Hide the kids! Bold the windows! The clowns are coming! At least, that’s what the British media is saying. There’s been a wave of copycats inspired by the creepy character known as The Northampton Clown, and they’re giving clowndom a bad name.
The Northampton Clown was a mysterious character who appeared in full clown garb – creepy clown garb – from time to time in the streets of the town of Northampton. Hdentifying the man behind the makeup became a bit of a craze, culminating in an admission from local filmmaker Alex Powell that he was the clown. Powell never threatened or menaced anyone, but received death threats from alarmed people via the clown’s Facebook page. (What, it’s 2013 – you’re surprised that the Northampton Clown had a Facebook page?) Powell and a couple of collaborators maintained the page and eventually released a short documentary about the experience.
These new clowns are a little scarier. Reports have come in that the costumed creepers have appeared outside of bedroom windows and have even been seen carrying weapons. Law enforcement is not amused, and neither are the nation’s clowns, who argue that the creepy clowns are terrifying people and ruining the good that clowns do. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on who’s behind the greasepaint), more than a few members of the public find clowns of any sort kind of creepy. Some people have a full-on phobia: coulrophobia – fear of clowns. According to the wiki article on the disorder, research has indicated that young children universally find clowns creepy. They certainly frightened me as a child, but I wouldn’t claim that everyone felt that way, and I know that most people get into clowning to entertain people and make them happy; not frighten them.
Scary clowns have become a trope in popular culture Stephen King’s Pennywise terrified young and old alike. Horror author Dean R. Koontz’s Life Expectancy also features creepy clowns. Then there’s the Bloody Mummers of George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire, a group of malicious mercenaries that, while not clowns, wear garish colors and include a murderous jester among them.
Batman’s Joker has been rocking the “evil clown” archetype for the better part of the 20th century and onward. Rap group Insane Clown Posse has a huge cult following. Serial killer and part-time clown John Wayne Gacy became infamous for his character Pogo the Clown.
These monsters are, of course, exceptions to the rule. Well-known characters like Bozo the clown, Cooky, Pogo and Emmett Kelly’s “Weary Willy” have entertained millions young and old. Others of lesser fame but no less dedication have spent countless hours entertaining children at birthday parties, festivals and charity around the world.