The clown craze has gotten out of control to say the least. Why? Check out these six reasons. Do you agree with them?
By AJ Willingham
It just had to be clowns, didn’t it? We couldn’t indulge in some good old-fashioned nationwide panic about, say, zombies or sexy teenage vampires. Nope, it had to be clowns and it had to be mere weeks before Halloween.
Thanks, America. This is just great.
Unless you’ve been hiding under a rainbow novelty wig, you know communities around the country have been perturbed by sightings of clowns or possible clown-related threats or any manner of creepiness ranging from flat-out hoaxes to actual credible events.
People have been arrested. Schools have sent out warning letters. Social media is crawling with creepy, homemade clown videos. And it came up at the White House media briefing this week.
It’s so weird, even Stephen King wants people to chill.
Hey, guys, time to cool the clown hysteria–most of em are good, cheer up the kiddies, make people laugh.
— Stephen King (@StephenKing) October 3, 2016
1. It’s folklore with a modern twist
Benjamin Radford is a folklorist and the author of the non-fiction book “Bad Clowns,” so he’s definitely someone you’d want to call with any clown-related concerns. He says the current fad we’re enduring is nothing new, and similar waves of stories and hysteria have happened before.
“In the 1980s there were these ‘phantom’ clown reports,” he says. “There were stories out of Massachusetts of schoolchildren saying they were chased or lured by clowns, and parents and teachers took it seriously.”
If that sounds familiar, it’s because the pattern closely resembles one of the first clown encounters that tipped off this latest fascination: In August, kids in an apartment complex in Greenville, South Carolina, reported seeing clowns in the woods, trying to lure them into the darkness.
In the ’80s, like now, the stories caught on even though they remained unsubstantiated.
“Many of those reports were hoaxes, some were pranks, and some were schoolyard rumors, but the stories continued, in Chicago, Baltimore, and even in the UK.”
In other words, there’s a “snowball effect,” Radford says, where rumor and legitimate concern mix with our human penchant for a good story.
Since the events in Greenville, clown sightings have been reported in several states, and some people have actually been arrested for scaring people in costume, making clown-related threats, and in one case, chasing kids with a baseball bat while wearing a clown costume.
These pranksters and trolls only serve to strengthen a pretty pervasive myth.
2. It’s viral marketing
Think about it. It makes sense. Here were are, all talking about clowns. Is someone capitalizing on the fascination?
It wouldn’t be unheard of. Radford says creepy clown imagery has been used in viral marketing before, and the whole point of stunts like that is to get people talking.
In fact, one creepy clown video from Agwam, Massachusetts, has already been revealed to be a viral marketing stunt for a local haunted house. So even if this whole clown thing didn’t start off as a marketing ploy, it’s certainly created some fertile ground.
It’s also hard to ignore the fact that, you know, there’s a remake of the classic horror story “It” coming out next year. While it seems like perfect timing, the movie’s makers aren’t toying with your delicate emotions just to get you in the theaters. A Warner Brothers spokesman told CNN there is “absolutely no connection” between the film and recent clown sightings.
3. It’s an expression of human anxiety
Clowns are a source of childlike amusement, but they can also be scary and weird. Life is also scary and weird. It’s not a coincidence. Perhaps clowns are like specters of anxiety and discomfort, bogeymen that personify our deepest fears.
“These sorts of panics tend to surface when there’s underlying social anxiety,” Radford says. “This is an election year, there’s lots of political and ideological divisions, there’s also of course [the awareness of] school shootings and terrorist attacks.” That last part explains the kernel of concern from parents and law enforcement. Even IF most of these sightings and incidents are overblown, why take chances?
Radford says the clown sightings of the 1980s came at a similar time — one of cultural upheaval.