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John Wayne Gacy
The question is: How could a man considered by so many to be anupstanding citizen actually be the murderer of 33 young men? To thisday, nobody really knows for sure. Within this paper I intend toexamine Gacyís life through the lens of three psychological theories inorder to give some insight into some of the factors that may of causedGacy 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 elevenyears of his life, John Jr. attended a local catholic school along with histwo sisters, Joanne and Karen. Gacy was considered by his teachers tobe an average student with no outstanding qualities except for the factthat he tended to be compulsively neat (Linedecker, 1980). In highschool, Gacy did not perform as well academically. He ended upattending four different high schools but he never completed his senioryear. This might of been due to the abusive relationship Gacy had withhis father. The entire Gacy family fell victim to John seniorís drunkenbrutality. He beat his wife, terrorized his daughters, and constantlyabused 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 goback to school. He enrolled at Northwestern Business College, andwithin a year, earned his degree. After graduation he was offered a jobwith the Nunn-Bush shoe company, and within a year he was promotedand moved to Springfield Illinois. Things were looking good for Gacy atthis point of his life. While living in Springfield, Gacy married one of hisco-workers, Marlynn Myers. He also became involved in the localchapter of the Jaycees. Gacy loved to be noticed, which was probablywhy he was so active in the organization that was dedicated toimproving the community. He was so active, in fact, that within a year ofbelonging to the organization he was elected vice president. Gacy andhis wife eventually packed up and moved to Waterloo Iowa, were hewas offered a job by his father-in-law working for a Kentucky FriedChicken franchise. Everything seemed to be going great for Gacy untilhe was arrested for allegedly committing sodomy with a teenage boy.He was convicted and sentenced to ten years in prison, where he spentonly three and was eventually released on probation. During this time,his wife divorced him and took custody of their two children. Afterprison, Gacy moved back to Chicago and into a small house located at8213 West Summerdale Avenue. To the people that lived around him,Gacy was considered to be a good neighbor. He was always throwinglavish parties at which he spared no expense. Once again, thingsseemed to be going Gacyís way. He got married again, started his owncontracting company, and once again became involved in the localJaycees. In reality, though, Gacy was not at all what he seemed. Whileliving at 8213 West Summerdale Avenue, Gacy secretly committed 33murders that eventually shocked the nation and made him the worstserial killer in American history. He preyed on young teenage boys fromall walks of life. Some worked for him at his contracting company andothers were young male prostitutes working the streets of Chicago.Gacy would lure these young men into his home by promising themdrugs and then proceed to sexually molest and murder them. Gacy waseventually caught in 1978 after he abducted and murdered his lastvictim, a young boy named Robert Piest. Piestís mother was waiting forher son outside the pharmacy he worked at when Robert ran out andtold her he would be out in a minute. He first had to talk to a man abouta contracting job for the summer. Robert was never seen again.Robertís mother contacted the police and told them about thecontractor her son spoke to. The police eventually arrived at Gacyíshouse to ask him some questions. When they entered, they noticed theunmistakable odor of dead bodies (Linedecker, 1980). They eventuallysearched the house and found 33 dead bodies buried in a crawl spaceunder the house. Gacy was immediately arrested and sent to jail toawait trial. He was eventually convicted of 33 counts of murder andsentenced to death. The execution took place on May 10, 1994 bymeans of lethal injection. Probably one of the best ways to understandhow a man could commit such heinous crimes is to analyze his life usingdifferent psychological theories and paradigms. One paradigm,Eysenckís Three-Factor Model, breaks down personality into threefactors: extraversion, neuroticism, and psychoticism. Each of these threemajor factors can be broken down again into more specific traits(Cloninger, 1996). Most people, when measured, will usually score highon some traits and low on others. Gacy, on the other hand, seems toscore fairly high on most of them. Traits that accompany extraversion,such as sociability, dominance, and sensation seeking are traits hewould score particularly high on. He exhibited extreme sociabilitythrough his various parties, successful business relationships, andthrough his work with the Jaycees. He also exhibited extremedominance 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 couldbe considered an extremely irrational man. He also was very moody.His wife once told a story of how one minute he was throwing furniturein 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 thetraits that fall under psychoticism such as impulsiveness,unempatheticness, and anti-socialness, considering the fact that he alsoscores high on extraversion traits, which are basically opposites ofpsychoticism traits. One could argue that, in a way, Gacy was twodifferent people. To his friends and neighbors, he was an extremelyextaverted man, but in reality he was a social deviate. Anotherpsychological theory that could be used to explain Gacyís behavior isFreudís psychoanalytic theory. In his theory, Freud believed thatchildhood experiences were the main determinants of adult behavior.He came up with four different stages of development, all of whichaffect behavior. Freudís stages of development consist of the oral, anal,phallic, and latency periods. It is possible for an individual to becomefixated at any one of these stages depending on how stringent oneísparents are during each stage. According to Freudís theory, Gacyísadult behavior was probably caused by aversive events that took placeduring the anal and phallic stages of Gacyís development. During hisentire life, Gacy was considered by many to be compulsively neat andorderly. 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 theanal stage of development. During this stage, if oneís parents are tooregimented during toilet training, one can become overly neat. Duringthe phallic stage, the child learns what it is to be male or female byidentifying with the same sex parent. Gacy never really identified with hisfather due to John seniorís abusive behavior towards his son. One couldargue that this was the reason for Gacyís abusive behavior as an adultor even that it was the cause of his homosexual tendencies. A third andfinal psychological theory that could be used to interpret Gacyísbehavior would be the Social Learning Theory. According to thistheory, a boy learns to be masculine by being rewarded for masculinebehavior and punished for engaging in feminine acts. As a child, Gacyísfather never rewarded him. He was, though, constantly punished, butnever for any rational reason. Once again, one could argue that thiscontributed to Gacyís homosexual tendencies as an adult. John WayneGacy Jr. was a man that many considered to be normal. In reality,though, nothing could be further from the truth. By using the lensí ofpsychological theories, we come closer to understanding what drove aseemingly normal man to commit such unthinkable crimes. References1. Cloninger, S. (1996). Personality: Descriptions, Dynamics, andDevelopment. New York: W.H. Freeman And Company. Linedecker,C. (1980). The Man Who Killed Boys. New York: St. MartinísPaperback
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John Wayne Gacy. EssayMania.com. Retrieved on 11 Oct, 2010 from