The human fascination with evil is one that goes back through the history of consciousness. However, as civilization and science progressed, and things like demonic possession or curses fell out of popular acceptance, people began to become fascinated with more concrete crimes and examples. These days, much of this curiosity emerges as a morbid interest in a modern paragon of evil, that of the serial killer.

Television shows, documentaries, even podcasts, the modern market is saturated with media examining and discussing the grisly details. Among these, certain killers have become, in the most macabre of ways, almost a household name, shorthand for the worst of humanity. One of those to reach infamy, for a collection of reasons, is John Wayne Gacy, a horrific serial murderer who assaulted and killed at least 33 victims over the course of his life.

Reading about Gacy reveals no lack of grisly details, but here are 5 of the most shudder-worthy.

He Famously Dressed Up As A Clown

The Orchid Club

A drawing of Gacy's clown persona, drawn by Gacy himself in prison.

This is both the thing that is probably most publicly associated with Gacy, and at the same time is likely a large reason for his lasting infamy. Though it was only for a small portion of his life comparatively, Gacy would often dress up and perform as a clown at parties in his neighborhood. He had two distinct clown personas: Patches, who he described as more serious, and Pogo, who he said was a “fun clown.”

Gacy’s proclivity for clowning didn’t go unnoticed by the media either, who named him the “Killer Clown.” With the popular association of the clown as a creepy figure, and what feels like almost a societal modern case of coulrophobia, or fear of clowns, it’s no surprise it made for a lasting impression.

He Would Use A “Magic Trick” To Trap Them

Gacy’s deeply unsettling use of fun pastimes as a method to enable his killings extended beyond his performances as a clown. Unlike his clown personas, this “trick” was not only directly involved with his crimes, but seems to have been almost always how he initially incapacitated his victims.

Gacy would get a teenage boy to his house under a variety of pretenses. Often it would be related to work that he was either offering or discussing with them as part of his business, PDM Contractors. He would repeatedly use employment with PDM as a ruse to get close to these teenage victims.

Once he got them into his house, through whatever made-up subject of discussion he decided on, he would perform what he called the “handcuff trick”. Gacy would offer to show them a magic trick, after which he would put on a pair of handcuffs himself, behind his back, before freeing himself with the key, which he’d concealed in his hand. He’d then tell the unfortunate visitor that he would show them how the magic trick worked, getting them to put what were in fact very real handcuffs on themselves. Once they made this mistake, their fate was sealed.

He Should Have Been Caught Earlier

Des Plaines Police Department

When reading about serial killers of the past, it becomes a common occurrence that, with a growing sense of relief that these criminals were finally caught, comes a deep frustration that they somehow got away with their crimes for so long. Gacy is no exception to this rule. In fact, reading the details of his crimes and how sloppy some of his crimes were, it becomes fairly infuriating that the police of the time were unable to piece together what he was up to.

First of all, Gacy should have been under additional scrutiny from day 1, as he was arrested long before moving up to any sort of murder for sexual acts with a teenage boy. Not only that, but as mentioned before, Gacy would frequently use his business, PDM Contractors, as part of the ruse to ensnare new victims. Somehow, even when multiple teenage boys were disappearing, all with some level of connection to this company, which was headed by a confirmed and registered sex offender, Gacy never became a suspect.

He Tried To Say He Had Multiple Personality Disorder

When Gacy was finally arrested after the murder of Robert Piest, what followed was what had to have been one of the most horrific searches of a property of all time. Faced with the evidence of his many crimes, Gacy was not ready for prison, especially as someone who sexually assaulted young boys, something other inmates would not take kindly to.

In what seems to be a last ditch effort to escape jail, Gacy attempted an insanity plea, saying that he was suffering from what is now known as Dissociative Identity Disorder. He claimed four personalities, ranging from a businessman to a local politician, to a clown, and a policeman he called “Bad Jack,” related to his frequent use of a sheriff’s badge as a ruse to get victims into his car. The plea failed miserably, as the levels of premeditation and organized planning of his crimes did not suggest any such mental illness.

He Ran Out Of Space To Store Victims

Wikimedia Commons

Gacy's crawlspace.

When you learn about the sheer scale of the murders committed by John Wayne Gacy, it truly defies explanation how he was able to evade suspicion. He killed his victims in his own home, and then buried them beneath the house, in a crawlspace that would become a testament to his cruelty. When a search warrant was finally issued for Gacy’s home, and police began to dig in his crawlspace, they would find twenty-six bodies belonging to his victims.

Gacy was so prodigious in his horrors that he, in fact, ran out of room in the crawlspace that had become a graveyard, and was forced to start throwing bodies off of nearby bridges or burying them elsewhere on his property. Every detail of his crimes begs the question of how he was able to engage in such horrific and despicable crimes in what seems to be a casual manner.

John Wayne Gacy was executed by lethal injection on May 9, 1994.

Top Image: Wikimedia Commons/The Orchid Club

Get the Cracked Daily Newsletter!

We've got your morning reading covered.

Forgot Password?