The figure of the clown usually makes you think of a funny character with make-up on his face and wearing colored clothes for the purpose of entertaining young and old people.
In particular instances, on the contrary, this disguise may be disturbing and scary. As matter of fact some people suffer from an instinctive distressing fear of them, called coulrophobia.
The character of It, created by Stephen King, and the derived films have undoubtedly contributed to ingraine the figure of the evil clown in the horror imagination. Art The Clown, the protagonist of the film Terrifier, released in 2016 and directed by Damien Leone, also left a notable mark.
There is also another story – one that unfortunately really happened – which reflects the image of the killer clown. This is the story of John Wayne Gacy.
Late 1970s. For some time, many children, mostly teenagers, have been disappearing in the area and surrounding areas of Chicago. They seem to evaporate into thin air, like 17-year-old Michael Bonnin, who disappeared on his way to catch the train. Or Robert Gillroy, 18, disappeared after he was heading to a riding course.
Unfortunately, it is not easy to trace the origin of these events; anything could have happened, even including voluntary disappearance, and the Police have no elements to connect the dots.
October 12, 1978. Robert Piest, 15, disappears after going to the pharmacy where he worked. His mother tells the investigators that before leaving the house Robert had to meet the owner of PDM, the company that had done the renovations for the shop, because he had a job offer for him.
The entrepreneur’s name is John Wayne Gacy. The police track him down and decide to enter his house. What they discover will be beyond human imagination.
The house of horrors
Inside the house there is a nauseating smell seemingly coming from the basement. A gun and various pornographic material are found. The agents decide to investigate and carry out the excavations in the cellar. A terrifying scenario ensues: buried corpses and human bones begin to surface. 27 deaths come to light.
In addition to these two bodies are buried under his study, and two others thrown into the river, including that of the latest victim, Robert Piest. The death toll rises to 33.
At this point Gacy, cornered by the evidence, is forced to confess.
He admits to having started killing in 1972. His modus operandi involved an initial phase of soliciting the victims and once trapped they were assaulted and sexually abused. The act ended with the killing of the poor unfortunate person, by stabbing or strangling. The last step involved the concealment of the body, which Gacy most times buried in his house.
John Wayne Gacy
Gacy was born on March 17, 1942 in Chicago. The first years of his life are characterized by a difficult relationship with his father, alcoholic and violent.
At the age of 11, falling from the swing, he suffers a violent blow to the head. The trauma will cause him a cranial hematoma that goes undiagnosed until he is 16, causing temporary memory loss and severe headaches. At 17, he was also diagnosed with heart failure.
Gacy graduated in business and economics and began to immerse himself in his job, becoming the manager of a shoe store.
In this role he meets a colleague, Marlynn Myers, with whom he begins a relationship that will culminate in a marriage.
In 1966, Marlynn’s father offers him the opportunity to become the director of three fast food restaurants. John accepts the offer.
Gacy is seen by the community as a willing and available man, always ready to help in times of need. However, in 1968 something changes.
Donald Voorhes, a fifteen-year-old boy, files a complaint against him, on charges of sexual harassment. The young man claims to have been lured to the man’s house, after which Gacy would have made him drunk and later forced him to have oral intercourse.
At the end of the trial John is sentenced to 10 years in prison. He will serve less than two, as he was paroled in June 1970.
He then returns to live with his mother, finding work as a cook. In 1972 he decides to open his own business, PDM Contractors, a company that deals with renovations and constructions.
In the meantime he becomes more and more passionate about the social world. He becomes part of the “Jolly Joker Clown Club”, a voluntary association that made its members exhibit, masked as clowns, in parties and charity events.
Gacy created his own character, called Pogo the Clown, of which he personally took care of the make-up and aesthetics. No one would have ever imagined that the white mask with the red nose hide a mad murderer, who kept a series of corpses buried in his house.
The trial began in 1980 and ended with the death sentence. While in detention, Gacy begins to paint creepy pictures, many of which feature clowns. His paintings today have a considerable economic value and are among the most coveted within the community of fans of “murderabilia”, a term used abroad to indicate the works of art created by the killers.
To escape death row, he often asks to have his sentence changed to life imprisonment, but his appeals are denied.
On May 10, 1994, after 14 years in prison, the lethal injection is performed which sanctions the last act of this affair.
John Wayne Gacy remains one of the most disturbing serial killers in history to this day. His photo portrayed in the clown costume, leaves a feeling of anguish that reflects the horrible crimes he has committed.
The case also inspired the film Gacy, directed by Clive Saunders and released in 2003.