Two words are captivating the internet and terrifying innocent passersby: creepy clowns. These mostly anonymous figures made appearances all over the country in the past few months. They have reportedly been seen attempting to lure children into the woods or wandering the dark streets with knives and, of course, on our television screens.
First of all, what makes a clown so creepy to begin with? Cryptozoologist Loren Coleman coined “The Phantom Clown Theory” which claims that mass hysteria can cause an increase in clown sightings. Whether or not all the sightings are legitimate is an issue all on its own. A recent study by Francis T. McAndrew and Sara S. Koehnke entitled, “On the Nature of Creepiness”, shed some light on behaviors, occupations, and hobbies that are typically considered eerie. Over 1,000 participants completed surveys and determined that
people we perceive as creepy are much more likely to be males than females (as are most clowns), that unpredictability is an important component of creepiness and that unusual patterns of eye contact and other nonverbal behaviors set off our creepiness detectors big time.”
In addition, study participants ranked 21 occupations on a one to five scale, with one being “not very creepy” and five being “very creepy”. Unsurprisingly, clowns topped the list with an average rating of 3.7.
Clowns haven’t always been so frightening. John Wayne Gacy might be the man who started this whole clown debacle. Gacy was a serial killer from Chicago who sometimes dressed up as “Pogo the Clown” when committing murders. His alternate persona created a connection between clowns and psychopathic behavior in many American minds. This coulrophobia hasn’t kept clowns out of the media but has put a darker light on them. Recently, Twisty, the clown from “American Horror Story: Freak Show”, terrified and charmed viewers with his dazzling smile. He was one of the bad guys but his backstory was tragic in its own respect.
Of course, a more classic favorite is soon to hit the screens once again. Stephen King’s iconic novel, “It”, comes to theaters (as a remake of the original 1990 miniseries) September, 2017. In the book, Pennywise the demonic clown targets children in a small town in Maine. King recently spoke out in a tweet about the real-life creepy clown fiasco and stated,
I suspect it’s a kind of low-level hysteria, like Slender Man, or the so-called Bunny Man, who purportedly lurked in Fairfax County, Virginia, wearing a white hood with long ears and attacking people with a hatchet or an ax… The clown furor will pass, as these things do, but it will come back, because under the right circumstances, clowns really can be terrifying.”
Nowadays, however, real clowns don’t need authors to speak for them. The Daily Beast corresponded with multiple self-described creepy clowns to find out their side of the story. While some clowns are as scary as they appear to be, others, like “Bloodyelmore DAklown”, claim they are simply misunderstood. Bloodyelmore DAklown commented,
People think they’re killers and criminals… but most of us just like the feeling of having a community and most of us just like the fun and excitement of it.”
He also expressed fear because the FBI is cracking down on clown social media accounts and sightings and doesn’t want to lose his family just because he “wanted to dress up as a clown and roam the streets.”
There are many theories as to why these clowns are out in droves this year but nothing definite has come to light, yet. Hopefully, many of the clowns are just in it for the fun and excitement, like Bloodyelmore. But, if you’re worried about these events, you’d better find a place to hide because they’re already here.