Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock for the past few weeks, you’ll be aware of the fact that there’s a disturbing “killer clown” craze/epidemic sweeping the globe, whereby people are dressing up as scary looking clowns in order to terrorize others in public.
In some cases, it’s meant as an innocent prank – which can still be scary as hell for the victims, we should add – but, in others, it’s more than that. Some of these literal clowns (read “idiots”) are carrying weapons and actually threatening the people they are trying to scare. Not cool. In fact, it’s resulted in some fancy dress stores pulling clown costumes from their shelves.
Clowns are terrifying enough to most people without factoring in the threat of violence. Popular culture doesn’t help matters, as there have been legions of the foul beings presented across various mediums over the years.
Of course, some clowns are harmless enough – anyone familiar with the slapstick comedy of British children’s television star Mr. Tumble will know that – while some clowns that try to be scary – like Mr. Jingles in the low-budget horror movie of the same name – fail dramatically to be so. And as for The Simpsons‘ Krusty… well… all we ever feel for him is pity and a little disgust.
With all of that being said – and with Halloween fast approaching – we thought we’d put together a list of clowns from movies, television, comic books, commercials, and indeed the real world, that have the ability to terrify us – whether they mean to or not! Here are seventeen of the creepiest clowns we’ve ever seen (if you’re scared of clowns, we DARE YOU to read this!).
17. Art (All Hallows’ Eve)
All Hallows’ Eve is a little-known 2013 horror movie that has the potential to become a real cult classic. It features a pair of siblings coming home from a night of trick or treating, where they are being babysat by Sarah – a friend of their mother’s.
Sarah is surprised to find that, amongst all the candy the children have been given on their trick or treat adventure, there is also a VHS cassette. One of the children – Timmy – convinces Sarah that they should watch it, but it turns out to be a terrifying trio of movies featuring a terrifying being called Art the Clown, played by Mike Giannelli, who murders his victims in horrifying ways – including one who wakes up at an operating table missing all of her limbs before she dies.
After sending the children to bed, Sarah continues to watch the movie. When it appears to have finished, she tries to stop the tape to no avail – and Art tries to escape from the TV set to attack her. She eventually shuts the tape off by pulling out the TV cord. When she goes to check on the children in their bedroom, she finds that Art has murdered them.
16. Captain Spaulding (House of 1000 Corpses and The Devil’s Rejects)
Captain Spaulding, played by Sid Haig, is a creation of famous American musician, film director, screenwriter and film producer, Rob Zombie. The character has appeared in two of Rob Zombie’s most prominent movies – House of 1000 Corpses and The Devil’s Rejects.
Although Zombie himself describes Captain Spaulding – who dresses like a clown, incidentally – as a “lovable asshole”, the fact is he’s actually a very nasty piece of work. His role in House of 1000 Corpses isn’t that big, but he certainly makes his mark – he’s the the proprietor of a gas station, which doubles up as a museum/haunted house ride with a focus on serial killers, madmen and freaks of nature. His role is to redirect people looking for the local legend of “Dr. Satan” to the tree where he was supposedly hanged, where they instead end up running into the murderous Firefly family.
In The Devil’s Rejects, Spaulding has a much meatier role. He’s the head of the Firefly family and is a lot less cartoonish than he previously was – only wearing his clown makeup during the first half of the film. His nickname is “Cutter” and with good reason. He’s a truly disgusting and violent person with the most vile teeth you will ever lay eyes on.
15. The Heads (31)
Speaking of Rob Zombie, here’s an entry about a group of killer clowns from one of his lesser-known movies – 2016’s 31. It’s kind of like a Hunger Games/Battle Royale/Running Man style movie, but the individuals doing the hunting and killing are a group of people dressed as clowns.
The whole thing is overseen by a group of three elderly British people wearing aristocratic clothes, powdered wigs and make up; Sister Dragon, Sister Serpent, and their leader Father Napoleon-Horatio-Silas Murder – the latter of whom is played by the brilliant Malcolm McDowell. The group being hunted are given odds regarding their survival chances and bets are placed on them.
In the movie, it is a group of carnival workers being hunted by the clowns. The clowns all have names based on their personalities; Sick-Head, Psycho-Head, Schizo-Head, Sex-Head (because what’s scarier than a killer clown called “Sex-Head”?), Death-Head, and the unbeaten veteran, Doom-Head. They are collectively known as The Heads and they are terrifying.
14. The Killer Klowns From Outer Space
As utterly ridiculous a concept their movie might have been, the Killer Klowns from Outer Space were undeniably pretty creepy. The 1988 science fiction horror comedy (what a mish-mash of genres, right?!) has become something of a cult favourite – and rightly so – and that’s largely down to its memorable titular stars.
The movie sees an object fall from the sky, which is promptly investigated by a farmer. Expecting to find something like a meteor, he actually finds a circus tent, which initially amuses him – that is, of course, until he meets its terrifying and murderous inhabitants.
The clowns proceed to run rampant in the town of Crescent Cove, California – playing pranks on the locals, but also killing them in gruesome ways (and drinking the liquified remains of their victims through swirly straws, incidentally). They’re horrible to look at and, although funny at times, are genuinely scary!
13. Blackpool’s Laughing Man
WHAT IS THIS MONSTROSITY?! While this particular clown is completely and utterly harmless – and is in fact their solely for entertaining visitors, including children, in an amusement park – that fact is it’s absolutely terrifying.
You can find the laughing man at Blackpool’s Pleasure Beach resort in the North West of England. It’s been there since 1935 and epitomizes the fact that entertainment has moved on – and is a lot less creepy than it once was. It was originally outside the Funhouse which burnt down in 1991, but is now moved around quite regularly.
The Laughing man is basically a clown in a glass unit, sitting on a chair, laughing maniacally, with a smaller clown sat on his knee. It gets festive makeovers, such as being dressed as Santa Claus around Christmastime. Interestingly, the Laughing man was briefly portrayed as a psychotic French clown in Jamie H. Scrutton’s His Haunted Laughter short film in 2010. The artist himself performed in the role of the character.
12. The Poltergeist Clown(s)
While the Poltergeist movies focused on a generic malevolent presence that terrorised a family in various different ways, after they moved into a new house, arguably the scariest manifestation of the presence came in the form of a little boy’s toy clown.
In both the 1982 original and the 2015 remake, the clown toys came alive and attacked the young boy of the family in his respective bedroom. In 1982, it was Oliver Robins’ Robbie Freeling who was attacked and in 2015, it was Kyle Catlett’s Griffin Bowen who was attacked, having found a box full of toy clowns in the house after he’d moved in.
In each case, the clowns in question began moving on their own. That’s scary enough. But then, the clown’s faces changed – which is utterly terrifying – and physically attacked the boys. The most iconic – and scary – of the two, is undoubtedly the original, when the clown extends its limbs and wraps itself around Robbie. There were a lot of nightmares and people becoming afraid of clowns after that!
11. Xander’s Killer Clown (Buffy The Vampire Slayer)
As much as Buffy the Vampire Slayer was aimed at a teenage audience, the show undoubtedly had some fairly terrifying villains; the Gentlemen, Der Kindestod, Gnarl, the Ugly Man and the Queller demon, for example. But there was also a minor character in the form of a killer clown that was pretty damn scary.
The clown was a manifestation of one of Xander Harris’ childhood fears, which started at his sixth birthday party, when a clown chased him and he became so frightened that he peed his pants.
It appeared in the episode Nightmares, in which the nightmares and fears of the residents of Sunnydale began to become reality, thanks to the influence of a boy in a coma, who had been beaten into that state by his violent baseball coach after a poor performance in a game. It has a knife, a maniacal laugh, and appears from behind a plastic curtain.
10. The Northampton Clown
Now we come to some of the types of clown that have been making the news lately. It’s not just a new 2016 thing – it’s been happening for a while – but recently it’s been happening more often. Individuals have been dressing as scary clowns in order to prank the public – or sometimes even attack them – and one of the first publicized examples of this happened in Northampton, England.
Back in 2013, a man dressed as a clown kept randomly appearing in Northampton. He would generally be stood holding a set of balloons, not necessarily doing anything wrong, but putting people on edge and making the residents of the town feel uneasy.
In October of 2013, the Northampton clown was unmasked. It was university student and budding film maker Alex Powell – and his antics featured in news stories around the world. Describing why he did it, Alex said “I just want to amuse people. Most people enjoy being a bit freaked out, then they laugh about it afterwards.”
9. The Chesterfield Clown
We don’t really want to dwell on the real life exploits of people dressing up as clowns to scare others, as it’s not something we actually condone, so this will be the last example of that in this list – and it comes from Chesterfield County, Virginia, in the United States of America.
This example is more sinister than the example listed from Northampton, because the man who was wearing the scary killer clown costume was also wielding a knife. The idiot in question chased children from a bus stop whilst holding said knife and subsequently got what he deserved.
Nathaniel Dunivin – who was 23 when this incident took place in November of 2015 – was arrested on charges of assault, possession of a weapon on school property, and wearing a mask in public. Dunivin is an Army veteran who served in Afghanistan in 2012 and, according to his father, suffers from PTSD.
8. Violator (Spawn)
Now we come to a pair of comic book supervillains – the first of which is the lesser known of the two – and that’s Violator AKA Barney Saunders AKA Demonic AKA The Clown.
An Image Comics character, Violator predominantly appears in Spawn comic books as an antagonist of the titular character. Violator is a demon who is superhumanly strong and durable, and who possesses various supernatural powers. Those powers include size and shape-shifting, regeneration, telepathy, possession of others, the ability to breathe fire, teleportation, and necromancy. He is also known as being incapable of experiencing pain.
In the 1997 Spawn movie, Violator was portrayed by John Leguizamo. Like the comic book version of the character, in his clown guise he was fat, rather disgusting, extremely creepy and excessively violent. This version was responsible for an elaborate scheme to train Al Simmons (Spawn’s alter-ego) into becoming an assassin for a military program, with the intentions of having Simmons’ superior Jason Wynn betray and kill him.
7. The Joker
The most iconic supervillain in comic book history is, without any shadow of a doubt, The Joker. Known as “The Clown Prince of Gotham City”, The Joker is eligible for this list.
He dresses in a clown-like way – particularly with regards to his makeup, colourful suit and squirting flower – and loves to play tricks on his victims (which, of course, includes his arch-nemesis, Batman), but he’s also pretty damn creepy.
The evil genius has done things like cut off his own face to make a mask for himself, skinned people alive, poisoned children en masse, forced James Gordon to watch his own daughter being abused and framed Batman for his murder by breaking his own neck. He has been played on screen by the likes of Cesar Romero (in a live action television series), Jack Nicholson, Heath Ledger, Jared Leto (all in live action movies) and Mark Hamill (in animated television series and movies).
6. Twisty (American Horror Story)
American Horror Story has provided its viewers with some truly terrifying stories and characters, but none have been more terrifying than Twisty the Clown. Twisty started life as a dumb but kind clown who performed at a freak show in 1943. He was popular, so the jealous freaks spread rumours that he was a child molester, which drove him away.
He returned home to Jupiter, Florida as a result, only to find that his mother had died. He couldn’t support himself, so he tried to kill himself by putting a shotgun in his mouth. He failed, however, and succeeded only in mutilating his lower jaw – resulting in him wearing a grinning mask over the lower part of his face.
He became the main antagonist of the first quarter of the fourth season of American Horror Story: Freak Show, having snapped while failing in his attempts to continue life as a clown. He went on a killing spree, abducting children to be his audience, while murdering their “mean” parents. John Carroll Lynch was so scary in the role that a large portion of the show’s crew left the set when they shot his scenes because they were afraid of him.
5. Old Fashioned Halloween Clowns
This entry is quite generic and doesn’t point to a specific clown, but more to a time in which clown costumes were a lot less cheery than they are these days. We know there are now clown costumes that are specifically designed to be creepy, but we’re referring to the ones that are meant to be child-friendly – back in the olden days, even those were legitimately terrifying.
Halloween, in general, used to be a lot more terrifying with regards to its costumes than it is now. Fancy dress was generally quite haunting and, amongst them, there were some pretty horrific clown costumes.
The image above shows a prime example of a clown that you wouldn’t want anywhere near your children – or anywhere near you, for that matter – and you have to imagine that old time Halloween escapades scarred children for life.
Holy Mary mother of God. What on Earth would possess any company to promote their product using one of the most creepy, unsettling and downright horrible clowns we have ever laid eyes on?
Krinkles the Clown describes Post Sugar Rice Krinkles as “the greatest cereal treat on Earth” and apparently he “crinkles every time he eats it.” But so what?! Who cares how it tastes when one of the most terrifying creatures to have ever walked the Earth is endorsing it? He pops his head out of a little house, then tears his way through a wall of paper, before walking and talking in a very bizarre way.
Apparently, in the 1960s, this was acceptable. Nowadays, you have to imagine this advert wouldn’t make it past the concept stage.
3. Pennywise (It)
Without a doubt, the most iconic creepy clown in popular culture has to be Pennywise the Dancing Clown from Stephen King’s It. Having started life as a 1986 horror novel, Pennywise’s story was turned into a two-part television movie/miniseries in 1990 (not a cinematic feature film, as is often believed), and it will be adapted onto the big screen in a 2017 movie.
Pennywise is a malevolent being who isn’t actually a clown by default. He’s a massively powerful monster of unknown origins, which originated before the creation of the universe itself in a dimension called the “Deadlights,” and its true form is never revealed (although it did appear as pretty horrific-looking giant spider-like creature at one point, which is believed to be close to its true form).
He’s a sadistic child-killer whose supernatural powers are almost limitless. He can warp the very reality around him, shape-shift into whatever form he chooses, cast illusions and possesses photokinesis/light manipulation. He was played brilliantly by Tim Curry in the 1990 television movie and will be portrayed by Bill Skarsgård in the upcoming movie.
2. John Wayne Gacy / Pogo
Things are taking a real life turn for the worse with this entry, as we come to real world serial killer John Wayne Gacy. Between 1972 and 1978 in Cook County, Illinois, Gacy sexually assaulted and murdered at least thirty-three teenage boys and young men.
That’s undoubtedly horrendous enough, but what makes Gacy even creepier than he otherwise already would be is the fact that he performed as a clown. Gacy became aware of a “Jolly Joker” clown club via his membership in a local Moose Club. He created his own clown personas – “Pogo” and “Patches” and would regularly perform at fundraising events and parades in addition to voluntarily entertaining hospitalized children.
The maniac – known as the “Killer Clown” – designed his own costumes and taught himself how to apply clown makeup, but some professional clowns stated that the sharp corners he painted at the edges of his mouth were contrary to the rounded borders that professional clowns normally employ, so as not to scare children. Knowing what he was capable of makes the fact that he performed behind creepy makeup in front of children so terrifying that it doesn’t bear thinking about. He was executed in 1994.
1. DMPranksProductions Clowns
Bizarrely, even John Wayne Gacy – an actual real life murderer – isn’t as scary as these guys. That’s really saying something. DMPranksProductions is a YouTube channel ran by a group that includes Italians Matteo and Diego. The group prank unsuspecting members of the general public by dressing as killer clowns and “killing” dummies that are made to resemble real people – even going as far as replicating the effects of blood and flesh squirting everywhere when they carry out their fake attacks.
The clowns in their videos wait covertly in places like car parks (at night, of course) and use a giant mallet-like object with a concrete block on the end as their weapon of choice – and the impact on the objects used as “heads” (usually melons) makes one hell of a mess.
It’s enough to give anybody a heart attack and the reactions of their victims in their movies convey that quite emphatically. While no actual harm has been done (and it is pretty funny in hindsight), there’s genuine fear in the people they prank and there’s absolutely no doubt that you would be terrified if it was done to you (a victim having a heart attack can’t be too far away). Check out their channel for more videos like the one above – if you dare!