was the only survivor so far who did not manage to physically overpower Gacy and escape, Donnelly’s account gives us the clearest idea of what sort of sexual sadism Gacy would inflict on his victims once he had restrained them. It gives us the best idea of what Gacy’s two dozen or more victims whom he killed in 1976 and 1977 must have suffered before Gacy murdered them. This was not just a matter of rape and strangulation. Gacy toyed with these young men, abusing them both physically and psychologically. What is also notable is that, even when not dressed as Pogo the Clown, his persona appears to have been on display and in control during the multiple acts of rape, torture, and murder. Hence why the title “Killer Clown” was not just a clever headline to sell newspapers. It was all too horribly accurate.
As for why Gacy let Robert Donnelly go, in light of Gacy’s total dishonesty when recalling his crimes, we will never know for certain. But it is possible that Gacy had good reason to believe he could not be touched. By this time, PDM Contractors was making over $200,000 a year, or $925,000 in today’s money, making Gacy a respected local businessman. He was also fast becoming a grandee in the local Democratic Party. It is possible, just as in Iowa, Gacy had made friends in high places.
William Kindred was 19 years old, a tough bugger with the nickname “Shotgun” who lived on the rough side of Chicago. He was the sort of man you’d didn’t want to mess with, even if you, too, were at the pinnacle of health and strength. On the night of February 16th, he left the apartment of his fiancée, Mary Jo Paulus, and went back to his own place. There, he told his roommate he was going to go out to a bar to get a little hammered. That is where Gacy found William “Shotgun” Kindred, abducted him at gunpoint, took him back to 8213 Summerdale, tortured him, and murdered him. His corpse was later identified by Mary Jo by the religious medallion she had given him as a symbol of their engagement.
William Kindred was the last victim interred in John Wayne Gacy’s crawl space. At that point, the trenches had become filled to the brim with bodies. Gacy also added, under interrogation, that he was worried about the effect all that digging would have on his quote-unquote, “heart condition.”
On March 21st 1978, Jeff Rignall, aged 26, left his girlfriend’s apartment to head to a bar. Rignall and his girlfriend had been arguing over the fact that, despite being in a relationship together, Rignall seemed to prefer sleeping with men. As Rignall walked to the bar, an Oldsmobile pulled in front of him, blocking his path. Gacy stuck his head flabby head out the window and complimented the young man on his tan.
“I just got back from Florida,” Rignall explained.
Gacy asked Rignall where he was off to, and the latter named a local gay bar. Gacy offered him a ride. Along the way, Gacy offered Rignall a hit from a joint. They continued driving while Gacy ran his mouth as usual. Rignall made appropriate noises and just stared at the road. When Gacy offered Rignall a second hit off the joint, Rignall turned his head to accept it, and to his surprise he was hit in the face with a rag soaked in chloroform instead.
When Rignall regained consciousness, he was strapped to the car seat and could not move. Gacy hit him again with the chloroform, and, again, Rignall’s world passed into darkness. When Rignall awoke a second time, he was still in the car, he noticed the exit sign “Cumberland”, and realised his kidnapper had been driving on the Kennedy Expressway, and was just turning off. Rignall was chloroformed yet again, and passed out.
When Rignall awoke the third time, he was lying on a couch in somebody’s home. There was a foul smell emanating from the place. It smelled like rotting flesh and seemed to be coming out of the floorboards. He noticed a large bar in the room, stocked with a legion of booze bottles. He took note of a painting of a clown above the bar, and the picture was bordered by twinkling Christmas lights, despite it being late March. It was almost like the clown picture was a shrine of some sort. Then Rignall spotted Gacy, who was at the bar, fixing a drink.
“Why did you do that to me?” Rignall asked groggily.
Gacy did not answer directly. Instead, he said, “There is a gun under the bar, and I’d sooner kill you as look at you.”
Rignall froze in fear. Gacy sipped his drink and walked over to where the young man lay on the couch. Gacy casually looked down at him and lit up another joint. Gacy even offered his victim a hit, which the younger man, confused and frightened, robotically accepted. The second time Gacy offered Rignall a hit from the joint, just as in the car, he suddenly jumped on Rignall and chloroformed him.
Rignall awoke sometime later with Gacy slapping him in the face to rouse him. Rignall had been stripped completely naked and his arms and head were trapped within the holes of some kind of pillory device. The pillory was attached to the ceiling with long dangling chains, so that Rignall was forced to stay upright, no matter what befell him. Rignall’s legs were spread apart and similarly locked together with a slightly smaller plank of wood. Rignall just hung there as Gacy stood in front of him. The older man was also naked, his bloated folds and stretch marks making him look like an obscene object, as he stood there, rhythmically stroking his d*ck. Rignall took note of the fact that Gacy’s stomach nearly obscured his genitals, and that the man’s bloated pubis and thighs had reduced the length of his penis to almost pitiable proportions.
Then Rignall saw the collection of several long leather whips, metal rods and pokers, and a number of large plastic dildos. Gacy then forced Rignall to fellate him, ordering him to mumble and gurgle the entire time, quote, “I love it, I love it.”
Rignall was chloroformed yet again. When he awoke, Gacy penetrated the victim with one of the metal rods. Again, Gacy demanded that Rignall say “I love it.” Another larger metal instrument was then inserted into him. And then Rignall was chloroformed again.
When he awoke, Rignall felt Gacy’s head on his shoulder, as the older man raped him. There was also a second man, an accomplice, on his knees in front of Rignall, fellating him. When the second man realised that Rignall was conscious, he was chloroformed again. So, at this point we know that Gacy did not work alone. Whether the accomplice was Michael Rossi, or another one of Gacy’s PDM boys, or a friend from the Moose Club, or a fellow grandee in the Democratic Party, is not known. All that Rignall got a glimpse of was some brown hair, parted down the middle. We do know that Michael Rossi had brown hair which he indeed parted down the middle. But given Gacy’s previous ability in Iowa to form a large ring of coconspirators and criminal associates, it really could have been anyone.
Whatever further violations and degradations befell Rignall that night, he was not conscious for them.
When Rignall next awoke, he was lying in the snow in Lincoln Park, at the base of the statue of Alexander Hamilton. He was clothed again, but his pants were not zipped up. He was in pain all over his body. He was bruised, burned, and bleeding. His face was badly scarred. Rignall managed to stagger back to his girlfriend’s where she embraced him and comforted him, before calling the police. Rignall spent a week in hospital, being treated for facial burns, rectal bleeding, and chronic pain. The chloroform Rignall had been dosed with multiple times severely and permanently damaged his liver.
Over the next 3 months, Gacy tortured and murdered an unknown number of victims. And given he no longer interred the bodies under his house, and the fact he is a lying sack of sh*t, we will never know.
I am, at this point, so angry that I have to stop writing. To know that so many victims probably experienced a similar fate to Rignall before they died fills me with rage.
The police told Rignall that his description of the Oldmobile, a common car, and partial identification of a custom license plate was not sufficient to catch his torturer. Rignall, however, was not easily dissuaded. Gathering together two friends, Rignall spent the next month staking out the Kennedy Expressway, near the exit sign labelled “Cumberland” which he remembered in between being chloroformed in the car. Rignall felt certain that this was the route to his torturer’s home. All that he needed was to wait for an Oldsmobile to drive by along the same route, and follow it.
In April, there was a ground-breaking ceremony for a retirement centre for which Gacy had built the refreshment stand and donated trucks for the construction. Gacy also worked as “Pogo the Clown”, alongside Michael Rossi’s “Patches”, at various events to raise money for the centre. At the ceremony, Gacy volunteered to watch the gate and do crowd control. Michael Bilandic [bill-land-ditch], Chicago’s mayor, attended the event, and he was photographed shaking hands with Gacy.
Meanwhile, in mid-April, Rignall was staking out the Kennedy Expressway with a couple of friends when they spotted an Oldsmobile with a custom license plate. They followed the car to 8213 West Summerdale Avenue. Rignall took note of the license plate number, “PDM 42”, and went to the police. There police told Rignall that John Wayne Gacy, the owner of the car, had been questioned for the kidnapping and torture of Robert Donnelly only a few months ago and that he had done jailtime for a sex-offense. At this point in the interview, the police asked Rignall if he was gay. Rignall said yes. And then, to quote Rignall, “From that point I got no cooperation at all.”
Two weeks went by, with Rignall phoning the police twice daily, asking if he could see a mug shot of John Wayne Gacy, in order to identify him. Finally police relented, and Rignall was given several books of unlabeled mugshots from which he correctly identified John Wayne Gacy. This wasn’t enough for the assistant state attorney, who didn’t believe the victim’s story, and refused to press charges. To quote Rignall, “When I started getting into the physical aspect of what the man had done to me, they began to make me believe I was the crazy one, and that he was a model citizen.”
On May 6th 1978, Gacy was organising a parade for the visit of First Lady Rosalynn Carter to Chicago. For some reason, Secret Service background checks failed to discover that Gacy had a criminal record in Iowa, and had a checkered past with numerous accusations in Chicago. That evening, at a private reception, John Wayne Gacy was photographed shaking hands with the First Lady. Mrs. Carter later signed the photograph “To John Gacy, Best Wishes, Rosalynn Carter.”
On May 7th, the day after Mrs. Carter’s visit, exasperated from not getting help from the State Attorney’s Office, Jeff Rignall’s lawyer issued a civil assault warrant calling for Gacy’s arrest. A civil assault warrant is essentially the lawyer informing the accused person that a warrant has been issued, and giving the victim authority, with police assistance, to escort the accused to a courtroom, where a civil trial (rather than a criminal trial) would take place. What would basically follow is the accused being sued by the victim, rather than facing a conviction and jailtime. Sort of like how OJ Simpson won the criminal trial for the murder of Nicole Brown and Ron Goldman, but lost the civil trial. However, the Chicago police refused to participate in the arrest of Gacy. One officer even had the sheer audacity to say to Rignall that 8213 Summerdale was, quote, “too long of a drive.”
On June 20th, John Wayne Gacy abducted, tortured and murdered 20 year old Timothy O’Rourke, who had left his apartment to go for some cigarettes. Timothy had recently been hired by PDM Contractors. Given that Gacy’s crawl space was now full with bodies, he threw O’Rourke’s body off the I-55 bridge into the Des Plaines River. His body was found two weeks later, and was not identified at the time.
On July 15th, Rignall drove out to 8213 Summerdale himself. There he met Gacy’s mother, Marion, who was visiting for the summer. Marion Gacy said that her son had just popped out and would be back soon. She asked Rignall if he would be attending the party they would be having that evening.
Rignall said, “Are you kidding me? I don’t know if your son told you, but there’s a warrant out for his arrest. Do you know that your son was convicted of a sex crime in Iowa?” Marion Gacy slammed the door in his face.
Gacy returned. Rignall, talking to police on a nearby pay phone, finally managed to get some officers to show up and serve the warrant. But they couldn’t find Gacy. While he was waiting, Rignall claims that he was approached by Michael Rossi, who allegedly asked Rignall not to tell Gacy’s mother about the details of the rape. At long last, Gacy was found and served with the warrant. The court date was set for September 13th.
Gacy meanwhile filed a countercomplaint in which he said that Rignall had assaulted him.
Again, Rignall and his lawyer demanded that the State Attorney look at the charges again to which, according to Rignall, the man replied, “What the hell? This is only a butt-f*ck. People get shot in this city and they’re not charged with a felony.”
On September 13th 1978, Gacy did not turn up to the civil trial. Rignall’s lawyer got Gacy’s countercharge dropped and the civil arrest warrant reissued. Michael Rossi, who had shown up to the trial, testified that Gacy was in New York on the night of Rignall’s assault.
A few days later, Gacy’s lawyer got in touch with Rignall’s lawyer. Ultimately Gacy settled out of court, agreeing to pay compensation. Rignall’s revenge amounted to getting paid $3000, which was the best Rignall’s lawyer thought they could do. Meanwhile, Rignall, who was badly wounded and scarred from the incident, and who had since lost 40 pounds or 18 kg in the months following the trauma, had medical bills that exceeded $25,000.
A Bridge Too Far
On November 3rd 1978, Frank Landingin, aged 19, a known drug dealer and pimp, was released from prison on bail for the charge of assaulting his girlfriend. At 2am, November 4th, Frank met his father at a bar on the North Side. After getting drunk, Frank said he was going to go look for his girlfriend. He was last seen at 3am staggering along Foster Avenue, near the gay cruising corner of Clark and Broadway. He was abducted, tortured, and murdered by John Wayne Gacy. His body was discovered 8 days later, naked, but gagged with his own underwear, floating in the Des Plaines River. The cause of death was that something had caused the victim to be sick, whereupon he drowned in his own vomit.
On November 24th, Gacy murdered PDM employee James Mazzara, who disappeared after having Thanksgiving Dinner with his family. His body was similarly found in the Des Plaines River, only a mile downstream from the I-55 bridge, where Gacy later claimed he dumped 4 or 5 bodies.
On December 11th 1978, Gacy entered the Nisson Pharmacy in Des Plaines. There he encountered 15 year old Robert Piest [pigh-st], who was working there part time. Robert was an honour role student, a Boy Scout, an avid photographer, and a member of his school’s gymnastic team. He was straight. Rob was working the shift from 6pm to 9pm, whereupon his mother, Elizabeth, would pick him up and bring him home to celebrate her 46th birthday with cake and ice cream.
Gacy had been summoned to the pharmacy by the store’s owner, who wanted Gacy’s assessment for some possible renovations. Gacy examined the place and his work estimate was rejected by the owner. Gacy left, only to return again at 8pm because he had accidently left his appointment book at the store. During Gacy’s second visit, he offered Robert Piest a job at PDM Contractors, claiming to pay between 5 and 7 dollars an hour for new hires, considerably higher than the $2.85 Piest made at the pharmacy. When Elizabeth Piest came to pick up her son at 9pm, Robert asked her to wait a little, as he wanted to talk to some contractor about a job he’d offered him. Elizabeth said that was fine and she’d browse the aisles while she waited.
Robert went outside and talked to Gacy, who was sat in his car. Gacy claimed he didn’t have time to talk to Piest right now, but they could chat if he jumped in the car, while he quickly picked something up from his house. Gacy then promised to return Robert to the pharmacy or to his home.
Back at 8213 Summerdale, Gacy claims that Piest drank 7-Up and refused to touch any booze. Gacy suggested if Piest wanted to make money that badly, he should become a rent boy. Piest didn’t even respond to this suggestion and insisted on a construction job. Gacy then asked if he would do anything for money, and Piest replied he was a hard worker. The lad was totally unreceptive to sex talk, refusing to even be taken aback by the innuendo. Perhaps the 15 year old was just too innocent to notice.
At that point Gacy claimed that he offered to show Robert Piest a handcuff trick, a deception that had long since become part of Gacy’s MO. Robert was unfortunately fooled. No sooner had the boy been cuffed that Gacy said, “I’m going to rape you and there’s nothing you can do about it.” At this point, Robert burst into tears. Gacy took the boy into one of the bedrooms. Gacy claims he then affixed a rope around the victim’s neck, stuffed a wad of cloth down his throat, and took a phone call with his business associate, Richard Rapheal, while Piest suffocated to death on the floor. Rapheal later testified that Gacy spoke calmly, with a normal tone of voice, and did not seem the slightest bit troubled or distracted.
Gacy promptly picked up Piest’s body and stored it in the attic.
Back at the pharmacy, around 9:20pm, Elizabeth Piest was sat at the candy counter waiting for her son. None of the staff had seen him, and so Elizabeth went home, worried, to wait for him to call. At 9:45pm, Elizabeth communicated her misgivings to her husband. She called the pharmacy. Rob hadn’t returned. Elizabeth asked who the contractor who had offered him a job was.
“John Gacy,” the pharmacy owner replied.
The Piest family filed a missing person’s report with the police, who told them to go home and wait. They couldn’t do this. On the night of the 11th and 12th, the Piest family – older sister Kerry, older brother Ken, and father Harold, drove around Des Plaines, looking for any sign of Robert. Elizabeth stayed by the home phone. They even used the family German shepherds scraps of Rob’s clothing and set them lose at various points around the suburb, seeing if the dogs could sniff him down.
The next morning, the Piests went back to the police station, where the police determined from interviewing Elizabeth that Robert probably wasn’t a runaway. Detective James Pickell looked at Gacy’s record and found he had been convicted of sodomy in Iowa, and he had an outstanding civil warrant for sexual assault. He had also been arrested and questioned in connection with several other sex crimes.
At 9pm, December 12th, Lieutenant Joe Kozenczak [Am. Pron. koh-zen-zack] paid a visit to 8213 Summerdale. Michael Rossi was there, and was told to wait outside. Under questioning, Gacy denied that he had offered Robert Piest a job. Kozenczak asked Gacy if he could come down to the police station to fill out a witness form. Gacy phoned his mother to say he couldn’t help with arranging a funeral of an uncle of his who had just died. Kozenczak asked when Gacy could come down.
“I don’t know. Maybe in an hour,” Gacy replied, “You guys are very rude. Don’t you have any respect for the dead?” At this time Robert Piest’s body was still lying in the attic.
After the police left, Gacy did some chores, sank a few beers, dropped a valium, and smoked a joint. He then went up to the attic, wrapped Piest’s body in a blanket and carried it to the trunk of his Oldsmobile. He deposited the clothes Piest was wearing in a Salvation Army donation box, and drove to the I-55 bridge on the Des Plaines River. There, Gacy dumped the body.
At 2:30am December 13th, running four hours late to the police station, Gacy hit a patch of ice and spun off the road. He required a tow truck to pull the car out of a muddy ditch. At 3:20am, Gacy entered the police station, caked in mud, asking for Lt. Kozenczak. The desk officer said the lieutenant had waited until 1am and had gone home. Gacy returned to the police station again around noon. Under interrogation, Gacy denied ever talking to Robert Piest at the pharmacy. He filled out a written statement detailing his movements on the night of the 11th. The police kept Gacy talking for four hours, enough time for them to gain a search warrant for 8213 Summerdale. Gacy grudgingly gave the police a set of keys.
At 8213 Summerdale, police found several bottles of valium and atropine, capsules of amyl nitrite, a bottle that smelled of chloroform, a stash of marijuana, some porn, a school ring from Maine West High with the intials “J.A.S.”, a pair of handcuffs, a two-by-four with holes drilled in it which looked like a restraining device, books on homosexuality and pedophilia, several police badges, a starter pistol with blank shells, an 18 inch dildo, a blue parka like Piest was wearing the night of his abduction, a length of nylon rope, and a photo receipt from the Nisson Pharmacy in the trash. They also found a bloodstain on the carpet in the hall in front of the bathroom. When police looked into the crawl space, they saw no signs of recent digging, and concluded Robert Piest had not been buried down there.
Gacy was taken down to the station for further questioning, where he was informed that his Oldsmobile and all PDM vehicles had been impounded. Gacy was released from the station at 8pm that evening. Gacy spent the night at his sister’s house, reluctant to spend the night at 8213 Summerdale.
On December 14th, the next day, the police decided to place Gacy under 24 hour surveillance, using two man teams which alternated 12 hour shifts. The same day they brought Michael Rossi in for questioning, but the young man denied any knowledge of Piest’s disappearance.
On December 15th, police spoke on the phone with Carol Lofgren, who said they might want to look into John Butkovitch, who had disappeared three years earlier. That same day, Rossi phoned and said they might want to look into Greg Godzik, who had disappeared in December 1976. Meanwhile, the high school ring found in Gacy’s house was linked to one John A. Szyc [zick] who had disappeared in early 1977. His mother informed police that he’d sold his Plymouth Satellite at the time of his disappearance. The car was quickly traced to Michael Rossi and, by extension, John Wayne Gacy. At this point, the police had some inkling of what they had on their hands, and the entire Des Plaines police department began working the Gacy case, with each staff member putting in 16 to 24 hour shifts.
On December 16th, police interviewed Richard Rapheal and David Cram, who both said that Gacy was extremely scared and paranoid since the 11th. That night, a two-man surveillance team followed Gacy to the Moose Club where he was the life and soul of the party. A waitress brought the two police officers drinks, claiming that, quote, “Mr. Gacy wanted to take care of his bodyguards.” Later, Gacy walked by their table and said he was leaving. They followed him to a nearby restaurant. There Gacy interrogated the two surveillance officers about who they were, which they fessed up to. Gacy then reasserted his innocence and left, heading to three more bars that evening, with the police following in his wake. At the third bar, six or seven drinks in, Gacy started talking loudly, intending for the officers to hear, about how many politicians and high-ranking police he had in his pocket.
At 5am, Gacy, by now quite drunk, went to the Golden Bear Restaurant, a local greasy spoon. At this point, Gacy proclaimed that he was connected to the Democratic Party and also a notorious Chicago mobster. Gacy warned the police he would not be harassed. Gacy then threatened the officers that he had his own, real, bodyguard, that, quote, “carried a .357 magnum and wouldn’t think twice about wasting you.” When the officers were unmoved, Gacy turned friendly again, chatting with them for about an hour.
At 6am on December 17th, after a sleepless night out on the lash, Gacy went home.
That morning, police let sniffer dogs with Robert Piest’s sent investigate Gacy’s Oldsmobile. One of them laid down in the back seat, giving the “death reaction.”
That afternoon, Gacy was drinking again, and sat down and chatted with a different two-man team of surveillance officers. Again he talked about all his friends in high places. He talked about his fictional bodyguard with the magnum. Amongst other things, he talked about being a volunteer clown. Gacy said, quote, “You know, clowns can get away with murder.”
Gacy continued to drink into the evening, chatting up the nigh-shift officers when they came to relieve their compatriots, babbling for hours at a time but revealing nothing incriminating. The officers observed that Gacy’s mental health was deteriorating.
On December 18th, police traced the serial number on the Nisson Pharmacy photo receipt they had found at Gacy’s house to a pharmacy employee, Kim Byers. On questioning, Byers explained that on the evening of December 11th she had put the receipt in the pocket of Robert Piest’s blue parka, which she had borrowed momentarily to keep out the cold. She recalled that Piest had left wearing that parka. Elizabeth Piest confirmed that the blue parka had belong to her son. The police could now place Robert Piest at Gacy’s house on the night of the 11th.
Michael Rossi was interrogated again that evening, where he divulged in 1977 he had spread lime across the crawl space of Gacy’s house. Police began preparing evidence to apply for a second warrant to search Gacy’s house.
On December 19th, Gacy’s lawyers sued the Des Plaines police for $750,000, citing harrassment and demanding they drop the 24-hour surveillance. The court hearing was set for the 22nd. It seemed likely police would be forced to drop 24-hour surveillance. They needed to get that search warrant fast.
That same day, Gacy invited a surveillance team of two men into 8213 Summerdale for a voluntary tour. One of the officers kept Gacy talking, while the other snooped around the house, unsuccessfully trying to copy down the serial number on a small Motorola TV which officers suspected had belonged to John Zick back in ‘77. When he was in the hallway, the officer noticed a faint putrid smell. He went to the bathroom and flushed the toilet. At the same time, a gust of air came blowing through the vent next to the bathroom, emanating from the crawl space. It was the smell of rotting flesh.
On December 20th, police pulled in both Michael Rossi and David Cram for questioning. Rossi submitted to a polygraph test, but became agitated, and cut the test short. He did, however, reveal he thought Gacy had buried bodies in his crawl space and that he had previously been ordered to dig trenches.
David Cram was more forthcoming. He recounted Gacy’s multiple attempted rapes of him in the summer of 1976. Cram revealed he also had been tasked by Gacy to spread lime and dig trenches.
That clinched it for police. Gacy had been murdering young boys and had buried them in his crawl space. Now all they needed was a damn warrant to go and look for them.
Michael Rossi returned to his house that evening, and found that Gacy and the two-man surveillance team were waiting for him. Rossi said he wasn’t comfortable being alone with Gacy and asked the two police officers to accompany them inside. After a while, Gacy managed to assure Rossi he meant him no harm, and the surveillance team were asked to wait outside. Gacy and Rossi talked for 30 minutes, during which Rossi communicated to Gacy that the police were on to him.
At 11pm, Gacy came storming out of Rossi’s house. He sped up the highway, with the police following him, hitting a hundred miles an hour, until he arrived at his lawyers’ office. There, Gacy went inside, leaving the surveillance team out on the street. Up in his lawyer’s office, Gacy popped several pills of valium, and drank three quarters of a bottle of Scotch his lawyers, Amirante and Stevens, had in their office. Gacy pointed at a copy of the Daily Herald on the desk, featuring a front-page article on the disappearance of Robert Piest. Gacy slurred, “This boy. He’s dead. He’s in the river.”
Gacy then proceeded to ramble drunkenly for the next four hours, confessing to his lawyers all of his crimes. At 3:30am, Gacy passed out on a couch. His lawyers emerged from the office to talk to the surveillance team.
Amirante and Stevens said to the police that what Gacy had just told them was privileged material. But then they begged the police to immediately arrest Gacy. Amirante suggested the police block Gacy’s car with their own vehicle, or shoot out his tires. Stevens started taking drags off a cigarette he had forgotten to light. The defense lawyers were terrified of their own client.
“This Place is Full of Kids”
Upon waking up the morning of December 21st, Amirante informed Gacy that last night he had confessed to killing over 30 people, and the lawyer informed him he’d arranged a psychiatric evaluation of Gacy at 9am. Gacy said he couldn’t think about that, since he had things to do. Gacy took off.
That same morning, police submitted a search warrant application for Gacy’s house, using the photo receipt to link Robert Piest to Gacy’s house, using the testimonies of Rossi and Cram to point the finger at the crawl space, and using the surveillance team’s detection of the smell of rotting flesh as probable cause. A judge granted a search warrant at 4:30pm. Police arrived at 8213 Summerdale that evening. They discovered that Gacy had flooded his entire crawl space with water, impeding the search. Once the water had been pumped out, the smell of rotting flesh became unmistakable. Within the first hour of digging, police uncovered a human arm, a kneecap, four femurs, two skulls, and a rib cage. Upon finding the first human arm within the first five minutes, CSI technician Daniel Genty shouted up from the crawl space, “Arrest him! Murder! I think this place is full of kids.”
Meanwhile Gacy had progressed into a full nervous breakdown. He drove to a gas station where he tried to pay the gas station attendant with a bag of marijuana. The employee immediately handed it to Gacy’s surveillance team, claiming Gacy had told him, “The end is coming. These guys are gonna kill me.” Gacy then drove to the house of fellow contractor, Ronald Rhode, where Gacy hugged the man, burst into tears, and confessed to murdering around 30 people. He wasn’t sure of the exact number.
Gacy then met with Michael Rossi and David Cram, and confessed the same thing to them. Gacy then had Cram drive him out to visit his father’s grave. As they left, Cram told police, “I’m really afraid this guy might try to kill himself and kill me with him. When we leave here, don’t lose us. Please.”
Police had a suspicion that Gacy was going to try to commit suicide at his father’s grave. After consulting with Lt. Kozenczak over the radio, they used the pretext of Gacy trying to give the gas station attendant a bag of marijuana to pull Cram over, point a gun in Gacy’s ear, and arrest him. Not long after, news came through the horrific collection of bodies found underneath Gacy’s house. A further two bodies were found, one under Gacy’s garage, and another under the patio near his outdoor barbecue pit.
On December 22nd 1978, at 3am, Gacy and his lawyers drew up a formal statement confessing to the murder of around 30 people. Some of the victims Gacy mentioned by name, including Robert Piest, others he said he could not remember. Gacy stated that most of his victims were buried in the crawl space of his house, while he had thrown four or five victims into the Des Plaines River.
Over the next three months, 29 bodies were exhumed from underneath 8213 West Summerdale Avenue. Several of the victims were found with ropes still tied around their necks, or with gags stuffed in their mouths so they asphyxiated. Several of the victims also had different items, from metal rods to pill bottles, lodged in their anuses. Three more bodies were found in the Des Plaines River, and tied to Gacy, but the additional two bodies Gacy said he dumped there were never found.
All told, 33 victims were definitely linked to Gacy. Police estimate he may have murdered up to 45 people. To this day, several of the bodies found at 8213 Summerdale have not been identified.
Trial and Death
John Wayne Gacy spent 300 hours being examined by psychiatrists at Menard Correctional Centre throughout the course of 1979. During these interviews, Gacy claimed to have multiple personality disorder and paranoid schizophrenia. Gacy claimed that he had four personalities. The contractor, the politician, the clown, and a policeman called “Jack Hanley” who hated gays and wanted to kill them. Gacy attributed all of his murders to Jack Hanley, whom he referred to as “Bad Jack.” Gacy also claimed that during the murders themselves, when “Bad Jack” took over, he had amnesia and little or no conscious memory of anything that happened.
Certainly, Gacy had forced multiple victims into his car by impersonating a police officer and holding the young men at gunpoint. However, if Bad Jack hated gays, that certainly wouldn’t explain the multiple reports we have from survivors who said that Gacy’s attacks were sexual and ended up in rape or attempted rape. The sexual nature of these attacks would also accord with Gacy’s behaviour back in Iowa. As for the amnesia, we only have Gacy’s word for it, and it seems a bit too convenient, allowing him to avoid giving incriminating details. Similarly, it is puzzling that some of the attacks, like those on David Cram, seemed to involve the clown persona, not this Bad Jack homophobe. Furthermore, Gacy’s selfdiagnosis seems to have played off the Hollywood version of a paranoid schizophrenic with concrete, different, personalities. The sort of thing common in movies, but less common in real life.
John Wayne Gacy stood trial for 33 murders between February 6th and March 12th 1980. His jury was taken from Rockford, Illinois, because of the immense press his crimes had generated in Chicago. His lawyers saw fit to plead not guilty by reason of insanity.
The defense also suggested at one point that all 33 bodies had died of an accident during erotic asphyxiation. A laughable contention, given some bodies bore signs of strangulation and one of stabbing. Along with the fact many of the victims were straight.
The prosecution argued that Gacy had full composure of mind in the several years he had committed rapes, attempted rapes, and murders against young men. Prosecution psychologists refuted the idea that Gacy had multiple personality disorder. They pointed to how Gacy had on multiple occasions either dug, or ordered PDM employees to dig, trenches in his crawl space. During the diggings, Gacy would keep a close eye on his employees making sure they only dug in highly specific places. This confirmed that Gacy was fully aware of the locations of the bodies while not in “Bad Jack” mode, since the trench digging happened many days apart from the haze under which Gacy claims to have committed the murders. And Gacy wasn’t digging the trenches to bury past victims. He was digging them in anticipation of future ones.
Jeff Rignall, whom Gacy had tortured in March 1978, somewhat surprisingly gave testimony for the defense. In recounting the brutality and sadism involved in the attack on Rignall, the defense hoped to establish how no sane person would do such a thing. Rignall, suffering PTSD, wept the entire time he was questioned. Upon cross-examination about the details of his torture, Rignall vomited on the stand, and was excused from further testimony.
Donald Vorhees, whom Gacy had been convicted of sodomising in 1967, tried to give evidence but was too traumatised to do so, and was dismissed.
Robert Donnelly, whom Gacy had abducted and tortured in December 1977, testified with greater clarity, and although visibly upset his testimony stuck. While Donnelly was speaking to the prosecution, Gacy burst out laughing at him in the court room.
At the beginning of March, Gacy wrote the judge asking for a mistrial. Gacy did not approve of the insanity plea, and claimed his lawyers had prevented him from taking the stand in his own defense. Gacy, ever the smooth-talker, arrogantly thought he could lie his way out of this one. The judge rejected Gacy’s request for a mistrial.
In closing arguments, the defense argued that Gacy was subject to homosexual and sadistic compulsions which he could not control. In response, the prosecution argued that the facts of the case showed that Gacy for years was able to evaluate and control his actions in covering up the murders, regardless of how compulsive or monstrous his motives may have been. The prosecution then, with a flair for grotesque drama, displayed the photos of 22 of the victims, before flinging them through the open trap door to Gacy’s crawl space, which had been removed from the house and on display in the courtroom as evidence. The prosecution then asked the jury to show Gacy the same mercy that he had shown his victims.
The jury deliberated for only two hours before finding John Wayne Gacy guilty of 33 murders. They deliberated for two more hours before passing 33 sentences of death on him. Gacy was also found guilty of the rape of Robert Piest. He was not convicted for the attacks on Robert Donnelly or Jeff Rignall.
Gacy was placed on death row at Menard Correctional Centre. He filed several appeals against his sentence. Gacy disputed the validity of the first search warrant on his house in 1978, and the validity of his defense team’s insanity plea. When that failed, Gacy began to claim he had not committed any of the murders, but rather they had all been committed by his PDM employees who had keys to his house.
Accordingly, Gacy only claimed to have quote-unquote “some knowledge” of five murders which the circumstantial evidence overwhelmingly connected him to. Namely, the murders of McCoy, Butkovich, Godzik, Zick, and Piest. It is quite clear that Gacy felt no remorse and was willing to lie through his teeth to get his head out of the noose until the very last.
The Supreme Court of Illinois rejected Gacy’s appeal in 1984, and the US Supreme Court rejected his appeal in 1985. Gacy’s petition for a new trial was rejected in 1986. When Gacy repealed the death penalty and asked for life in prison, this too was rejected by the Illinois Supreme Court in 1988, and the US Supreme Court in 1993.
On May 9th 1994, Gacy was given a last meal of a bucket of KFC, a dozen fried prawns, french fries, strawberries, and a diet coke. A thousand people gathered outside of his site of execution at Stateville Correctional Centre. They chanted for hours for his death, which was delayed by a clog in the IV tube being used for Gacy’s execution. But when Gacy was finally killed by lethal injection on May 10th at 12:58am, the crowd erupted in a massive cheer.
Gacy’s last words before being put to death were, “kiss my ass.”
- On researching this one, I dwelt too long and dug too deep. I can definitively state that I hate John Wayne Gacy.
- Gacy’s house was demolished in April 1979. As Chicago developed and continued to grow in size, a new house was inevitably built on the land. And significantly reduced property prices given what was once buried there. In 2010, the house was the set of an “Asylum” horror film that was based on paranormal investigators spending the night in Gacy’s house, talking to ghosts. I know Simon is a big ghost-hunting buff, so I thought he’d appreciate that.
- Although the official body count is 33, some estimates range up to 45. Numerous bodies found at 8213 Summerdale have not been identified, and theorists have suspected Gacy buried bodies at other sites around Chicago in his capacity of owner of PDM Contractors. For instance, a retired police officer has alleged Gacy dug more trenches at an apartment building on West Miami Avenue, where he served as care-taker. Sniffer dogs and ground penetrating radar have not yielded signs of any bodies, and to this day, no excavation has ever been attempted.
- While in prison, Gacy produced several paintings, mostly of clowns, including those of Pogo and, Michael Rossi’s character, Patches. Gacy also painted pictures of Jesus, birds, 8213 Summerdale, skulls, John Dillinger, and Disney’s Seven Dwarfs. His paintings have sold for between $200 and $20,000 at auction. In the past 4 decades, family members of Gacy’s victims have occasionally purchased and publicly burned some of these paintings.
- In the two years prior to his execution, Gacy wrote a book called A Question of Doubt: The John Wayne Gacy Story. It is a rambling, solipsistic version of events where Gacy attempts to whitewash himself of any true guilt. Most copies of this book were destroyed before they were ever released to the public. The ones in circulation today come with a handsigned letter from Gacy himself saying, “Greetings Reader, There are always at least two sides to a story. Thank you now for reading it from my point of view. John Wayne Gacy.” Copies of these books sell for between $1500 and $5000. And that price will probably jump again now they’ve been mentioned in this post.
- Although John Wayne Gacy was the only one charged and convicted for the 33 murders, many analysts today are convinced that Gacy acted with an accomplice. The most likely suspect is Michael Rossi, aka Patches the Clown. He was identified by Rignall as a participant in his torture, and he willingly gave Gacy a false alibi while in civil court. He also is heavily implicated in the murder of John Zick, having been at 8213 Summerdale the night of the murder, and having gained the use of Zick’s car. Gacy also claimed Rossi was his lover. Rossi then seems to have sold Gacy out when police got too close in December 1978. Gacy pointed the finger directly at Rossi after his conviction, as he did toward David Cram. The latter is less likely to have been an accomplice, given his testimony and behaviour at the time of Gacy’s arrest. That said, if true, if Cram was an accomplice it is possible his accounts of Gacy’s attempted rapes were lies. Gacy also implicated several other PDM employees, including Ed Hefner, Philip Paske, Robert Young, and an unnamed employee who was the roommate of one of the murder victims, John Mowery. Gacy has also been connected to John Norman, who ran a sex-trafficking ring in Chicago in the late 1970s. Then there are hazier implications that Gacy was connected criminally to other members of the Chicago Democratic Party, just as he was with the Jaycees in Iowa. If true, this might explain why it took so long for police to actually prosecute Gacy, despite the numerous red flags and accusations made against him over the years. It is distinctly possible that someone high up in the Chicago police or government was protecting him. It goes without saying that none of these potential accomplices are likely ever to be discovered and brought to justice.