j.w. gacy

The question is: How could a man considered by so many to be an
upstanding citizen actually be the murderer of 33 young men? To this
day, nobody really knows for sure. Within this paper I intend to
examine Gacys life through the lens of three psychological theories in
order to give some insight into some of the factors that may of caused
Gacy to act as he did. John Wayne Gacy Jr. was born on March 17,
1942 in Chicago Illinois to John and Marion Gacy. For the first eleven
years of his life, John Jr. attended a local catholic school along with his
two sisters, Joanne and Karen. Gacy was considered by his teachers to
be an average student with no outstanding qualities except for the fact
that he tended to be compulsively neat (Linedecker, 1980). In high
school, Gacy did not perform as well academically. He ended up
attending four different high schools but he never completed his senior
year. This might of been due to the abusive relationship Gacy had with
his father. The entire Gacy family fell victim to John seniors drunken
brutality. He beat his wife, terrorized his daughters, and constantly
abused and belittled John Jr. Throughout the abuse, though, John Jr.

managed to have a strong relationship with his mother (Linedecker,
1980). After a few years of working as a janitor, Gacy decided to go
back to school. He enrolled at Northwestern Business College, and
within a year, earned his degree. After graduation he was offered a job
with the Nunn-Bush shoe company, and within a year he was promoted
and moved to Springfield Illinois. Things were looking good for Gacy at
this point of his life. While living in Springfield, Gacy married one of his
co-workers, Marlynn Myers. He also became involved in the local
chapter of the Jaycees. Gacy loved to be noticed, which was probably
why he was so active in the organization that was dedicated to
improving the community. He was so active, in fact, that within a year of
belonging to the organization he was elected vice president. Gacy and
his wife eventually packed up and moved to Waterloo Iowa, were he
was offered a job by his father-in-law working for a Kentucky Fried
Chicken franchise. Everything seemed to be going great for Gacy until
he was arrested for allegedly committing sodomy with a teenage boy.

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He was convicted and sentenced to ten years in prison, where he spent
only three and was eventually released on probation. During this time,
his wife divorced him and took custody of their two children. After
prison, Gacy moved back to Chicago and into a small house located at
8213 West Summerdale Avenue. To the people that lived around him,
Gacy was considered to be a good neighbor. He was always throwing
lavish parties at which he spared no expense. Once again, things
seemed to be going Gacys way. He got married again, started his own
contracting company, and once again became involved in the local
Jaycees. In reality, though, Gacy was not at all what he seemed. While
living at 8213 West Summerdale Avenue, Gacy secretly committed 33
murders that eventually shocked the nation and made him the worst
serial killer in American history. He preyed on young teenage boys from
all walks of life. Some worked for him at his contracting company and
others were young male prostitutes working the streets of Chicago.

Gacy would lure these young men into his home by promising them
drugs and then proceed to sexually molest and murder them. Gacy was
eventually caught in 1978 after he abducted and murdered his last
victim, a young boy named Robert Piest. Piests mother was waiting for
her son outside the pharmacy he worked at when Robert ran out and
told her he would be out in a minute. He first had to talk to a man about
a contracting job for the summer. Robert was never seen again.

Roberts mother contacted the police and told them about the
contractor her son spoke to. The police eventually arrived at Gacys
house to ask him some questions. When they entered, they noticed the
unmistakable odor of dead bodies (Linedecker, 1980). They eventually
searched the house and found 33 dead bodies buried in a crawl space
under the house. Gacy was immediately arrested and sent to jail to
await trial. He was eventually convicted of 33 counts of murder and
sentenced to death. The execution took place on May 10, 1994 by
means of lethal injection. Probably one of the best ways to understand
how a man could commit such heinous crimes is to analyze his life using
different psychological theories and paradigms. One paradigm,
Eysencks Three-Factor Model, breaks down personality into three
factors: extraversion, neuroticism, and psychoticism. Each of these three
major factors can be broken down again into more specific traits(
Cloninger, 1996). Most people, when measured, will usually score high
on some traits and low on others. Gacy, on the other hand, seems to
score fairly high on most of them. Traits that accompany extraversion,
such as sociability, dominance, and sensation seeking are traits he
would score particularly high on. He exhibited extreme sociability
through his various parties, successful business relationships, and
through his work with the Jaycees. He also exhibited extreme
dominance and sensation seeking through his molestation of young men.

Gacy also scores high on most traits that accompany neuroticism,
especially irrationality and moodiness. For obvious reasons, Gacy could
be considered an extremely irrational man. He also was very moody.

His wife once told a story of how one minute he was throwing furniture
in a fit of rage and the next minute he was back to his normal self
(Linedecker, 1980). It seems strange that Gacy would score high on the
traits that fall under psychoticism such as impulsiveness,
unempatheticness, and anti-socialness, considering the fact that he also
scores high on extraversion traits, which are basically opposites of
psychoticism traits. One could argue that, in a way, Gacy was two
different people. To his friends and neighbors, he was an extremely
extaverted man, but in reality he was a social deviate. Another
psychological theory that could be used to explain Gacys behavior is
Freuds psychoanalytic theory. In his theory, Freud believed that
childhood experiences were the main determinants of adult behavior.

He came up with four different stages of development, all of which
affect behavior. Freuds stages of development consist of the oral, anal,
phallic, and latency periods. It is possible for an individual to become
fixated at any one of these stages depending on how stringent ones
parents are during each stage. According to Freuds theory, Gacys
adult behavior was probably caused by aversive events that took place
during the anal and phallic stages of Gacys development. During his
entire life, Gacy was considered by many to be compulsively neat and
orderly. Even when he buried the bodies of his victims under his house,
he made sure they were all lined up symmetrically with each other
(Linedecker, 1980). This would indicate that he was fixated during the
anal stage of development. During this stage, if ones parents are too
regimented during toilet training, one can become overly neat. During
the phallic stage, the child learns what it is to be male or female by
identifying with the same sex parent. Gacy never really identified with his
father due to John seniors abusive behavior towards his son. One could
argue that this was the reason for Gacys abusive behavior as an adult
or even that it was the cause of his homosexual tendencies. A third and
final psychological theory that could be used to interpret Gacys
behavior would be the Social Learning Theory. According to this
theory, a boy learns to be masculine by being rewarded for masculine
behavior and punished for engaging in feminine acts. As a child, Gacys
father never rewarded him. He was, though, constantly punished, but
never for any rational reason. Once again, one could argue that this
contributed to Gacys homosexual tendencies as an adult. John Wayne
Gacy Jr. was a man that many considered to be normal. In reality,
though, nothing could be further from the truth. By using the lens of
psychological theories, we come closer to understanding what drove a
seemingly normal man to commit such unthinkable crimes. References
1. Cloninger, S. (1996). Personality: Descriptions, Dynamics, and
Development. New York: W.H. Freeman And Company. Linedecker,
C. (1980). The Man Who Killed Boys. New York: St. Martins
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