Unsolved Mysteries and Scary Stuff: John Wayne Gacy’s Unknown Victims

Reader discretion is advised.

John Wayne Gacy is one of America’s most notorious serial killers, having a body count of 33 confirmed kills (a questionable number that I shall touch on in a moment) and an unknown number of other men who endured rape and torture but who were too shamed to go to authorities.  The known murders occurred in Gacy’s Illinois home which was located just a short ways outside of Chicago. His M.O. would mostly consist of picking up men who were prostituting themselves or simply foolish enough to be willing to hitch hike with a promise of marijuana and a ride from the chunky stranger in the nice car. A few of his victims were straight up abducted from the bus stations or streets, as Gacy had a habit of pretending to be a cop.  He also murdered a few men who were under his employ – people he happened to owe back pay to. Gacy would take the men back to his place and depending on if they came willingly or not, the men either shared drinks and pot with Gacy before being chloroformed by surprise or Gacy would perform a “magic trick” and put himself in hand cuffs, turn his back to his “guest” and be out of the cuffs – he’d then ask his guest to try – and after they failed to escape, Gacy would reveal the trick is…to have the key…

The men were then bound and usually chloroformed.  When they would come to, Gacy would show them an array of sex toys (large dildos, whips etc.) and tell them what he planned to do to them.  This would escalate to using unnatural objects such as a fire place poker or lit candles as instruments of torture and led to the boy’s rectums being violently ruptured.  Gacy would then anally rape the bleeding victims before moving on to his next form of torture.  Often Gacy would place them in a homemade “rack” that kept their heads and arms locked in place by the plank of wood that was strapped to them, other times Gacy would drag them to his bath tub and semi-drown the boys until they would pass out – once they awoke, he did it again.  Gacy would at times also piss on the boys as a show of dominance.  When his fun was over, he wrapped a rope around their necks and tightened it – again taking them to the brink of death.  Some died this way – others had paper towels or their own underwear shoved down their throats – leading to asphyxiation.

Gacy later told authorities he knew when the boys had died via suffocation as it seemed to cause their bodies to defecate and would mess up his carpet.  Gacy would often keep the dead bodies in his bed for a few days, until the body was shoved in his crawlspace, and eventually buried in shallow graves.  (The coroner later determined that several of the boys were buried alive (probably by mistake) – their bodies just appearing dead from the shock and trauma that Gacy had put them through.

A plethora of homosexuals were picked up at gay bars by Gacy and simply had sex with him, they were not threatened with serious violence or death but they were uncomfortable enough with Gacy’s rough house sexual style that they put the word out to others in the homosexual scene that Gacy was not someone who you wanted to have a fling with.  Others were obviously not so lucky.

Gacy was finally caught when instead of picking up a street walker or vagabond who could be easily missed, John saw a teenage boy named Robert Piest who was working at a store that Gacy was doing some remodel work on.  Gacy offered the kid the chance to possibly come work for him and asked Piest to meet him at his truck outside.  Piest told his mother that he was going to talk to a contractor about a job and that he’d be right back.  He never returned.  With such an obvious link to Gacy, the police were slowly able to get a series of search warrants that ultimately led to the discovery of the bodies in his crawlspace.

This link will take you to a series of police photos that were collected at the Gacy crime scene, some definitely can be considered disturbing, so please view at your own risk.


The 33 confirmed young men who were murdered can only be assumed to be the tip of the iceberg on a potential true body count, as these are merely the physical corpses that were recovered on Gacy’s property and a nearby river that Gacy used to dump bodies when his crawlspace filled up.  Gacy was a very successful business man, running his own contracting company and traveling quite often in order to work on deals and what not. The real number of victims will probably never be known, as the authorities seemed satisfied at the time of their original investigation that they had more than enough evidence to put Gacy away forever, if not executed outright.  Thus the police never thoroughly followed up on leads from around the United States and Canada that came in after the Gacy case broke open.  There are cases of young men missing in other parts of the country that correlate that with Gacy’s travels, with not a single cold case closed satisfactorily that saw an investigation either confirm or debunk Gacy’s involvement in the disappearances of these young men.

Worse yet, even leads that came in from the Chicago area of further possible burial locations were not adequately explored.  In the mid-70’s, in the middle of his crime spree, Gacy worked as a caretaker for a building in Chicago.  People who lived at the building noted at the time that Gacy would be banging around the basement in the middle of the night and also dug trenches for “landscaping” purposes on the property.  Once Gacy’s M.O. was discovered, concerned former residents went to the cops about the circumstantial evidence that suggested more burial plots may exist.  The police blew them off – actually saying “We don’t want any more bodies.”(!)

One resident at that property reported meeting Gacy at 3 AM with Gacy digging a hole at that ungodly hour, while another claimed to have seen Gacy dragging a large sack across the lawn in the middle of the night.

Here’s yet another resident to confirm the stories of Gacy’s strange trench digging on the property as well as his late night visits to the basement:

An unscientific venture was made at the site 20 years after the case was exposed, but the only digging that was done was at a location that witnesses said never had a trench dug and wasn’t a viable potential burial site. After finding nothing at that one spot, the entire site was deemed to not contain anything of interest and the police gave up again.

Another troubling aspect of the Gacy case is that the police knew from Gacy rape and torture survivor Jeff Rignall that Gacy had accomplices in these crimes, and yet the police did not file charges despite having a very good idea of who the accomplices were.  Rignall had a description of the man (who performed oral sex on him as Gacy was jabbing at Rignall’s rectum), and could have provided a proper ID had the police pursued this avenue. Rignall has since died of AIDS and thus can no longer be used in such a manner. Gacy himself admitted that at least two men assisted in his torture sessions and the Chicago cops who were put in charge of trailing Gacy when he first became a suspect in the Robert Piest case stated they heard one of Gacy’s employees talking to him about 5 bodies being buried under the house.

The police did have 5 men on the suspect list (along with Gacy) and ultimately seemed to believe that two of the men actively took part in the torture sessions but not the murders. The two men were never prosecuted in any manner for these crimes.  Worse yet, Gacy was actually out of the area when one of the victims went missing, and the circumstantial evidence surely points to Gacy not committing this particular murder.  One of the two key suspects did admit to police that he procured young boys for Gacy to fuck, but he added he had nothing to do with any murders.

So who are these men?

Gacy had several young men who lived with him at various times, one of whom was the grandson of a prominent Chicago political figure Vito Marzullo. The young man was brought in for questioning, admitted to digging holes in the crawl space, placing lime and bringing in young men to Gacy for work or pleasure purposes. At that point his mother arrived and he lawyered up.  Gacy himself said the young men weren’t involved directly, but if they didn’t figure out what he was up to, then they “were fucking stupid”.  Marzullo’s grandson would go on to be arrested for violent crimes over the years, while another young man that was a key person of interest as a Gacy accomplice eventually committed suicide.

Gacy’s story has a few supernatural stories attached to it as well.  One occurred just weeks before Gacy was arrested:

Gacy was at a Christmas party in 1978, (as he was very socially active in politics, charities and such) just weeks before his crimes were uncovered. The host had hired psychic Florence Branson to read Tarot cards for his guests.  The event was going smoothly until she was to read Gacy’s cards – at which point the cards told her that Gacy had evil lurking beneath his jovial exterior.  Branson became physically ill and bluffed her way through the reading, not wanting to let Gacy in on what she was feeling.  At the end of the party, Florence felt compelled to tell the host what the cards revealed for Gacy, going as far as suggesting that he was “perverted and evil”.  The host blew her off and explained that Gacy was a longtime friend and not a threat in the least.  A few weeks later, Robert Piest would be picked up and the world would learn what the psychic already knew.

After Gacy came under suspicion in the case of Piest’s disappearance, he was under police watch, and attempted to avoid his house at times.  This led to Gacy sending one of his teenage employees to his house to check in on Gacy’s dog.  When the boy arrived, he went to the back door and to his surprise; he heard the sounds of moaning and crying emanating from the house.  The boy got scared and went back to work without going inside.

Is it possible that it was simply the boy’s overactive imagination, playing off the knowledge that his boss was a murder suspect?  Perhaps he misheard the whining dog and his mind interpreted the whines as crying.  Some speculate that it was the spirits of Gacy’s victims, trying to tell their tale of woe from beyond the grave.

One aspect of Gacy’s life that intrigues me is that he and fellow serial killer Jeffery Dahmer were both active in the Chicago homosexual scene at the same time.  What if Gacy had taken in Dahmer as a potential lover…or victim?  Dahmer would have fit Gacy’s preferred body type fairly closely, but Gacy was nowhere near what Dahmer was seeking.  Either way, a meeting between the demented duo would have been…interesting?   Hollywood picked up on this scenario a few years ago and actually made a (bad bad bad) movie about it:

Ultimately, Gacy was put to death in 1994 and he was defiant to the end – his last words being “Kiss my ass”.

With his death, we apparently also lost our best puzzle piece to determine if there really are more bodies to uncover and who really did what in regards to the crimes.  As it stands, there is ample evidence to create speculation, and hopefully someday soon, a true final chapter can be written in the saga of John Wayne Gacy.

2015 Update: I found this image of a passed out boy at a “Torture Museum” and I cannot find any verification of it’s substance. Supposedly it was taken by a state trooper at the crime scene:




Written by Andrew Lutzke

The grumpy old man of culturecrossfire.com, lover of wrasslin' and true crimes.

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