One of the most famous cases studied in the subjects of forensic psychology is that of John Wayne Gacy, an individual who in the eyes of others was adorable, but who committed several dozen crimes, torture and abuse.

Gacy was fooling around with the youngsters after dressing up as a clown, so many of them agreed to meet him. Coulrophobia is an irrational fear of clowns, and although these characters usually entertain the youngest, in this terrible case, the fear of clowns is totally justified. His story has inspired several films because of its brutality.

Who’s John Wayne Gacy?

John Wayne Gacy, Jr. was one of the most famous serial killers in the United States , and committed his crimes during the 1970s. In 1978 he was arrested and in 1994 executed for the death of 33 young men who were buried in his home or thrown into the Des Plaines River (the rest) in Illinois.

He was popularly called “the killer clown” because he organized parties in the neighborhood and invited neighbors to his garden barbecues, while entertaining the younger ones, curiously where he buried his victims. As a figure of entertainment he was known as “Pogo the Clown”.

The birth of a monster

John Wayne Gacy, Jr. was born in Chicago, Illinois, and was the second of three children. His father was a macho man who was always critical of him. He was also an alcoholic, so little Gacy didn’t have an easy childhood. When he was 11, he had an accident when he hit his head on a swing, which caused a blood clot on his head that went unnoticed until he was 16, when he began to get dizzy.

During his high school years his family moved several times, which caused him to attend different schools and become a stranger with little emotional stability. Still, despite the difficulties, she graduated from Northwestern Business College with a degree in Business Management.

After an internship with Nunn-Bush Shoe Company, he was promoted and transferred to Springfield, Illinois in 1964. While working there he met a worker who would become his wife, Marlynn Myers, and they consummated their marriage the following year in 1065. Her parents, who acquired several locations from the Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) franchise, offered him a management position in Waterloo, Iowa. Gacy accepted the option to go to work abroad.

While living in Waterloo she had two children and was part of different charities in the area. And despite the family stability, rumours of his homosexuality soon spread through his neighbourhood . It was said that he had made intimate proposals to different young people who worked in the restaurant. Despite these rumours, the Jaycess Club named him “honourable vice-president” of the Jaycees of Waterloo in 1967.

At that time his professional life was perfect, but not his personal life, in which he quickly began to have serious problems. He was unfaithful several times to his wife and started taking drugs. He also built a room in his basement where he invited young people to drink and tried to have sex with some of them.

Denounced and imprisoned

But his love affair with the inhabitants of Waterloo would soon come to an end, as he received several complaints from the young people who came to his basement. Mark Miller was the first to go to the police claiming that he had been tied up and abused on one of the visits to the killer clown’s house. John Wayne Gacy was sentenced to 10 years in prison but his good behaviour allowed him to be on the street after 18 months . His wife divorced him and he never saw his two children again.

After leaving prison, Gacy returned to Illinois to live with his mother, and in 1971, thanks to his mother’s financial support, he bought a house at 8213 West Summerdale Avenue in an area of Chicago.

His most macabre crimes

After his time in prison, Gacy took it upon himself to leave his past behind and was welcomed by the inhabitants of the new town where he lived. In fact, he was a kind and beloved person because he organized barbecues in his home and dressed up as a clown to entertain the youngest and the children who were sick. Few neighbors could imagine what kind of person he was.

In 1972 he married Carole Hoff, but their marriage ended in 1976 because he claimed they were not intimate and had discovered that pleasure was given in adult magazines with homosexual content.

In this town, the clown killer carried out dozens of murders, such as that of a young man named Darell Samson who went to the West Summerdale Avenue house and was never seen alive again. During that decade, Gacy continued abusing, torturing, and killing crowds of young people . Some of his victims were Randall Reflett, Samuel Stapleton, William Carroll, Rick Johnston Gregory Godzik… a total of 33 innocent young people. The youngest was 14 years old and the oldest 21.

His arrest and execution

It was from 1977 onwards that Gacy began to get a bad name, especially after the disappearance of a 19-year-old boy, a young man was arrested for driving his vehicle. The young man who was arrested claimed that the car had been sold to him by Gacy. Although Gacy had received several previous complaints that had not been taken into account, everything changed in 1978, when 26-year-old Jeffrey Rignall accused him of attacking him with a wet chloroform cloth. When he woke up, he was immobilized in the killer clown’s basement where he was abused and tortured by Gacy .

After several hours of suffering, Rignall woke up in the middle of a field surrounded by snow, and he was very physically damaged. In spite of everything, he managed to get out of the place. His ordeal would still last a few months because, although he identified his attacker in a photo, the police did not believe him. She then hired a lawyer who applied for a warrant for her arrest, and even though Gacy was investigated, he was surprisingly released.

Now, he wasn’t so lucky with Robert Piest, his last victim. Since he left several clues and didn’t take into account that his parents were waiting for him at home and knew that their son had gone to see Gacy. As their son was late in returning, they began looking for him and contacted the police. Several agents went to his house and Gacy did not have time to hide the body of the boy he had just strangled .

The police found the bodies in his house and Gacy himself ended up confessing that he had thrown the rest in the river. He was convicted and executed in May 1994.

Possible explanations for the clown killer case

This terrifying case became popular in the United States and is currently being studied in courses and subjects of forensic psychology, along with other cases such as Petiso Orejudo or Beth.

Psychologists have contributed different opinions and explanations to the causes of this serial killer’s personality. Some point out the poor relationship with his father who, besides being an alcoholic, treated him very badly during his childhood . Others think that the blow he received on his head and the consequent fainting he suffered from the age of 16 onwards had something to do with his macabre behaviour. Some psychoanalysts have even suggested that the murder of these young people was the unconscious expression of his self-hatred for his own homosexuality, a condition he never came to assume.

After his death, Gacy’s brain was removed. But the forensic psychiatrist who examined him, and despite speculation by many professionals, found no abnormalities that could explain Gacy’s violent behavior. This same forensic psychiatrist stated that John Wayne Gacy did not fit the characteristic psychological profile of a serial killer, and Dr. Morrison, who knew John himself and who studied different killers like Ed Gein, is his role as a psychiatrist witness in the case, stated that: “Gacy had the emotional structure of a child.