4 – John Wayne Gacy
If Ted Bundy is one of the most infamous and reviled serial killers in American history, then John Wayne Gacy might not be far behind him. His name is synonymous with a series of horrific murders in the Chicagoland area in the mid-1970s, but his image is arguably even scarier: Gacy was the so-called Killer Clown, known for dressing up as a clown at charity parties.
Gacy was borning Chicago into a Polish American family with an abusive father – often a trait of serial killers – and was himself sexually assaulted as a child. He escaped his family home as a 20-year-old and moved to Las Vegas and worked in a mortuary. On one occasion he climbed into a coffin holding the corpse of a teenage boy and fondled it, before his own sense of shock overcame him. The next day, Gacy called his mother and asked to be allowed to return home.
Back in the Midwest, he managed to find himself a job in Springfield, Illinois, got married and became very active in charity work with the Jaycees. It was while living in Waterloo, Iowa – where he owned 3 KFC restaurants – that Gacy’s less mainstream interests would come to light. Along with his wife, he would become interested in swinging and in recreational drug use, while also soliciting prostitutes behind his wife’s back. He was arrested and charged with sodomy of a teenage boy in 1968 and sent to state prison for ten years. Despite this, Gacy was released in 1970 and immediately relocated back to Chicago, where he bought a house and started a construction company. This would become vital to his killings.
Gacy’s modus operandi was simple: he would lure young men to his car, usually picked up at the Chicago Greyhound bus terminal, on the promise of work in his construction business. He would drug them, handcuff them and then rape them before strangling them to death, all usually in his house. He would often keep the corpses for several days before disposing of them in the crawl space beneath his home, which he would then fill in with concrete. When Gacy was finally caught, there were 27 dead bodies in his house and several more elsewhere on the property. Later victims were thrown into the Des Plaines River after the crawl space became too full.
1977 was the second most prolific of Gacy’s spree: there were confirmed 9 victims, all young men between the ages of 16 and 21, all buried in the crawl space of his Chicago home, with another two bodies discovered on the premises that date from the same year. Only in 1976 did Gacy kill more men and boys. There was another address, an apartment block, in which Gacy was a caretaker and in which he was spotted in the middle of the night with a shovel.
When he was finally arrested in 1978, Gacy confessed immediately. He told the cops his MO and even drew a diagram of his crawl space to show where the bodies were buried. He was convicted of 33 murders and sentenced to death, with the execution being carried out in May 1994.