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Halloween is still a while away, but we're already hearing reports of 'killer clowns' being back on the streets, scaring the shit out of people. The bizarre trend seems to crop up every year and was so bad in 2016 that a number of police departments issued warnings to anyone tempted to don a creepy clown mask and go out and terrorise their neighbourhood.
Last year, the movie It was released and smashed all sorts of records, because everyone loves a clown, don't they?
However, while Pennywise is a fictional character and the people who dressed up as clowns to scare school kids were mostly just dickheads, the real-life story of an actual 'killer clown' is terrifying enough to give anyone coulrophobia.
John Wayne Gacy, arguably the original 'killer clown', tortured, sexually assaulted and killed 33 boys and men between 1972 and 1978.
Gacy's known history of sexually assaulting teenagers began in 1967. He would invite them over and offer to show them pornography or ask them to take part in experiments with him before plying them with booze and tricking them into carrying out sexual acts.
One of his victims, a 15-year-old called Donald Voorhees, confided in his dad that he had been sexually assaulted by Gacy and the police were called. Gacy was arrested and charged with 'oral sodomy' as well as an attempted assault of a 16-year-old boy.
Despite initially claiming he was innocent, he later entered a guilty plea and was handed a 10-year sentence. However, he was released on parole just 18 months later and it was then his actions became even more twisted.
Gacy began picking up young boys and teens, taking them to his home where he would torture and kill them. He would later promise youngsters paid work at his painting and decorating firm PDM Contractors as a way to get them to come back to his house.
To the outside world, however, Gacy played the model citizen - he was an active community volunteer and hosted parties for his neighbours in Norwood Park, Cook County, Illinois. He became involved with the Democractic Party and, when he wasn't working as a painter and decorator, became involved with a 'Jolly Joker' clown club, where he dressed as his character of Pogo the Clown.
Like other members of the Jolly Jokers, Pogo the Clown would perform at fund-raising events and take part in parades as well as visiting sick children in hospital.
Gacy kept up the dichotomy between 'upstanding member of the community' and killer until 1978, when police began investigating him over the disappearance of 15-year-old Robert Jerome Piest, who he had murdered after inviting him over to talk about a well-paid job working for PDM Contractors.
When questioned by cops over the missing boy, Gacy denied any involvement. But when police ran a background check on him they found his previous convictions and carried out a search of his home where 'suspicious items' including handcuffs, a syringe, a 1975 high school class ring and men's clothes too small for Gacy.
As a result, police ordered a surveillance operation on Gacy, but he maintained that he didn't have anything to do with the boy's disappearance.
He even got friendly with the two-man surveillance teams tasked with watching over him. The story goes that one evening, Gacy invited the detectives to join him for dinner and brazenly told them: "You know... clowns can get away with murder."
And that may well have been the case, except that following in December 1978, Gacy confessed to the murders and police searched his house.
Inside they made a grim discovery, unearthing 26 bodies from underneath the property. Three other victims were buried elsewhere in the grounds of his house and four were dumped in the Des Plaine River.
He was brought to trial in 1980 where he was eventually convicted and handed the death penalty. He spent 14 years on death row, where he took up painting, selling some of his art for thousands of dollars - he claimed that through his artwork he hoped 'to bring joy into people's lives'.
Gacy was executed by lethal injection on 9 May 1994 after a final meal of a bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken, fried shrimp, french fries, strawberries and a Diet Coke.
Showing a complete lack of remorse throughout his incarceration, Gacy's last words were: "Kiss my ass."
Featured Image Credit: Des Plaines Police Department
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