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The Student News Site of Elmwood Park High School

The Tiger

The Student News Site of Elmwood Park High School

The Tiger

John Wayne Gacy, The Illinois’ Killer Clown

Warning…mentions of murder, sodomy, and overall disturbing content.
John Wayne Gacy, The Illinois Killer Clown
John Wayne Gacy’s mugshot
from Dec. 21, 1978. (Tim Boyle)

The Illinois Killer Clown

Whether or not you are a big fan of true crime, it is likely you’ve heard the name John Wayne Gacy somewhere. He did commit his crimes very close to Elmwood Park, after all. Another name he is known as is the Illinois Killer Clown. He was once described as a friendly, sociable man who brought joy to children by dressing up as a clown named Pogo and entertaining children at birthday parties and even charitable events. Even if you’re already familiar with his story and his heinous crimes, there will be some added facts that aren’t as well known about John Wayne Gacy in this article!  But first, let’s explain who John Wayne Gacy was and what he did for the people who are unfamiliar with this case.

John Stanley Gacy, John Wayne Gacy’s father.

John Wayne Gacy was born and raised in Chicago, Illinois. Born March 14, 1942, at Edgewater Hospital, Gacy was born into a blue-collar family. His father, John Stanley Gacy, was an auto repair machinist and a WWI veteran. If you’re familiar with true crime and people deemed psychopaths, it’s well known that many killers grew up with some form of childhood trauma that might have contributed to their future actions. That fact is true for John Wayne Gacy’s childhood; it was violent and anything but ordinary. His father was an alcoholic, who Gacy’s sister, Karen Gacy, described as a “mean drunk” in an interview with Oprah Winfrey. Their father would beat Gacy and his sisters with a leather belt, a razor strap, and broomsticks, sometimes even to the point of unconsciousness. Gacy Jr. was belittled by his father because of his interests in baking and gardening, hobbies labeled feminine by his father. He would get compared to his sisters and occasionally get called a ‘sissy’ by his father. His father’s disappointment was obviously because of John Wayne Gacy’s ‘lack of masculinity’. John Wayne Gacy was an overweight and nonathletic child, born with heart troubles that would cause him to black out often, which excused him from playing sports at school. But John Stanley Gacy would say that his son would fake these blackouts for sympathy. Another key fact to point out is Gacy Jr’s growing interest and tendency towards Sadism, which got him in some trouble in the 60’s.

To add onto the mental and physical abuse that Gacy Jr endured during his childhood, he struggled with his homosexuality. He felt that he didn’t live up to his father’s expectations, which was explained by Karen Gacy in the same Oprah Winfrey interview. In order to conceal his homosexuality, Gacy Jr went on to have a wife and children.

But keep in mind, childhood trauma and/or any trauma throughout life does not excuse murder, torture or rape. Many people have endured much worse in life and have not killed innocent people due to it. John Wayne Gacy’s actions are not being defended nor excused.

Timothy Jack McCoy, the first victim, only 16 years old.

The Real Beginning of it All

Gacy’s first run in with the law was in 1964. He was found guilty of sodomizing two young boys. Gacy was sentenced to ten years but only spent 18 months in prison. Once he was released he decided to get a fresh start and move back to Chicago. (He previously lived in Iowa with his first wife, Marlynn Myers, prior to her divorcing him and taking their children.) With this fresh start, Gacy became more sociable, and this was when he began to dress up as Pogo the Clown. Gacy stated that dressing as Pogo the Clown was almost like an alter ego, which is brought back up later when Gacy states to have another alter ego that might have been behind the murders. Gacy was all around loved by his community and even held 4th of July parties and got to meet the mayor. Gacy was re-married, working at a successful construction business, and even attended church. But one day when his new family was out of town, Gacy decided to pick up a runaway teenage boy, Timothy Jack McCoy. This would end up becoming Gacy’s first known victim, and, according to his sister, over the next year she “noticed a change in her brother.”

John Wayne Gacy dressed as Pogo the Clown. He wore this when doing the handcuff trick.

The Clown’s Tricks

That first murder would trigger a murder spree of another 32 young men’s lives taken from them by John Wayne Gacy’s hands. Gacy used tactics, such as magic tricks using handcuffs, to trick young boys into cuffing themselves. He would also put a red light on his car and pretend to be a police cruiser in order to get his victims. Finally, he would lure young boys in by offering them jobs at the construction business he worked at, getting them the job, then preying on them.

The crawl space in Gacy’s home where he hid his victims.

Getting Caught

Gacy was suspected of being involved in the disappearance of Robert Piest. Robert Piest was a young teenage boy who worked in a small drug store, and one day Gacy’s in the drug store and offers him a construction job that will pay more than what he’s currently making at the drugstore. Robert agrees to talk about this offer and tells his mother who’s waiting for him in the parking lot that he’s going to talk to this man about a job that offers more money. That would be the last time that Robert’s mother would see him. Once Gacy was confirmed to have been in the store on the same day as Robert’s disappearance, police found his records of sodomizing two young boy’s back in Iowa. This immediately made him a suspect.

Above is a picture of Robert Piest, Gacy’s last victim before getting caught.

Police got a warrant to search Gacy’s home, which is when they found the crawl space. No bodies were found yet, but this made police keep a close eye on Gacy. They needed to get another warrant to search his home for a second time. A few investigators went to question Gacy. One asked to use the bathroom and claimed it stunk of the odor of death. This was all they needed to get a second warrant. Police brought forensic experts to investigate the crawl space and sure enough, they found 26 bodies. Gacy was found guilty, sentenced to death by lethal injection.

Commonly Uncommon Facts

  • Gacy’s main way of murder was strangulation. He hid 26 of the victims bodies in a crawl space in his own home. He buried another three around his property, then dumped four in the Des Plaines river.

  • Karen Gacy had an autopsy done on her brother’s brain to see if there was anything hereditary that might make her children, or herself, like John Wayne Gacy.

  • In his 20’s, Gacy ran away from home to work at a mortuary. This was before his first murder. However, when he returned a year later, people said he came back different and “more into himself,” describes Karen.

  • As stated earlier, John Wayne Gacy said Pogo the Clown was almost like an alter ego. But what some people might not know is that he claimed to have another alter ego named “Jack Hanley”, who he tried to pin the murder’s on.

  • John Wayne Gacy’s home, where 29 of the bodies were buried and where he committed his crimes, is only a 10 minute drive from Elmwood Park High School. One of his victims, James Mazzara , was an Elmwood Park resident.

In Conclusion

John Wayne Gacy was a horrible man who did horrible things. Those victims did not deserve what was done to them by this man. People should not idolize him and what he did – he didn’t even view the poor young boys he killed as humans. He was cruel, evil…an absolute sociopath who had no remorse or empathy for what he did to those boys and what he had put their families through. This article is to inform people of what John Wayne Gacy did and to have remembrance of the lives that were taken too soon. Remember to stay safe out there, and dial 9-1-1 if you see someone in potential danger. You could be saving a life.

In Remembrance of the Victims, 5 Are Still Unidentified

Timothy Jack McCoy, 16 years old

John Butkovich, 18 years old

Francis Wayne Alexander, 21 to 22 years old

Darrel Samson, 19 years old

Samuel Stapleton, 14 years old

Randall Reffett, 15 years old

Michael Bonnin, 17 years old

William Carroll, 16 years old

Jimmy Haakenson, 16 years old

Rick Johnston, 17 years old

William George Bundy, 19 years old

Michael Marino, 14 years old

Kenneth Parker, 16 years old

Gregory Godzik, 17 years old

John Szyc, 19 years old

Jon Prestidge, 20 years old

Matthew Bowman, 18 years old

Robert Gilroy, 18 years old

John Mowery, 19 years old

Russell Nelson, 21 or 22 years old

Robert Winch, 18 years old

Tommy Boling, 20 years old

David Talsma, 20 years old

William Kindred, 19 years old

Timothy O’Rourke, 20 years old

Frank Landingin, 19 years old

James Mazzara, 20 years old

Robert Piest, 15 years old


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About the Contributor
Emily Hernandez
Emily Hernandez, Staff Reporter
Hello! My name is Emily Hernandez, I am a junior at Elmwood Park High School and this is my first year on staff. I enjoy a good horror and thriller book or TV show in my free time. I enjoy a bit of comedy as well. One of my favorite authors is Stephen King, an oldie but a goodie.
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