“Born in a state of confusion.” This statement was said by John Wayne Gacy in a sense to justify his actions. John Gacy is one of the most notorious serial killers with having the most known kills in American history at 33 murders. His statement was said in a interview once he was convicted as a way of him trying to explain why he did such horrible things. He also stated that he had split personalities, as if it was not him doing those horrific things. For the actions of this serial killer, was it driven from traumatizing upbringings or did he really have a mental illness. In John Gacy situation it might of both had an effect on him, however the desire to kill innocent young boys was his main motivation.
John Gacy was a born on March 17, 1942 in Chicago, Illinois. He grew up with a very nurturing mother and a hard working father. He also had a sister that he was very close to. John was very close to his mother and it was something that his father did not like because to him having a son meant that he should do more “boy things not sissy things(John Wayne Gacy Sr).” Since John was so close to his mother and would tell her all his secrets, the father began to felt very threatened by this because he felt that they were keeping secrets from him. His father then began to taunt him, that he was acting like a girl in front of all his friends. The relationship with his father continued to lose strength as his dad began to become more emotionally distant from his family. His father would come home from work drunk and would then be aggressive towards his family and would take it out on John. Gacy never showed any emotions towards the beatings from his father. His sister Karen stated, “He would never cry.” By her saying this meant that he really was not affect by pain and this could of been the start to his emotional numbness when it came to killing all those boys. Hearing that statement from someone that was living with him at the time when his father would beat him and he did not seemed phased by it does show a red flag early on. A studied showed that “Depression, which in boys can manifest itself as hostility and violence, is not only increasing but also appearing in younger and younger children, some mental health specialists warn(Koch.)” Since Gacy felt that he did not fit in, falling into depression is a for sure possibility. The quote by Koch explains that people like that build up a form of hostility and violence. For John it might of not seemed as if it built up but over time his true color of violence did bleed through.
Another factor that could explain how Gacy turned out the way he did, once again leads back to his father. With getting made fun of by him and getting put down he would try his best to get his father’s approval and to try and make him proud. John in about his teenage year was diagnosed with a heart condition that made him feel more of a failure to him. To try and make him proud he joined the boy scouts, where he earned patches which made him feel very accomplished with doing the ‘boyish things.’ Even after all of that he still never impressed his dad. This was the start of when Gacy had a craving for acceptance. He wanted to always volunteer whenever he could and always tried his hardest to make sure people loved him. John had seemed to turn his life around once he moved away to start doing things on his own. He soon met a woman that later became his wife, which then followed his son a few years after. Once John had his son he finally saw the pride in his father’s eyes that he was looking for all his childhood. He now became a family man and was moving higher up with his position at his job. Everything was starting to look better for John with his family life and work environment. Until one night he had a late night with one of his male co-workers that lead to them having sex after they got drunk. This was the turning point for Gacy because he start to like to be with males. In the “Monster Culture” by Jeffrey Jerome Cohen, in thesis three he stated “for the most part monstrous difference tends to be cultural, political, racial, economic, and sexual.” He was different because he was bisexual. Gacy liked being with someone of the same sex as him that in reality it did bring out the monster inside him.
With him becoming so likable by so many people very quick, he soon became the boss. He loved telling people what to do and the feeling of being in power. Still having that drive in wanting to be loved, this was when his lust for teenage boys surfaced from. By having the power of being the boss Gacy would invite young male co-workers over. He would get them drunk and would perform oral sex acts with them. With his very first victim to make sure that he would not talk, he told him no one would ever believe him if he said anything to anyone. The teenage boy stood quite until he could no longer keep that secret in. This was when John’s world started to crumple. He was convicted for his actions, where he then went to prison. While in prison Gacy got word of his father’s passing. He thought his father died of being so disappointed by what he did and hate inside Gacy soon started to become so powerful. Following ten months in prison Gacy was let out for good behavior, it was in 1972 was when John Gacy killed his first victim. The victim was a young boy that he picked up and had sex with. Killing this boy gave him the feeling of an ultimate power trip. The reason for his killings were to hide what he did and to not take the chance of anyone slipping anything out again and sending him back to jail. “What is it that compels a person to take an innocent life, not once but multiple times(Harmening).” Something like this crossed the minds of so many people but it never once did for Gacy.
In 1975 Gacy killed a second young man by having sex, torturing and then finally killing him. He was motivated by his abusive childhood for how he killed these boys. His father was a huge influence on how John ended up the way he did. By him being abused lead to him wanting to inflict that pain among others. This is when John Gacy yearned for the hunt of young boys. He liked to hurt and kill people, proven by the brutal deaths he committed. At the rate he was going he was killing every two or three weeks. By 1977 he had killed nineteen boys in his home where he would hide the bodies underneath the flooring in his own home. Still living his life day to day as if nothing ever happened. Finally after his thirty third kill the police were able to trace it back to him where they were about to smell a horrible odor, this was when they got a warrant to search his house where they found all the bodies. When he was arrested and once they found out all the horrible things he did he was sentenced to death. “He was arrested in 1978 and executed in 1994(Glazer.)”
When looking at John Gacy’s childhood could you really blame his upbringing for the horrible crimes he committed or was there more to that. One other reason could be if he was born with a mental illness that made him unstable his whole life but it just really surface when he was older. There can be endless ways on trying to figure out why a serial killer such as John turned out they way he did. In an interview by Gacy he claimed to have a multiple personality disorder. For example, after Gacy was executed a forensic psychologist took
a look at his brain to really see if he was born with some kind of disorder or abnormal thing that made him do such horrible acts. However nothing seemed different in his brain, it was just like everyone else’s. So does that mean there can be a monster like that in everyone. It is crazy to see what one person is capable of and in John Wayne Gacy’s case he was a true monster that loved the thought of doing terrible things to innocent people. Proven by the history of him his childhood, this showed it was a huge factor from his actions as an adult. By John never feeling that he was good enough, smart enough, and never fitting in lead to the mental break down he had as an adult. So for so many monsters such as serial killers the reasons for their actions mostly always happen after a mental breakdown that once again resorts back to their upbringing.
Glazer, Sarah. “Serial Killers.” CQ Researcher, 31 Oct. 2003, pp. 917-40,
The source related to my essay because it talked about how after all of his crimes he was executed. The reason I picked it was because it connected to when I said he went to prison. This source is credible becuase I got it from Chaffey’s database.
Harmening, William M. Serial Killers : The Psychosocial Development of Humanity’s Worst
Offenders. Charles C Thomas, 2014. EBSCOhost,
The source related to my essay because many people think that the actions of serial
killers relate to mental illness. It connected to when I talked about Gacy saying he had
Mulitple personalities. This source is credible because I got it from the Chaffey’s
Koch, Kathy. “Childhood Depression.” CQ Researcher, 16 July 1999, pp. 593-616,
This source relates to my topic because he grew up with an abusive father. This could
have explained why he was the person he was but it still does not justify the things he
did. This source is credible because I got it from the Chaffey’s database.
Jeffrey Jerome Cohen, Thesis 3