It began before the garden, within the realm of angels . Waxing and waning throughout the annuls of time, it manifests in great upheavals of war, pestilence and genocide and in more subtle displays of the same, in open spaces and behind closed doors.
Under The Carpet
The period was post WWII, 1946-1967. Though seemingly sanitized, infection festered within a culture systematically homogenized. Fevers were ignored, tremors rationalized and incoherence defended.
In 1968 the abscess ruptured. Pus spewed all over mom and pop, apple pie, and just about everything else. It was a powerful purge that wobbled foundations and exposed what lay beneath.
And then came the Seventies.
The Men’s Room
My brother and I were raised in a single parent home during the 70s. The parent that did the raising was my mom. Not that my dad wasn’t in the picture, he most certainly was–right smack dab in the middle of it.
Mom wanted to cut all ties when she divorced him, and she could have, should have, but that would have crushed me. So we visited him and he visited us, on occasion, when it suited him.
Even so, I thought he hung the moon. When mom told me that not having a father in the home was hardest on my brother, I barely believed her. If not for the bathroom thing I wouldn’t have believed her at all.
My mother liked to dine out, nothing fancy, usually just the 24 hour diner a few blocks from the house. We would go there when our sitter, Mrs. Hughes, would make something for supper that we didn’t like, which was all the time. Anyway, it happened pretty much like clockwork, my brother (he was four years younger so that would make him about four or five) would have to go to the restroom when we got there. It was usually was my job to take him, so I would…to the ladies room.
Of course he didn’t like that. He wanted to go to the men’s room by himself.
“Absolutely not,” my mother would say.
When he asked why she said, “because it’s nasty.”
Later, when my brother was old enough to go by himself (he was about six or seven then) my mother would still tell him to go to the ladies room.
“All the other boys go to the men’s room,” he protested.
“They go with their dad,” she said.
“Not all of them.”
“There are lots of weirdos in the men’s bathroom,” she explained to us. “It’s not a good place for young boys.”
It wasn’t until many years later, after I’d first heard of Gacey and Williams, that I learned just how right she was.
My husband told me.
What The F Is Going On?
I was sitting on the floor of our living room when I first heard about it. I’m reasonably sure of this because that’s where I always sat when I watched TV, on green carpet in front of a panel-ray heater, whether it was on or off.
Many years later, after my mom died, I discovered what lay beneath that carpet–rare mahogany floors in beautiful condition.
I remember that the CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite was on and the crew was filming live from the lawn of rather unremarkable brick house, if not for a steady stream of grim faced police officers carrying stretcher after stretcher out the front door. An equally grim correspondent–probably Dan Rather–reported that the stretchers bore the shrouded remains of young men, many of them teenagers.
At first I thought the bodies were hidden inside the house, but I later learned that the cops had to break through the flooring to access them. And that’s where they were, in the crawl space, some missing for years, twenty-six of them in various states of decay, stacked on top of each other in shallow trenches under the house.
The owner of the house was a successful thirty-six year old Caucasian businessman from Chicago, active in the Jaycees, who resembled the rotund and grumpy patriarch, Archie, of All in the Family more than than the robotic killing machine, Michael Myers, from Halloween. His name was John Wayne Gacy.
This was December, 1978. I was a thirteen year old kid–only a year younger than some of Gacy’s victims–with a poster of John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever on my bedroom wall. It was the first time I was fully cognizant that “serial killers” existed outside the realm of Hollywood, though that phrase had yet to be coined.
A year later history repeated, this time in Atlanta, Georgia. The victims–twenty eight of them–were mostly boys, only these kids were African American and even younger. Several of the them were found in or near bodies of water, and most of them were asphyxiated.
Once again, I found out about the killings from watching the evening news. And like a lot of other people, I immediately thought the Ku Klux Klan must have been responsible. I was wrong.
The perpetrator turned out to be a pudgy, twenty-three year old electronics nerd who patrolled low income areas of Atlanta in a car outfitted with scanners and police lights. His name was Wayne Williams. He was also African American.
What I didn’t know back then, in fact I didn’t find this out until recently, was that there was another series of murders of teenage boys in Houston between the years 1970-73. That killer, Dean Corll, a thirty-three year old electrical engineer, shared John Gacy’s penchant for sexual torture down to a T. For example, both he and Gacy used homemade torture boards outfitted with ropes and both employed what that they called “the handcuff trick” to incapacitate their victims.
The Air Force Connection
Nor did I know that during the years 1970-1980, there were four serial killers–Patrick Kearney, Randy Kraft, William Bonin and Doug Clark–all veterans of the Air Force, who lived in and were active in and around Los Angeles, all preying upon mostly teenage boys at the same time. Or that in Michigan, from February 1976 through March 1977, there was a series of murders never solved–two boys and two girls, ages ten to twelve–known as the Oakland County Child Killer Case, with suspects in or connected to the Air Force.
Like most people, I was blissfully unaware of all of this until four years ago when I started looking into the 2003 disappearance of a thirteen year old Nashville girl who seemingly vanished into thin air while walking to her bus stop. It was only then that I learned of Corll, of Bonin and the others as I began to uncover pedophile rings in trailer parks and foster homes, predatory priests, preachers and pilots and more child victims of killers whose origins began with a vipers nest of depravity in the seventies and before.
To be cont’d…