The Killer Clown: Psychopathic Traits of John Wayne Gacy

About this sample

About this sample


Words: 2636 |

Pages: 6|

14 min read

Published: Apr 11, 2022

Words: 2636|Pages: 6|14 min read

Published: Apr 11, 2022

Table of contents

  1. Application of the PCL to John Wayne Gacy Jr. 
  2. Conclusion 
  3. References 

“Psychopathy is a clinical construct characterized by a core set of affective, interpersonal, lifestyle, and antisocial features”. Psychopathic individuals tend to be insensitive, lack empathy for others, and display little guilt or remorse for their actions. Psychopaths often inflict physical damage to strangers or even known people. Psychopathy can be used to accurately predict future crime and violence. It is used as an indicator of risk in the criminal justice system to make sentencing and release decisions, in death penalty cases, for sex offenders, and even in juvenile cases. Psychopathy can be detected in people by following a 20 point checklist formulated by Dr. Robert Hare. John Wayne Gacy Jr. is a name that lives in infamy in the study of serial killers. He was responsible for raping and murdering 33 teenage boys, so using the psychopathy checklist, we will try to correlate the psychopathic traits of his life and crimes and determine if he was a psychopath or not. 

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John Wayne Gacy’s childhood was filled with both physical and mental abuse from his father, John Gacy Sr. Gacy’s father was a severe alcoholic and was disappointed in his son for his feminine habits (''John Wayne Gacy Biography,' 2015). At a young age, Gacy preferred gardening and cooking, rather than fishing, sports, or other typically male activities which disappointed this father. This disappointment led to his father abusing him with physically and mentally. His sexual identity was a big struggle for Gacy but he found a way to hide it when he moved to Illinois, married and started a family which helped conceal and suppress his homosexual desires. Although he tried to suppress his feelings under the cloak of a heterosexual family, he succumbed to his homosexual desires when he sodomized a young boy, the son of a fellow jaycee in August 1967 ('John Wayne Gacy Biography,' 2015). He was convicted for 10 years instate prison but only served 18 months ('John Wayne Gacy Biography,' 2015). When Gacy was being incarcerated, his father died of cirrhosis of the liver due to his excessive drinking ('John Wayne Gacy Biography,' 2015). Gacy believed that he was the reason for his father death and that his father died because of his conviction of sodomy. He started acting violently towards other inmates and suppressed his sexual desires for young males further. After release, Gacy moved to Chicago in an attempt to reboot his life, and became a highly respected member of the community (“John Wayne Gacy Biography,' 2015). He became successful businessman by starting his own construction company ands connected to various community leaders and political figures ('John Wayne Gacy Biography,' 2015). Gacy hosted a few block parties as well, where he dressed up as Pogo the Clown for children. 

 Pogo the Clown was a character Gacy donned to obtain the trust and respect of his community, In an interview, Gacy elaborated that how when he wore his costume, it made him feel like a child ('John Wayne Gacy Biography,' 2015). Although Gacy had become successful externally but inside he was still trying to hide his real face as he would lure teenagers to his home where he subdued, raped and then murdered them. Gacy often donned his Pogo the Clown costume, which gives him the image of the killer clown that he has in people’s eyes today. Later, when he was under surveillance, Gacy discussed his work as a clown, with the detectives remarking, “Clowns can get away with murder. ” Gacy's murder spree lasted for six years without anyone suspecting anything. This was broken when he raped and murdered a young man who was well known and respected in the community. Gacy was the last known man to have interacted with the boy, which invoked law enforcement to investigate. Eventually a large number of victims were found buried in the crawl space under Gacy's home . John Wayne Gacy's murder spree lasted from 1972 to 1978 in which he killed 33 teenage boys. 

Application of the PCL to John Wayne Gacy Jr. 

Superficial charm is defined as giving the deception of being smooth, engaging and charming but everything being only on the surface and a person feeling nothing from his heart. He was very popular with his colleagues and often used to be at the forefront of charity drives but this was only to push his political career forward and make connections to be successful and meant nothing to Gacy. This glibness helped him to be undetected for so long as he was not considered as someone who would rape and murder teenage boys but instead a respected member of the community who worked for its welfare. He receives a score of 2. 

Further, he was also a pathological lier, Pathological lying is a habit or compulsion of lying to attain their motive. He lied to his wives about his homosexual desires and hid his murderous face from them. He also lied to his victim in order to lure them into his house often on the pretext of giving them jobs. He also lied to investigating police officers about the whereabouts of the victims and also to his colleagues ad friends, hiding the double life he was living from them. One could even say that he was lying to himself when he kept saying that he was not a homosexual as maybe he did not want to come to the fact that he was gay. He again gets a score of 2. 

Manipulation can be defined as the controlling or using of something or someone a skillful and unscrupulous way. Gacy was an expert at manipulation, the persona of Pogo the Clown that he adorned was a prime example of his ability to coerce and manipulate people. He seemed so charming that parents enthusiastically allowed Face to interact with their children. He also used his position as a business owner to trick people into coming to his house by offering them a job in his company ('John Wayne Gacy Biography,' 2015). His charming nature mixed with his ability to manipulate and coerce people was the reason he was able to gain and manipulate so many victims as he was easy to trust, the trust he then used to to his advantage to restrain, rape and then murder these victims which gets him a score of 2.

Lack of Guilt or remorse means showing no guilt or regret that a person has done something bad and instead trying to blame others for your actions to justify to yourself that waht you did was not your fault. Gacy lacked remorse about his murders and often blamed the victims for their deaths, for example he mentioned that the mother of one of his victims told him that her son was very innocent, instead of feeling any regret, he questioned that boy’s character saying that if he was so good than why was he a runaway? He receives a score of 2. 

Empathy means feeling for someone when one has nothing to gain, lack of empathy means having no feelings for anyone and doing nothing outside of one’s own benefit. He showed no empathy to his victims and murdered them even when they kept pleading him to release them. He showed no empathy to the parents of the deceased boys and tried to blame their children for their deaths. He again receives a score of 2. 

Shallow effect is described as having no depth to feelings and just appearing to feel from outside. People having shallow effect often do not react to fear, love, anger etc. Gacy started showing shallow effect since childhood, most evidently, when his father used to beat his siblings and he showed no signs of fear and did not cry even when hit by his father which would further anger him and he beat him more but it still had not effect on him emotionally. Although, The death of his father did have an affect on him but he soon overcame it but I would not consider it enough reduce his points. So, He receives 2 points again.

Failure to accept responsibility is often similar to lack of guilt as the person does not accept any wrongdoing. Gacy did not accept any responsibility for his murders or his wives divorcing him or him sodomizing teenagers. He did accept responsibility for his father’s death as he thought that he died because of shock from his conviction for sodomizing a teenager. So he receives a score of 1. 

Promiscuous sexual relations is a person having many sexual parter at once and is often characteristic that is associated with psychopaths. Gacy also had many sexual relations, he had extra marital affairs with the consent of his wife and used to even have homosexual relations, Later, he started raping teenage boys to fill his homosexual desires. He receives a score of 2. 

Gacy also had many short term relations, These relations often lack emotions either on one side or both, psychopaths often do not have relationships where they are dependent one alone else, He married twice an his first wife left him after 5 years when she cam to know of his homosexual pursuits. After that he married another lady who divorced him when he told her that he was bisexual after 4 years of marriage. So he again gets a score of 2. 

Need for stimulation is termed as needing to do something risky or different to get stimulated and feel satisfied. Gacy was always doing something to keep his mind diverted and to keep him satisfied. Earlier it was earning a name for himself and becoming successful and rich, once that wore off he gave in to his homosexual desires, often indulging in extra martial affairs with men and later raping and murdering teenage boys for sexual and emotional stimulation. SO, he gets a score of 2. 

Parasitic lifestyle means the type of lifestyle in which one person is completely dependant on some one else to provide for them and leech off them like a parasite for their sustenance. Although Gacy meets many traits of psychopathy, he did not live a parasitic lifestyle as he became successful as a political leader and later a successful businessman because of his own hard work and did not live off alone else. (Kelly Falla. , n. d)So, he receives a score of 0. 

Lack of goals is often found in psychopaths, It means having no long term goals that a person works for. Gacy was focussed on what he wanted to do and always had a long term goal he was working towards. Earlier it was making a name for himself on the political scene and then it was to become a successful and rich entrepreneur, although he did commit some crimes but he was always focussed on what he wanted long term, so he gets a score of 0. 

 Impulsivity is described as doing something without thinking of the outcomes. Gacy used to be impulsive when he was engaged in extra marital sexual relationships with men and when he committed his first murder but later, he became less impulsive and started planning his attacks in a safe manner so as to not arouse the ire of the law and even had cement put on the bodies he buried in the crawl space under his house to prevent any snooping eyes to gain any evidence. So, He receives a score of 1. 

Irresponsibility is described as a failure to honour obligations or commitments. Gacy was not completely irresponsible, as he fulfilled all his obligations especially one’s relating to his professional and work life but he failed when it came to his personal and family life, he did not think about his family or what the repercussions his actions would have on them but only thought about himself and thus acted irresponsibly. So, he receives a score of 2. 

Facet 4 traits include behavioural traits and Gacy had a lot of behavioural problems, He had poor behavioural control which is defined as uncontrolled, violent and damaging behaviour. After the death of his father, Gacy started to become violent towards his fellow inmates and often go into fights. After his divorce, he became really violent and started murdering even ore teenagers and had trouble containing his behaviour (Falla. ,n. d). Thus he receives a score of 2. 

Gacy also had a lot of early behavioural problems which are often describes as a factor in determining psychopath early on as psychopaths often had a lot of behavioural problems in their childhood, Gacy, acted feminine when he was little which was not liked by his dad and so he used to beat him, which made him suppress his feelings and lie to his father about things that he should not have and also, he did not cry when his father beat him. He was also caught stealing a truck by his mother who made him return it. He was also found molesting a young girl when he was 7 years old, again getting him a biting from his father. So he gets a score of 2. 

Juvenile delinquency is defined as a habit of committing crimes from a young age. Apart from him stealing a truck and molesting a girl their is not other evidence but this is enough to be termed as delinquency in my opinion, so he receives a score of 1. 

Revocation of conditional release is defined as breaking the conditions of a parole or a conditional release form jail. Gacy was guilty of this when he was released on parole form the McCoy case,given that he had to live exclusively with his mother, however, he continued to commit rape and murders of teenagers, unknown to the police. So, he receives a score of 2. 

Criminal versatility is defined as committing different types of crimes or having a variety in the types of crimes a person performs, since Gacy was only engaged in rape and murder of teenage boys, his crimes were of a very similar nature, although he was also engaged in sodomizing and blackmailing teenage boys, So he receives a score of 1. 

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John Wayne Gacy committed 33 rapes and murders of teenage boys all because he had homosexual feelings that he had been taught to hide all his life from his father who put the idea into his mind that being called a homosexual was bad and embarrassing which led to him surpassing those feelings and keep them bottled up inside him and even tried to hide them by having two attempts at a married family life in heterosexual relationships but once those feelings come out, he started to become psychopathic and started a raping and murdering spree where he targeted teenagers exclusively. In my opinion, he could have turned out to be better if his father had been bit more supportive and a lot less abusive in his childhood and hadn’t forced him to keep his feelings bottled up. The PCL helped us determine that Gacy was indeed a psychopath as he received a score of 30 out of 40 which is the cut-off for an adult to be considered a Psychopath. He received a score of 75% just barely passing as a Psychopath. 


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The Killer Clown: Psychopathic Traits Of John Wayne Gacy. (2022, April 11). GradesFixer. Retrieved December 2, 2023, from
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