LITERATURE :: REVIEW… “BURIED DREAMS: INSIDE THE MIND OF A SERIAL KILLER” BY TIM CAHILL

From Tim Cahill’s “Buried Dreams” ::

“I ain’t into that,” the man says in the boy’s whining voice, “I ain’t good at that…”

“You do it right, maybe I’ll take the cuffs off.”

At Menard, John Wayne Gacy fumbles with the catch of his pants, then lets them drop around his ankles. On the outside, he wore sheer briefs, almost panties, in various colors. Now he is wearing prison-issue shorts, and under them is the hint of an erection. He glances down at himself.

This, he seems to be saying, is the proof. Here, between my legs, is the truth. I am Jack; I am the one who lives in John’s mind. I am out now and I make no apologies. I have no regrets, I feel no remorse. All those things goody-goody John consistently denied — all the atrocities, the very worst of them — really happened. I am Jack and Jack did it all. See my proud proof. Yes, I played the cop; yes, I hurt the boys; yes, I forced them to perform sex acts; and then, yes, I hurt them again and again and again. The proof that this, finally, is the way it all happened, the hard evidence of my sincerity is here. See, here!

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“Buried Dreams” is harrowing. Plain and simple.

The original publisher’s book description from 1986 sums it up this way ::

This account examines the case of John Wayne Gacy, a successful and respected member of the community who cheered up sick children in hospital dressed as a clown, but who was also one of the most prolific serial killers in criminal history. Inside his scrupulously tidy suburban home, in 1978 police found the remains of 29 teenaged boys, all brutally tortured, violated and strangled. The author explores the complex personality, compulsions, inadequacies and torments of a profoundly disturbed human being.

In my review of “The Killer Inside Me,” I mentioned that it’s fascinating for me to see what makes a killer tick; to explore how their sociopathy or psychopathy manifests itself. It’s directly connected to my love of horror and with true crime books like this, the reality of the story makes it all the more horrifying. Cahill gives us that glimpse in a truly unique way.

The book explores Gacy’s experiences largely from Gacy’s own viewpoint. The detail and immediacy of this approach gives the book its strength, but it was no easy task for the author to complete this piece. Cahill said this of the experience of writing the book, “My first book was called ‘Buried Dreams,’ about a serial-killer, which was probably about ten years ahead of the serial-killer curve. It was a national bestseller, but it was three years of living in the sewer of this guy’s mind.”

As difficult as that three year slog through Gacy’s mind must have been for Cahill, it pays off in spades for the reader as we take that trip with the author in “Buried Dreams,” experiencing first-hand the truly chilling center of Gacy’s dysfunctional mind.

Some have leveled criticism that this “from the horse’s mouth” approach engenders affinity or gives too much of a soapbox to the killer himself. I fundamentally disagree with this. At no point in the read did I ever feel a sense of sympathy for Gacy, nor did I feel that Cahill was asking for it for his subject. Often times, the most damming way to present a subject like a serial killer is from his or her own perspective, knowing that we, the readers, understand the deeply disturbed mind at work in someone like Gacy. Cahill keeps handing Gacy more rope throughout the book, aware that he will hang himself. He does and it’s captivating to watch through these pages.

“Buried Dreams” is filled with grim scenes demonstrating Gacy’s bizarre pathology. They are deftly delineated with penetrating detail, transporting the reader. To that end, it is especially worth noting the chapters centered around Gacy’s prison re-enactment of a crime with a young teen. The above quote kicking this review off is from that section of the book. It is a truly unforgettable scene and, for me, forms one of the most wrenching and frighteningly fascinating passages in any book I have experienced.

NOT for the feint-of-heart, “Buried Dreams” really does take us into the twisted mind of John Wayne Gacy in a very primary way — a must-read for those that are ready for that dark journey.

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RATING ………………. 4.5 STARS

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Author: David Edward Johnson

A bit about me :: My name is David Johnson. I'm a senior creative with over 20 years of experience. I am currently serving as the Director of User Experience and Product Design at Inmar. Previously, I have served as the Global Digital Creative Director for Whole Foods Market, several agencies at the VP level and co-owned my own agency in New York for seven years. I love genre film, a full range of music, art, kung fu, TM, design, good food and a great joke. I'm based in Austin, Texas and addicted to BBQ.

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