Killer Clowns

pennywiseWhen an adult hears some variation of the phrases: killer clowns terrorizing children sweeping nation, and he is not watching a B Horror Movie or an episode of The Simpsons, then something is afoot.

There is no way this is actually a thing, I thought. It must be an internet rumor. Something like this can’t be sweeping the nation.

But then it turned out to be true, in fact, that people dressed as killer clowns are following children around and scaring them. Not with balloons or seemingly endless links of hankies, but with honest to goodness threatening scare tactics. One knife-wielding clown jumped out from behind a bush to scare a bunch of children walking to school. Other clowns carrying around small knives have been reported by children all over English and the U.S.


Another pair of clowns pulled up in a van and invited a few young girls to a birthday party before speeding away.

Um. What?

Pranks meant to scare are nothing new. In fact, as a society, we seem to be going out of our way to scare the shit out of others and then portraying it on internet videos. No doubt you’ve seen them. Folks dressed as zombies chasing people through the streets, ghostly little girls climbing out of elevator panels and terrify people, velociraptors stalking employees through hallways.

But what sets this killer clown craze apart is that it goes far beyond a prank. This is primarily because it involves real weapons and kids. And even if none of these people intend to hurt the children, the fact is they’re carrying around weapons in order to (at the very least) scare the wits out of them. That has got to be a serious crime in itself. And nobody knows what these people actually do intend.

Is it going to evolve into another level of fright? Are the killer clowns going to step up the “pranks” by dragging terrified kids into windowless vans and forcing them to watch Shakes the Clown?

We could also be witnessing the birth of a mass phobia. The movie Jaws permanently ruined countless people’s enjoyment of swimming. These “intense fear memories” last a long time, they certainly don’t just disappear when one gets old enough to realize it’s irrational.

One of my students and I once bonded over our shared arachnophobia. I have a healthy fear of spiders, to some degree a fascination. She asked why I was afraid of them and I said the normal things: lots of legs, fast, webs, hairy, eww. And then she told me the root of her phobia.

“Well, as a little girl I was vacuuming our living room and opened the vacuum bag empty it and hundreds of spiders came crawling out all over me. They had been in there for a long time, breeding.”

I ended class early.

My problem was a mild case of I-don’t-like-how-many-legs-those-things-have arachnophobia. Hers was a lifelong paralyzing fear resulting from a horribly traumatic experience.

A knife-wielding clown leaping out and purposefully scaring you will fall squarely into that category of traumatic experience. Certainly more than one might feel about clowns if they simply read Stephen King’s It, a book which made my dad sleep with the lights on for a week. So in twenty years, there might be a lot of British and American adults relating an intense fear of their overly made-up girlfriends or their paralyzed reaction to Tim Curry.

But that’s down the road.

Sooner, someone is going to get hurt or killed. And who will be to blame? Who would blame a guy who shot a knife-wielding clown encroaching on a group of frightened kids? Not me.

This isn’t the first time I’ve thought someone in an internet video prank was going to end up dead or seriously hurt. It’s pretty common knowledge these days that to kill a zombie one must shoot him in the head. One day this prank is bound to be pulled on a guy with a Glock, shaky nerves, and knowledge of that. If a ghostly little girl climbed out of a panel on a lift that a MMA fighter was on, he might kick her and beat her.

Killer clowns might be almost a literal nightmare for some people. Imagine a person whose greatest irrational phobia is clowns. The bright side is that they rarely encounter a clown outside of a McDonald’s or a circus, so they’re usually able to keep this phobia’s at bay. But now from out behind some bushes can step this person’s walking nightmare, tailor made for them.

What would it be for you?

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