Top 10 Creepiest Facts About John Wayne Gacy
VOICE OVER: Rebecca Brayton
John Wayne Gacy is understandably creepy, but it goes deeper than you'd think. For this list, we'll be looking at the most unsettling truths about one of America's most infamous serial killers. Our countdown includes The Crawl Space, His Last Words, The Attack on Donald Voorhees, and more!
Welcome to WatchMojo, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 Creepiest Facts About John Wayne Gacy. For this list, we’ll be looking at the most unsettling truths about one of America’s most infamous serial killers. Which of these facts disturbs you the most? Let us know in the comments below.
#10: His Mortuary Job
When John Wayne Gacy was a young adult, he fled his abusive father and moved west to Las Vegas. For three months, he worked in the city’s Palm Mortuary as an attendant and frequently witnessed the embalming process. He also conducted some highly illicit and deeply disturbing acts with the bodies that came into the mortuary. According to Gacy, he experienced great personal stress after climbing into a coffin and laying with the corpse inside. Seemingly unnerved by his own recent behavior, Gacy moved back to his hometown and attended college.
#9: His Paintings
John Wayne Gacy took up painting later in life, once he had already been sentenced to prison. While Gacy claims that his creations were meant to inspire “joy,” many find them eerie. A popular subject of the paintings is Gacy himself - specifically, Gacy dressed as his clown alter egos, Pogo and Patches. Some other subjects are also quite macabre, including a human skull that Gacy titled “Dahmer Skull,” referencing infamous serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer. The reaction to these paintings was mixed. Some were burned, while others sold for thousands of dollars, bought by collectors interested in what is termed “murderabilia.”
#8: His Last Words
At 12:58 a.m. on the morning of May 10, 1994, John Wayne Gacy was executed via lethal injection. And he was unrepentant to the end. His last words are not known for sure, as there are conflicting accounts about what he said. But, either way, they present a man who was defiantly callous. Many believe Gacy’s final words were a crude and curt “kiss my ass.” Others claim his they were actually an argument that the state was killing him and that his death would not make amends for his victims. Yet others still, including chief deputy state’s attorney William Kunkle, claim that nothing at all was verbally said.
#7: He Would Take Victims Off the Street
Serial killers have different MOs, and Gacy’s was simply grabbing people off the street and luring them to his house. This occurred often in public places like Chicago’s Washington Square, or a Greyhound bus station. Of course, we know he often dressed as a clown, but there was also speculation that he may have posed as a cop, and, sometimes, he attracted his victims with a job offer. Either way, victims would be picked off the street, often in broad daylight. This came to an end in December of 1978, when Gacy took 15-year-old Robert Piest from Nisson Pharmacy. His disappearance launched an investigation into Gacy, which eventually led to his arrest.
#6: “Jack Hanley”
Once Gacy was caught, he tried desperately to play the insanity defense and convince the prosecution that he was not in full control of his faculties. He managed to fool numerous psychiatric experts, who believed that Gacy suffered from schizophrenia. Gacy claimed that he had four different personalities, and that the violent one was an evil homophobe named Jack Hanley. While some psychiatrists seemingly bought into it, the ruse didn’t work. There was a preponderance of evidence that Gacy had premeditated his killings and was always knowledgeable of his actions. His defense collapsed and he was convicted of 33 counts of homicide.
#5: Young Victims
Gacy’s victims shared many similarities, as is often the case with serial killers. All were male, and many were very young. Most were either teenagers or young adults. Gacy’s crimes actually started when he himself was still a teen and, though we can’t say much about it here, they seem rather indicative of what would transpire later on. Of Gacy’s identified victims, the oldest were 21-year-olds Francis Alexander and Russell Nelson. The youngest weren’t older than 14 years old and at least fifteen of them were 18 or younger.
#4: The Attack on Donald Voorhees
By the mid ‘60s, Gacy was working as a manager at KFC and serving as vice president of the Waterloo Jaycees, a leadership training program that develops business and managerial skills. However, this veneer came crashing down with the assault of Donald Voorhees. Voorhees informed his father of the incident, and despite positive character references from other Jaycees, Gacy was indicted on May 10, 1968. He was later arrested after hiring an employee to beat Voorhees as a means of intimidation. Gacy was convicted of sodomy and given a ten-year prison sentence, but he served just eighteen months before he was granted parole.
#3: Unidentified Victims
There are many things about Gacy’s victims that we do not know. He was officially convicted on 33 counts of homicide, but we only know the identities of 28 of them. Of the remaining five, we know the approximate dates of their deaths and a rough idea of their ages, but not their names. However, there is great hope for the future, as the identifying process continues. For example, as recently as October of 2021, developments were made in the case with the positive identification of a victim. It’s also possible that Gacy killed far more than the 33 that have been attributed to him. In fact, Gacy himself once told investigators that there are likely a dozen more who haven’t been found.
#2: The Crawl Space
One of the most famous aspects of John Wayne Gacy’s crime spree is that he buried dozens of victims in the crawl space of his home. Of his 33 known victims, 26 were buried underneath the house. Eventually, the crawl space ran out of room which prompted Gacy to dispose of bodies elsewhere - including other parts of his property and the Des Plaines River. Unfortunately, some of the corpses were found bearing evidence of trauma. Victims buried in the house were transported out, and the dwelling was demolished in April of 1979.
#1: Pogo the Clown & Politics
Perhaps the scariest thing about John Wayne Gacy is that he was a violent killer hiding under the guise of an upstanding citizen. Throughout the mid ‘70s, Gacy performed as a clown at the likes of charity fundraisers and children’s hospitals. He played two different clowns - the happy Pogo, and the more morose Patches. He also worked in politics, using the employees at his PDM Contractors to clean the local headquarters of the Democratic Party. In addition, he was the precinct captain of a local street lighting committee and directed Chicago’s Polish Constitution Day Parade for numerous years. It was here that Gacy was infamously photographed with Rosalynn Carter, the First Lady of the United States.