Mike Nelson can point to exactly where the holes were. Running along two sides of the triangular front yard of the building at Miami and Elston, they were dug by John Wayne Gacy as he performed his duties as caretaker of the building in the mid 1970s. Nelson says they ran almost adjacent to the sidewalks, a couple of feet wide, 3 or 4 feet deep, and several meters long.
Nelson had a good view of the yard from his house, across the street and just west of the alley entrance from Miami.
But Nelson got even closer than that to the holes. Gacy had hired Nelson, who was in his middle teens at the time, to help him out as a junior maintenance man. Gacy had him collect the tenants’ trash, mow the lawn, do other odd jobs. When those holes, or “trenches,” as Nelson calls them, appeared in the yard, Nelson jumped over them when he cut across the yard every day on his way to the bus stop on Elston. He also had to maneuver the lawn mower around them. And he and his friends even jumped into them to play army, using the trenches as . . . trenches.
Something else he remembers about the holes: how they disappeared. After a few weeks, he guesses, he woke up one morning to find that they’d been filled in overnight. A few shrubs or small bushes had been planted, five or six feet apart, in the fill.
Nelson says now that the holes struck him as strange, but he never thought to question the behavior of adults, who he says all seemed strange to kids.
Then, a few years after he’d moved to the western suburbs, Nelson was contacted by Bill Dorsch, who was looking for other former neighbors who might’ve seen Gacy up to no good. Then the ghastly pieces began to fit together.
As the police prepared to excavate the yard in November 1998, for reasons described in this earlier post, investigators paid Nelson a visit. While they were there, he drew them a map and pointed out the spots in the yard parallel to Elston and Miami where he remembered seeing the trenches.
And on November 23, as he recalls in this video we made, he watched in astonishment as the police erected a tent at the front corner of the triangular yard, “the one spot I told them not to dig.”
Nelson also says that he’s realized from an aerial shot of the excavation, that the police dug a couple of feet away from the sidewalk, though he’d told them that the trench was only a couple of feet wide and started at the sidewalk.
As part of our ongoing effort to document mysteries in the Gacy case that have remained unsolved, we’ve spoken to other witnesses with their own bizarre recollections (we’ll be posting them soon), and we’ve discussed our findings with Sheriff Tom Dart. We’ve also supplied information to members of the news media, including WGN’s Larry Potash, whom we invited to bring a crew and interview Nelson and others at the same time we did.
Perhaps their testimony will finally persuade local authorities to give this property the attention it deserves.