Creepy Clowns That Refused To Stay in Our Nightmares
How did it take society so long to come to the conclusion that clowns are unsettling? Creepy clowns have been haunting the human race with ghastly buffoonery since ancient times but it seems that it’s only in the modern age that society has admitted that these otherworldly incognito jesters are often more frightening than funny. Perhaps it’s our inability to read what lurks beneath their greasepaint grins or a lack of predictability in their shuddersome shenanigans but a large segment of American society finds clowns to be unnerving. An estimated 12% of Americans suffer from coulrophobia; a fear of clowns.
Evil clowns have made the shadows more colorful in modern times with horror icons like Pennywise from Stephen King’s bestselling novel It or arguably the most popular comic supervillain of all time, the Joker. Even early prototypes of fast food mascot Ronald McDonald manage to instill a nostalgic fear made clearer in hindsight. But perhaps the tipping point came in the ‘70s when serial killer John Wayne Gacy paved the way for a parade of killer clowns directly into our nightmares. His brutal rape and murder of at least 33 teenage boys compounded by a penchant for dressing up as a leering doughy clown dubbed “Pogo” embedded the threat of creepy clowns as grotesque villains in our social mythology. But Pogo was not the first nor the last clown to rob us of sleep…
Klutzo the Pedophile Preacher Clown
While your average klutzy clown is prone to falling face first into a well-positioned pie, Klutzo the Clown was prone to falling face first into children’s laps. Of the documented creepy clowns that have been arrested, Klutzo is easily the most perverse, though he desperately tried to hide it behind a badge and a history of religion. Yes, before becoming the Christian clown, Klutzo was both a minister and an officer of the law.
The man behind the make-up, Amon Paul Carlock, was apprehended upon returning from a missionary-style clown crusade to the Philippines. While sending a clown to do missionary work is disturbing in its own right, Klutzo had other plans in mind when planning his trip to the neediest orphanages of the Philippines. A four-month investigation dredged up the soulless muck that Klutzo left in his wake, namely a camera and laptop storing copious amounts of kiddie porn. Interviews with the orphans produced three sworn accounts of Klutzo sneaking into the children’s rooms in the dark of night to commit his molestations.
When police raided Carlock’s Illinois home in 2007, the man behind Klutzo was found in possession of an additional 21 movies of child pornography. In a pathetic attempt at an explanation, he claimed the porn had been collected as a means to sway his church to donate to the orphanages, hoping photos of nude children would hit home the point that the orphans were too impoverished to afford clothing. The only edited photo found in Carlock’s possession had simply been enlarged.
The pitiful pedophile clown was taken into custody while the media cast a sickening new light on his past as a youth counselor and volunteer member of the Big Brother organization. Carlock lasted a little over a month in custody before his suspicious death (either through ill health or taser). Sangamon County attorney’s issued the sorry-not-sorry statement “Defendants do not concede mistakes were made, but if mistakes were made in the application of force, the mistakes were reasonable given Carlock’s conduct.”
The Spectral Clowning of Frederick Zozzaby
Rapey clowns definitely take things to a nauseating low so the story of Zozzaby is almost uplifting by comparison. Almost. You see, while creepy clowns come in all shapes and sizes, most of them are at least solid. Zozzaby on the other hand has the one-two terror punch of not only being a clown but a ghost as well.
Basing his look on the classic French pierrot, Czechoslovakian performer Frederick Zozzaby added a personal touch to his visage, embellishing his already ample schnoz with putty. The jutting red beak earned him the name “Zozzaby” inspired by the Czech word “zozbe” which roughly translates to “big nose.” Zozzaby’s true last name remains unknown.
The pointed pierrot brought his act to the Floral Pavilion outside of Liverpool in the early 1900s but audiences weren’t welcoming creepy clowns with open arms. Soon, Zozzaby had slipped into a deep depression resulting in some erratic (and at times psychotic) behavior. Zozzaby hit the zenith of this lunacy when he was caught plotting to douse his audience with a bucket of gasoline before burning them alive. Luckily for patrons of the Floral Pavilion, the unhinged clown was apprehended and institutionalized in the Lancashire asylum. Matters didn’t improve for the snout-stretched entertainer upon his release and in 1929 he committed suicide in his home.
While the death of a clown is typically the end of the story, it seems it was simply an intermission for Zozzaby. To this day, his motley apparition is said to prowl the aisles of the Floral Pavilion, immediately recognizable by a sharp red nose. However, unlike most hauntings, Zozzaby’s appearances aren’t exclusively tied to the Floral Pavilion. He’s said to haunt the house where he took his own life as well as the surrounding houses. Accounts dating back to the 1950s describe clownish laughter stirring children from their sleep in the dead of night. Upon waking, they were confronted by the translucent beckoning image of a clown with black pits for eyes and a distinctive crooked protruding red nose. Concerned parents rushing to the aid of their children recalled a revolting sweet odor hanging in the air. Some sources later identified this smell as that of formaldehyde.
Creepy Clowns Terrorizing the Streets of Modern France
A recent trend of clowns stalking children in the UK seems to be piggybacking on an eerie trend that originally gripped France. In late 2014, France was hit with the skin-crawling epidemic of clown gangs; literal motley crews committing petty crimes and generally freaking out the locals. While this bizarre trend found its roots in Northern France, marauding bands of creepy clowns had popped up in cities all over the country by October 2014. What may have started its crawl as an innocent prank built up momentum into a full-fledged threat with maniacal bands of clowns brandishing daggers, axes, bludgeons and, in some cases, guns. Some clowns were even reported to be armed with chainsaws.
Scare tactics devolved into real danger when a student was accidentally wounded by an axe-wielding joker in Besançon while a trio of bandits with a clown as their leader used an iron bar to mug a man in Montpellier. Unsatisfied by a casually dismissive police response to the roving gangs of creepy clowns, teenagers began to use social media to form vigilante groups to combat the clowns in the streets. In this case, facing fears had its drawbacks as the anti-clown militia found itself running equally afoul of the law. Yet, even with the resistance immobilized, the mob of evil clowns subsided and France learned its lesson for encouraging mimes.
Just as cautionary tales throughout time have taught us, what we resist will persist so we can expect creepy clowns to giggle at us from the shadows of our collective subconscious as long as we continue to feed into the fear. The disassociating freedom offered by a painted smile and the dark desires obscured by a rainbow wig are the perfect storm for a candy-colored nightmare. Who can truly tell us what’s beneath the greasepaint?