A babysitter taking care of two small children called their parents late in the evening to ask for permission to cover up the life-size clown statue in the corner of the family room. “It’s not that I don’t like it,” she said. “It just kind of freaks me out with nobody else here. It’s hard to watch TV.” The parents’ reaction to her request freaked her out even more. “WHAT clown statue???” they asked, frantically. “Dial 911! Call the police!! DO IT NOW!!!”
A jolly figure of innocuous, kid-friendly entertainer? Fun for all ages? Or are they murders behind painted masks with thoughts of macabre and death and evilness disguising themselves as happy nobodies?
You aren’t alone in your fear of makeup-clad entertainers; people have been frightened by clowns for centuries. Even the people who are supposed to like clowns —children— supposedly don’t. In 2008, a widely reported University of Sheffield, England, survey of 250 children between the ages of 4 and 16 found that most of the children disliked and even feared images of clowns. At this point it’s important to remember that clowns were considered adult entertainment when they first appeared.
When did clowns become so dark?
Maybe they always have been.
At the end of the 18th and the beginning of the 19th century, there were really two guys who sort of began the modern clowning movement. In London you had Joseph Grimaldi, who was a clown from the theatrical tradition, the pantomime tradition. And on the continent, the sort of leading clown, starting from around the 1830s, was a guy called [Jean-Gaspard] Deburau, who was the Pierrot clown … a silent figure, but very funny.
Grimaldi had a terrible life outside of the theater. His father was an alcoholic and a tyrant, and his wife died in childbirth; his son died an alcoholic at 31; he himself died penniless and alcoholic. Pierrot, on the other hand, was slightly scarier. In 1836, he actually killed a boy who insulted him in the street; he turned around and knocked the kid on the head with his walking stick. He was ultimately acquitted of the murder, but it’s a little bit frightening.
So these two characters became almost emblematic of the idea that there’s something sinister, something scary, something strange going on underneath all of the makeup.
Yesterday. Children had reported on several occasions that clowns inside a van had offered them candy, but is the story a myth grown from the rumors of frightened parents? Hardly.
To everyone who met him, John Wayne Gacy seemed a likable and affable man. He was widely respected in the community, charming and easy to get along with. He was a good Catholic and sharp businessman who, when not running his construction company was active in the Jaycees and was also a Democratic Party precinct captain, when he had his photo taken with then First Lady, Rosalynn Carter. He also spent much of his free time hosting elaborate street parties for his friends and neighbors, serving in community groups and entertaining children as “Pogo the Clown”. He was a generous, hard working, friendly, devoted family man, everyone knew that, but that was the side of John Wayne Gacy that he allowed people to see.
Underneath the smiling mask of the clown was the face of depraved fiend.
The police uncovered 29 bodies in the crawlspace of Gacy’s house. The bodies were all male and ranged in age from nine years old to their mid-20s.
John Wayne Gacy’s final words before being executed by lethal injection, on May 10, 1994, were “Kiss my ass.”
Today. In the U.K. an anonymous man has been striking fear into the hearts of the Northampton community by ominously standing around in creepy clown apparel.
It doesn’t speak. It doesn’t juggle. It has balloons but doesn’t hand them out. It probably doesn’t even sleep. It just stands there, haunting our dreams with that sinister smile.
Meanwhile in Mexico, a notorious drug kingpin was shot dead by a clown at a beach house in Baja California Sur. Francisco Rafael Arellano Felix was killed by an assassin clown, authorities say. The clown wore a red nose and a red wig, and was considered armed and dangerous. They never find him.
Shouldn’t you mind those clowns stalking the streets? Or just pretend they aren’t staring at you maniacally.
At the end of the day, a lot of the fear of clowns actually comes back to the person underneath the makeup, where there is someone who is tragic under his makeup, sinister under his makeup, sadistic under his makeup, and murderous under his makeup. That if the person under the makeup is himself scary, then the clown’s going to be scary.
Experts believe this could be the deadliest Clown Season ever. Please be careful.
Evil clowns – Dugutigui (and some ideas of an interview with Linda Rodriguez McRobbie)