Clown sightings are happening all over the country and not just during the presidential debates (see what we did there?). Reports of clowns hanging outside of playgrounds or calling in bomb threats are being reported all over the United States, but it's far from the first time we've been afraid of clowns.
For many of us, our fear of clowns comes from pop culture. Whether you read about or watched Pennywise in Stephen King's It, or if you were all twisted up by American Horror Story, clowns are popular nightmare fodder. For most of us, the very idea that clowns could be anything but something out of a horror story seems unreasonable and irrational. Clowns, with their painted on smiles, seem naturally duplicitous - hiding behind makeup and costumes their true, and perhaps, sinister nature.
It's not just in the movies that clowns are scary though, there are many very real stories of creepy clowns you just don't want to meet. Here is just a list of fifteen and we must warn you, you likely will never look at a clown the same way again.
15 Ex-Clown Children Murderer
In 1992, two young sisters were stabbed over forty times until they died. In a bright and happy neighborhood with brother and mother nearby, the crime seemed unfathomable - especially since it took place months before they were able to link anyone to the crime. It turned out the killer was their neighbor, a man who worked part time as Uh-Oh the Clown, and who was “having a bad day.” Annoyed that the two girls were playing their music too loud, Rex Mays confronted the 7 and 10 year old and after they told him no, they attacked. With no physical evidence tying him to the scene, it was a clever detective who lured a confession out of him after befriending him.
14 Scary Clown For Hire
A little different than some of the entries on the list, this entry is more about bad parenting than evil clowns. A very creepy clown named “Wrinkles” is for hire in Naples, Florida for parents who want to scare the bejesus out of their kids - for fun or to teach them a valuable lesson (about what? We’re not sure). For a few hundred dollars you can hire Wrinkles for a prank or a party, though we have to wonder why you’d even want to do this. The man behind the mask described one mother whose misbehaving son was terrified of clowns, after he appeared to the boy, the mom uses the threat of him returning to scare him straight - reportedly telling her son, "Do you want Wrinkles to come back?" The real Wrinkles is not keen on giving his name, but he is a 65-year-old army vet. We’re wondering how business is doing now that there are scary clowns everywhere, since this particular story dates back to November 2015.
13 Clown Kidnapper
In 2011, Jose Guadalupe Jimenez was arrested on the accusation of kidnapping and r*ping a twelve year old girl. If that story wasn’t awful enough, he reportedly did it in his full clown costume and make-up. After being taken from her school, the girl was attacked in his car and brought to a motel room before she managed to escape. Jimenez, who has also been suspected of abusing other children, was only caught years after the crime took place because they only physical description the police were able to work off was that he was described as a “clown.” We’re honestly not sure if Jiminez looks creepier with or without his clown makeup but one thing’s for sure, we’re not sleeping tonight. He was eventually convicted and will be spending ten years in prison as of 2012.
12 The Northampton Clown
Back in 2013, Northampton in the UK was under siege by a creepy clown. While there was never any attacks or purported violence, it was still pretty creepy. Not only were people spotting the weird clown around town, but images of him at popular landmarks were also appearing online. Nearly immediately people started to point to the fact that the clown was dressed as Pennywise, from the Stephen King novel It, and it eventually came out that the man behind the mask was a young man named Alex Powell who was an aspiring filmmaker. He only wanted to create a bit of fun and didn’t intend any harm. While no one was hurt, it does speak towards people’s intense dislike for clowns (and stunts) that Alex received hundreds of death threats due to his little act.
11 The French Clown Gang
While the recent clown fear hysteria seems to be reaching new heights, this isn’t the first time the white makeup freaks have terrorized a nation. Back in 2014, no less than fourteen teenagers armed with pistols, knives and baseball bats were arrested. While not clowns in the sense that it was something they did as a day job, that tiny little fact would do very little to comfort you as a seventeen year old Frenchman comes running at you with a knife dressed as Bozo the Clown. Very similar to the current clown epidemic in the United States, in 2014 there were numerous reports of clowns along highways, of teenaged vigilantes going on “clown hunting” expeditions and people in clown costumes creeping on school children and playgrounds.
10 The 1981 Phantom Clown Epidemic
You may have been following the recent wave of clown sightings across the United States which began in South Carolina, but this isn’t the first time America has been gripped with clown panic. In the early 1980s police started to receive mysterious tips that clowns in broken down white vans were trying to lure children away from playgrounds and schools with candies (one early report even suggested that one of the men purported to be luring kids was only a clown from the waist up, since he was naked from the waist down). While no real evidence was found to prove the story, the whole thing was written off as a product of children’s imagination, it does seem particularly specific. Unlike more recent phantom clown epidemics too, which many believe are spread via media reporting, it seems unlikely that the same kind of traction could take place in a pre-Internet world… but really, who knows?
9 Insane Clown Posse, America’s Most Wanted?
You may or may not know about the Detroit originated Insane Clown Posse, a band whose mystifying popularity leads up to a yearly event called the "Gathering of the Juggalos" where self-proclaimed fans of the band and the label gather in a judgement free zone of clown makeup, drugs and sex. What you for sure don't know, is that due to the "gang-like" behavior of the band's fans, they were once classified as a gang by the FBI. That's right, a group of clown fans were considered on the same level as some of the country's most dangerous gangs. This is all past tense though, since band members actually went to court to dispute this label and ended up winning. While Juggalos have been involved in crimes over the years, it would be like saying that all Blue Jays fans are criminals because some of them do illegal stuff.
8 Juggalo Fan Attacks
While the Insane Clown Posse may have escaped being officially classified as a gang by the FBI, that hasn’t stopped some of their supporters over the years from behaving badly. Back in 2010, Juggalo aficionado Nathan Rabin of the AV Club (he has since moved onto freelancing and wrote a book about the election year and gathering of the Juggalos) wrote about an incident at a concert where Tila Tequila appeared on stage represented, in Rabin’s words, “the antithesis of wicked sh*t” that Juggalo crowds demand from their acts". Representing everything that Insane Clown Posse is not, so when she appeared to perform her “rap” the crowd turned on her. This wouldn’t be the first time that Juggalos would throw water bottles filled with piss at a performer, but rumors of worse (human feces) have become a part of the legend. Midway through the performance, Tila Tequila decided to go topless in the hopes it would stop the violence, but it didn't stop the angered crowd of clowned up Juggalos. While Tequila escaped unscathed with just superficial scrapes and bruises, the whole unfolding nightmare may not be what comes to mind when we think “scary clown” but it is nonetheless a horrifying experience.
7 Former Cartel Leader Killed By Clown
You’re not misreading anything, a former leader of a Mexican drug cartel, Francisco Rafael Arellano Felix, was shot and killed by a gunman dressed as a clown. Not necessarily the creeping stalker clown we’ve come to fear from Stephen King, it nonetheless points to more reason to fear clowns no matter how powerful you may be. Clowns are not to be trusted because you really never know who might be hiding under that makeup, it doesn’t matter who you are - they aren’t going to be trusted. We gotta believe that Francisco Rafael Arellano Felix, who was 63 at the time of the shooting, who had already lived and survived a lifetime of near-death experiences could have ever imagined he’d be done in by a clown wearing a fake red nose. Sometimes reality is stranger than fiction.
6 The Palm Beach Murder Clown
This story goes back all the way to 1990, when Marlene Warren answered the door to a clown holding a bouquet of flowers and two silver balloons. Before she could so much as react, she was shot and killed on the spot and the clown was on the lamb. Two suspects emerged in the case, Marlene’s husband Michael, and his coworker Sheila Keen, who many suspected was having an affair with Michael. While there is evidence that a woman matching Sheila’s description was seen buying a clown costume before the murder, there was never enough evidence to make any kind of case against the pair stick. It does seem likely that either Warren or Sheila is behind the clown story, but with no official conviction, the case of the killer clown remains unsolved.
5 Missionary Clown
Klutzo the Clown from Illinois, was a beloved figure in his community. A Christian Clown who would work at home in Springfield, Illinois, would also go on trips to less fortunate countries like the Philippines, where he would entertain children at the “House of Joy” Orphanage. Of course, Klutzo wasn’t this kind hearted Christian that people thought he was… Under the clown makeup and oversized shoes was Amon Paul Carlock, who was arrested on child p*rnography charges, as he would travel regularly to the Philippines to create elicit photographs and have intercourse with underaged boys. The real Carlock had also worked as a youth pastor and a police officer, more than a little disconcerting.
4 Sondance The Clown
When Thomas Harold Morgan (aka Sondance the Clown) was arrested in 2012 on suspicion of distributing, possessing and viewing child p*rnography, police officers found weeks worth of the material in his home. Morgan, who not only worked as a clown at children’s parties, also claimed to be a childcare professional giving him a professional edge on his competitors. Unlike some of the clowning incidents on this list, there are a number of photos of Morgan in full clown makeup that will only help fuel your nightmares for years. With stringy orange hair and round glasses, many of his images feature him lounging awkwardly on his side - like some ancient courtesan from the impressionist art period. We’re not sure why, but the fact that he had written on his website at the time that he had spent twenty years “perfecting my craft,” creeps us out the most.
3 Mysterious Clown Sightings In 2016
Over the past thirty years, there have been different waves of clown sightings all over the world. We've touched on some of them in previous entries, though right now we're living during a particularly awful one. What started as a smattering of reports in the Carolinas has quickly turned into a full blown epidemic. With clown sightings all over the country, to false clown related bomb threats, and already at least one clown related death, things are getting out of hand. Experts claim there is no evidence that points to any real organized clown organization, that these kinds of episodes of mass hysteria are perpetuated by the media, in particular during periods of social and political tension. While this time around things are a whole lot worse, there was a similar string of clown sightings in 2008 around the same time as the previous American election. While this is written off as merely a "hoax," the truth is, we don't care if someone is "faking or not." Someone trying to scare us while dressed as a clown is still very scary.
2 Swedish Clown Stabbing
While this might be just an extension of the American phantom clown epidemic currently going down, a very real stabbing took place recently in Sweden with a clown right in the middle of the whole thing. While most stores in the surrounding countries have actually stopped selling clown costumes due to reports of teenagers scaring younger children, that didn’t stop violence to break out in the country’s capital city, Stockholm. Unlike the simple act of scaring schoolchildren, which one officer described as “not a crime as such but very, very unpleasant,” stabbing is a whole other story. A 19-year-old was stabbed in the shoulder in Sweden by a man who was apparently wearing a yellow jacket and a clown mask. While this is likely someone who is wearing a costume because it’s the “craze” that does little to alleviate our fear of clowns, it actually kinda makes it a whole lot worse.
1 The Infamous John Wayne Gacy
John Wayne Gacy is among the most infamous serial killers of the twentieth century. With at least thirty-three murders under his belt, he had a day job as a children’s entertainer known as Pogo the Clown. We wish we were making this up because in many ways, the crimes committed by Gacy are too nightmarish to fathom, let alone write down. Not only was he a serial murderer, but he sexually abused most of the young boys before killing them as well. Using his clown persona as a way to lure the trust of parents and children alike, it's not even quite clear how many victims he may have had because before his death he said there were many bodies and victims still left to find. Most of his victims he hid on his property, the vast majority of which were eventually found in the crawlspace of his home. He was executed in 1994 by lethal injection.