by Taylor Leonard
What does it take to scare Stephen King, the master of horror fiction?
According to the 68-year-old author of It, it’s the recent rash of creepy clown encounters happening around the United States.
Back in August, police in South Carolina were called multiple times to an apartment complex abutted by woods where children claimed clowns were attempting to lure them with bags of cash and laser lights.
Not long after, a boy in Ohio reported being chased by a knife wielding man wearing a clown mask.
These especially creepy encounters cap off what has been a growing trend across the United States over the last several years involving unknown persons dressing up in clown costumes and appearing on roadsides, in parks, at intersections, and even in cemeteries, often at night.
Most sightings of this nature have amounted to little more than a creepy clown waving to passersby, typically with a balloon in the other hand. Only recently have these encounters taken a more sinister turn, with clowns allegedly targeting children.
Yet the history of evil clowns is well established, as is the concept of coulrophobia – or fear of clowns – a subject studied and written about ad nauseum. In short, the ‘creepy clown” is nothing new.
In fact, a recent survey conducted by Chapman University found more Americans are afraid of clowns than they are of ghosts.
Depictions of creepy clowns have appeared in fiction for centuries, virtually all of which take full advantage of the inherent irony of a seemingly innocent clown figure concealing evil intentions. The aforementioned 1986 novel It and the fourth season of American Horror Story are perhaps the most famous recent examples, but even Edgar Allan Poe wrote a short story centered on a creepy clown.
However, “evil clowns” are not confined to fiction. In more than one instance, real life horrors have been perpetuated by people who liked to dress as clowns:
In 1990 Marlene Warren answered her front door to see a man in a clown costume holding balloons and flowers. Suddenly the clown withdrew a handgun and shot Warren in the face, killing her instantly. He left the balloons and flowers with the body before being seen by Warren’s son, who watched his mother’s killer enter a white van and disappear down the street. The murder remains unsolved.
The most famous real life evil clown is by far John Wayne Gacy, a prolific serial killer in the Chicago area who preyed on teenage boys and young men between 1972 and 1978. Aside from his heinous crimes, Gacy enjoyed performing as “Pogo the Clown” for children’s birthday parties, fundraisers, parades and the like. Whether or not Gacy dressed as a clown when committing the murders remains unknown, but the connection was enough for him to be dubbed “the Killer Clown.”
If there are any true victims of the recent uptick in creepy clown activity apart from the terrified children involved, it’s the thousands of men and women trying to make a living as legitimate (“good”) clowns. Faced with the preexisting prejudice of a populace mostly indifferent or outright afraid of clowns, professional clowns are in essence a group of downed dogs being kicked by the latest burst of evil clown sightings.
Have you had an encounter with an evil clown? If so, Ghost Diaries wants to hear about it. Share your story in the comments below or on our Facebook page.