[W]hile many news outlets and TV channels have been casually reporting the incidents and summarizing the occurrences of the ‘Evil Clown’ sightings very few have delved into the matter of the ‘Why?’ in the question. For an understanding of why this strange cultural phenomena has initiated in the first place it is critical to examine the history of the archetype which is the ‘Evil Clown’.
Origins of the Evil Clown
Although many people associate the origin of the Evil Clown with Stephen King and his novel ‘It’ the archetype of the Evil Clown is far older. The Evil Clown character has appeared in multiple plays from the 19th Century gaining a central character as a murderous villain in Catulle Mendes’s La Femme de Tabarin.
The first Killer Clown of the 70s
Later on, the case of John Wayne Gacy forever drafted the term Killer Clown into pop culture lingo. Gacy was an actual homicidal clown that was involved in the rape and murder of 33 teenage boys over a period of 6 years. The whole case of John Wayne Gacy was highly disturbing – the man was known as ‘Pogo the clown’ to the general public. He would dress up as the character in order to help raise money for charity events as part of a group known as the Jolly Jokers. Gacy was a contractor in daytime and had a profitable business that enabled him to effectively cover up his societal misdoings and create enough connections to appear at charitable events.
All of Gacy’s victims were teenage boys that were mainly employed by his firm. He would lure them to his home under one false pretext or another and then sexually assault and murder them. Almost all of his victims were buried inside his own home inside a tiny crawl space or somewhere on his property. During the period the disappearances took place the Des Plaines police were able to connect the murders with Gacy and had placed him under heavy surveillance . It was only until Gacy the Killer Clown was finally arrested following an alcoholic confession to his lawyer in lieu of a civil lawsuit amount close to a million dollars that he had decided to place against the police department. The murderous rampage ended with the Gacy being put on death row for 12 of these killings following an extended trial. He spent 14 years in prison awaiting his death by lethal injection. Although Gacy never dressed up as a clown while committing the horrendous homicides the idea of a clown being a nasty killer came to life. People that knew Gacy’s clown persona were always intrigued on how he would have the makeup on the corners of his mouth sharpened instead of rounded – clowns would round the makeup on their lips and mouth in order that children would not be scared of them – this man did the total opposite. A picture of him in his clown makeup reeks of creepiness and it is no surprise that the man was classified as a Psychopath. Following his death his brain was removed from his body in the search of clues on Psychopathy.
The 1981 Phantom Clown Scare
In the 1980s the first appearance of Clown stalkers was reported in the US. This incident popped up soon after John Wayne Gacy was arrested and incarcerated. In 1981 a counsellor at the Boston Public school District sent out notifications to parents asking them to be wary of men dressed up as clowns bothering children at schools. Things stepped up soon after this memo was released as a local news channel picked up on an event in which clowns were trying to draw children into a van was reported to the police.
The incidences of clowns with an evil intent kept on increasing in number and police took drastic measures such as pulling over every vehicle that had a clown looking figure inside of it. The pattern was the same – a couple of clowns would appear to children in the middle of the day and attempt to pursue them. One of these clowns was even reported as being semi-naked.
The most horrifying incident took place immediately after these strings of reports that bears increased similarity to the incidents of today : A clown in Kansas wielding a sword chased a group of children down. The police actually found the masked marauder who evaded capture multiple times after having appeared at different instances in different schools. This caused widespread panic as it became evident that the notorious clowns were targeting children, were armed and were dangerous. The trend grew and stranger incidents occurred in which people dressed in superhero and animal costumes attempted to grab children before being chased by mobs and the police.
Furthermore, this wasn’t a localized incident and was spread all over the country. The fear of a ring of kidnappers was ringing through the airwaves but no arrest was ever made in connection to these events. No killer clown ever kidnapped a child – slowly the fear faded away.
The fears were to rise again as the idea had entered the national consciousness and the famous novelist Stephen King decided to publish a novel in which the main antagonist is a being that plays with the fears of young children and appears to them in the form of a clown. It can be thought that the character may have been based on the 1981 clown scare although King made no such comment. Regardless, the clown became a frightful character and an archetype associated with being funny became instead associated with terrible fear of killing and abuse. Surprisingly, following the publishing of the novel, no incidents of killer clowns chasing down large groups of people was reported. This leads us to theorize our first conclusion: The idea that inspired people to walk around dressed up as killer clowns was older than King’s novel and even though it maybe possible that King may have based his character on the 1981 clown scare the opposite isn’t true. Sporadic incidents appeared in between the 1990s and 2016 all over the world of various clown incidents. Most of them were revealed to be elaborate hoaxes.
The Clown scare of 2016
In 2016, the reports once again started to fall in starting off in South Carolina where women started reporting clowns that would appear from the woods and then fade back into them. Like wildfire, these reports and incidents spread all throughout the country and criminal activities such as a robbery at a Pheonix Taco Bell and Domino’s Pizza and the attempted kidnapping of a one year old child in Concord things started to get ugly. Many incidents very similar to the one in the 1981 clown scare were reported involving clowns chasing children and gangs of clowns attempting to lure children into vans. The incidents kept on multiplying thanks to the viral-ability of social media – copycats and criminals decided to ride the trend until the event culminated into the mass Clown Scare of 2016.
Most of the arrests and questionings that were undertaken in relation to these incidents were the result of surprisingly young barely teen-age girls utilizing Instagram and Facebook profiles for the purpose of threatening schools all over the country. Unfortunately, real damage happened in September when a 16 year old was murdered by a man in a clown mask after a fight broke out. The incident occurred in Pennsylvania and caused an intense discomfort among residents. So far, thousands of incidents are being reported from all over the country and the amount keeps on growing exponentially.