John Wayne Gacy: The true story behind the Killer Clown that was known as Pogo

The narcissistic killer that brutally murdered at least 33 young men and boys whilst giving the impression of the all American family man.

Pogo the Killer Clown
John Wayne Gacy and Pogo the Clown

It was January 2, 1972, when Timothy McCoy, a young 16-year-old woke up early to make breakfast for the man who he had met the night before in the bus station, who had offered to put him up for the night whilst he was making his way home to Iowa, after spending his Christmas holidays in Michigan. McCoy had already set the table for two, got out the eggs and bacon and was making his way up the stairs to wake up Gacy, still carrying the knife he had been using to prepare breakfast.

The events that unfolded next would set the scene for the remainder of Gacy's life.

Gacy had not realised that the young man walking into his bedroom, knife in hand, had meant no harm whatsoever, Gacy stabbed him in the chest and tragically killed Timothy McCoy, he claimed that this was a complete mistake, however, he proceeded to bury him underneath his home and filled the grave with concrete. Gacy later said that killing McCoy gave him a "mind-numbing orgasm," and instilled in him what was "the ultimate thrill" that he went onto crave for the rest of his days.

Over the course of the next six bloody years, dozens more bodies would join Timothy McCoy underneath the home of John Wayne Gacy. John was seen as a pillar of his community, an upstanding American citizen, he performed at children's parties and even at hospitals under the guise of "Pogo the Clown." By the time Gacy was finally caught he was responsible for at least 33 murders.

John Wayne Gacy Was Gay
John Wayne Gacy was secretly gay, and had two unhappy marriages

Everyone that knew John Wayne Gacy expressed their shock as no one would ever have expected him to turn into the monster he became, most described him as a likable man who was quiet and mild-mannered. He had spent most of his life working for his father-in-law at KFC in customer service, before moving on to setting up his own construction company. Even Gacy's customers spoke of how he was kind, generous and always willing to help people out when he could. He would give work to local teenagers from the area and was heavily involved in the local junior Chamber of Commerce, at weekends he took time out of his own busy schedule to dress up as a clown to entertain children at parties.

However, as everyone would soon discover, there was something extremely disturbing being hidden inside of John Wayne Gacy all along.

John Wayne Gacy was born on March 17, 1942, in Chicago. Gacy's was despised by his father from a young age, he abused him from the age of four and called him a "sissy," constantly, often beating him and whipping him with a belt. When he was seven years old, John Wayne Gacy was molested by a family friend yet he was so afraid of being beaten by his father that he decided not to tell anyone.

Early in Gacy's life he realised that he was gay, however, during the 1950s, homosexuality was still massively frowned upon, so he pretended to be a straight man throughout his entire life.

John Wayne Gacy had a long lasting battle with obesity, this was in part due to a congenital heart condition that he had which limited his physical activities. At the age of 11, it was discovered that he had a blood clot in his brain, the doctors were able to treat the clot but even that was not enough to stop the abuse from his father.

Eventually Gacy decided to pack up and move away from his father, he headed for Las Vegas and started working in a mortuary as an assistant, during his time working here, he would sleep on a cot that was behind the embalming room.

One night Gacy had been watching the morticians embalming dead bodies, before making the worrying decision to climb into a coffin with one of them, a young, deceased, teenage boy, who Gacy would lay and caress for sometime.

Gacy himself said that this event shocked him so much that he left the mortuary, returned home and enrolled in business school, he never mentioned the night in the morgue to anyone.

John Wayne Gacy house
This was the bar in John Wayne Gacy's living room, where he frequently hosted parties for his neighbours

After Gacy had graduated from business school, he met Marlynn Myers, she was a colleague at the shoe company in Springfield, Illinois where he worked. In 1964 the couple married and Gacy took over the management role of his father-in-law's KFC franchises in Waterloo, Iowa, where they lived with Myer's parents.

The seemingly normal American couple would soon have two children and gave the impression that they were living the perfect family lifestyle.

Gacy, who tried secretly to satisfy his cravings for depravity, joined the Waterloo Jaycees, a group of wealthy businessmen who often participated in prostitution, drug abuse and wife swapping. He even went on to open a club from his home basement that was aimed towards teenagers, allowing them to drink whilst underage and play pool with no fear of getting into trouble.

Detective Sergeant Jason Moran, of the Cook County sheriff's office said, "He often would build up trust with his victims, so they wouldn’t need to be on guard, he was their employer, their friend. He may have been someone who provided them with alcohol and drugs and maybe a place to sleep at night. That’s an easy way to kill someone.”

Gacy took this to a further extreme, when he started to force some of these male teenagers to perform sex acts with him, which ultimately would turn out to be his downfall.

John Wayne Gacy first arrest
Gacy was arrested in 1968 on charges of sexual coercion in the workplace

Gacy hired a 15-year-old boy by the name of Donald Voorhees in August 1967, Voorhees was the son of another member of the Jaycees group, he hired him to help out with housework. Gacy supplied the teenager with a large quantity of alcohol and forced him to perform oral sex.

Donald Voorhees didn't speak about the incident until March 1968, he told his father about what he had done to him, this was the start of a large criminal investigation into Gacy, the investigation shattered the image of the perfect family man living the normal life that he had created for himself.

Several months after the police investigation started, Gacy paid a KFC employee $300 to beat up Voorhees, this was an attempt to stop him from testifying in court, however, Voorhees escaped the attack and immediately reported it to the police, which quickly escalated the case against Gacy. In December of the same year, John Wayne Gacy pleaded guilty to oral sodomy, at that time in Iowa it was still illegal for two people of the same sex to have any form of sexual relations, Gacy was sentenced to 10 years in prison, his wife at the time also divorced him as soon as she found the accusations to be true.

Less than two years into his sentence, Gacy was said to be the perfect prisoner and was believed to have been a changed man, he was granted parole.

John Wayne Gacy built up somewhat of a reputation in prison as being a man of the people, he secured a pay rise for prison mess hall workers, he petitioned for the improvement of prison conditions for inmates and even organised the installation of a miniature golf course in the recreation yard for the prisoners, all whilst pretending to be a straight man and claiming that he "hated queers" in a bid to protect himself from any violence from his fellow inmates.

Upon his very early release from prison he was handed a 12 month probation order, the conditions on the order were that he moved back to Chicago to live with his mother and adhered to a 10 p.m. curfew.

Victims of John Wayne Gacy
The identified victims of serial killer John Wayne Gacy

Several months after his release whilst living in Des Plaines, Illinois, with his mother, Gacy would lure a teenage boy into his house and attempt to rape him. Gacy was charged with sexual assault, however, the charges ended up being dropped after the boy failed to show up to the court hearing.

This incident would mean that Gacy had violated his parole order, but his parole officer was never aware of what had happened so somehow he avoided going back to prison.

In 1971, Gacy moved into a new home in Norwood Park, north-western Chicago, this ranch house at 8213 West Summerdale Avenue was the property that would later become the final resting place for 29 young men and boys.

This was the property where all of John Wayne Gacy's murders would be committed and where he would achieve local fame as "Pogo the Clown."

During his somewhat short stint in prison, John Wayne Gacy had started producing art work, and had come up with the character of Pogo the Clown, that was often featured within his sketches. After his release from prison, Gacy would go and join the "Jolly Joker" club, this was a club of clowns that would perform for sick patients at hospitals and for children's birthday parties.

Gacy quickly turned himself into Pogo the Clown, just as he had imagined in his previous prison drawings. He would perform at various different events across the town from charity events to political parties and fundraisers, local residents of Norwood Park remembered him going to the "Good Luck Lounge," which was his favourite bar, dressed as Pogo the Clown.

John Wayne Gacy as Pogo the Clown
John Wayne Gacy dressed up as Pogo the Clown

But Pogo the Clown didn’t fool everybody. Carol Hoff, his high school sweetheart and second wife who he married in 1972, questioned his sexuality. When Gacy told her he was bisexual in 1975, Hoff divorced him and left him alone in their house.

Hoff denied any knowledge of what was to come with Gacy's future killings, however, she later admitted to the police that she had witnessed him bringing teenage boys into their garage before.

The year that John Wayne Gacy married Carol Hoff was the year that he committed his first murder, that of Timothy McCoy. He hid the body of McCoy under his crawlspace. It is also reported that Gacy killed a second victim whilst still married to Hoff, in 1974.

This apparent victim remains unidentified, Gacy claims to have strangled a young man and put him inside his closet, he said that once the body began to leak, he moved that into the crawlspace as well.

After his divorce from Carol Hoff, John Wayne Gacy, now had more freedom to bring his selected victims into his home. All of victims of the "Killer Clown" were killed and stored beneath his property, apart from his final four murders, their bodies were all dumped into a river.

All of Gacy's victims were similar, they were all young men or boys and were often drifters from out of town that had a troubled past or they were local boys who had been working for him.

He lured some into his car by impersonating an officer, or to his house with the offer of a job, a place to party, or even money. Once he had his victim in his space, Gacy coaxed them with drugs or alcohol or a sick magic trick, during which he’d handcuff them and dangle the key in front of their face.

Then, he would torture, rape, and murder them. One of Gacy’s favourite acts of torture was to sit on his victim with all of his weight — which was substantial — and force the victim to fellate him. He strangled and revived his victims, sometimes even partially drowning them in his bathtub.

Where did John Wayne Gacy hide his victims
This photo shows the police searching the grounds around Gacy's house, where the bodies were later discovered

After the murders, John Wayne Gacy would even have the audacity to get involved in the search efforts for some of these missing boys, he was considered an upstanding member of the community as well as friends with the parents of some of his victims.

Gacy believed that he could continue to kill without the risk of ever being caught, the murder of his 33rd victim wouldn't go as he had planned.

Approximately 9 p.m. December 11, 1978, Elizabeth Piest was driving to pick up her son, Robert, from his job at a pharmacy in Des Plaines.

Upon Elizabeth's arrival at the pharmacy, Robert Piest went outside and asked her to wait for a few minutes as he wanted to talk to a customer who had offered him a summer job that would pay him twice what he was currently earning.

That was the last time Elizabeth ever saw her son, Robert. Before midnight the same night, she reported him missing to the police.

Dead bodies underneath John Wayne Gacy's House
Authorities carry the remains of a victim of John Wayne Gacy that was found under his garage floor

Police quickly identified the man that Robert Piest was going to talk to, it was John Wayne Gacy, his company PDM Contractors had recently refurbished the pharmacy.

Gacy was called into the police station to be questioned, which he quickly obliged, only after dumping Robert Piest's body into the Des Plaines River.

Within several hours of speaking to Gacy, the police searched his home, they failed to find any bodies but they did find evidence that pointed to Piest having been there: a receipt that belong to a friend of his.

It wasn't until December 22, 1978, almost 10 years after he was first convicted for sodomy, that Gacy, "Pogo the Clown," confessed to police that he had murdered dozens of young men and boys.

Officers quickly swarmed the house of John Wayne Gacy and made the horrifying discovery of 29 bodies, hidden within the crawlspace. Most of the bodies were that badly decomposed that they could only be identified by dental experts coming in and examining the teeth of the victims.

Three years after the bodies were discovered, Pogo, the killer clown, entered an insanity plea during his trial in the hope of a not guilty verdict.

John Wayne Gacy murder trial
John Wayne Gacy being brought into his murder trial

The jury didn't accept his insanity plea and he was sentenced to death, once his sentence was passed he quickly dropped the whole act of the friendly family man who had no understanding of what he had done.

He showed absolutely no remorse for his victims.

“He looked at his victims like he was taking out the trash. He had no feelings about them,” said Gacy’s lawyer, Sam Amirante. “He could talk about a child who’s dying of cancer and cry like a baby about this child he didn’t even know or never met and feel authentically sad about this child. Then he’d talk about another child that he murdered and have no feelings whatsoever.”

John Wayne Gacy would spend 14 years in prison whilst awaiting his execution. The night before his execution was due to take place he ordered a bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken as his last meal.

It was reported by those who witnessed his execution that his last words were "kiss my ass."

If you enjoyed this story then we would recommend you taking a look at the story on Richard Kuklinski, the iceman.


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