Jw Gacy Essay Research Paper The question

J.w. Gacy Essay, Research Paper

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 Gacy?s 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 senior?s 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.

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 Gacy?s 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. Piest?s 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.

Robert?s mother contacted the police and told them about the

contractor her son spoke to. The police eventually arrived at Gacy?s

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,

Eysenck?s 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 Gacy?s behavior is

Freud?s 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. Freud?s 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 one?s

parents are during each stage. According to Freud?s theory, Gacy?s

adult behavior was probably caused by aversive events that took place

during the anal and phallic stages of Gacy?s 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 one?s 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 senior?s abusive behavior towards his son. One could

argue that this was the reason for Gacy?s 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 Gacy?s

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, Gacy?s

father never rewarded him. He was, though, constantly punished, but

never for any rational reason. Once again, one could argue that this

contributed to Gacy?s 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. Martin?s



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