This is all Stephen King’s fault. Before his horror novel “It” became the number one selling book in the America in 1986, America loved it’s clowns. They were happy, silly, funny. And they did great balloon animals. Then King came along and messed it all up with that book. And if the book weren’t enough, Hollywood followed close behind with the movie in 1990 and immortalized “Pennywise the dancing clown,” played by Tim Curry, with his red nose and his sweet, happy face. Oh, yeah, and his razor-sharp teeth.
That was a culturally defining moment for America. And it forever changed how we feel about clowns. We’ve gotten so far removed from the happy clowns of yesteryear. Today, clowns are scary, ugly, creepy, gross, demonic even–and they’re out to terrorize our children. Who had even heard of “coulrophobia,” or fear of clowns, before 1986. But after Pennywise showed up on the scene, kids everywhere began professing a fear of clowns. So it’s probably a little bit of Tim Curry’s fault too for playing such a frightening character.
In recent months, that fear has turned to hysteria in America. Frightening clown encounters have been happening everywhere across the United States. Creepy clowns have been appearing everywhere as part of jokes, pranks, and hoaxes. But some of them have also used violence and threats of violence. There have been police reports filed over “clown encounters” that range from children being lured into the woods by clowns, a clown grabbing a woman by the throat, and clowns just generally lurking and skulking about in places where they’re not supposed to be. Two schools in Florida recently went on lockdown because of clown threats.
In fact, Target just announced their contribution to ending the creepy clown epidemic. They are selling NO clown masks for Halloween, either online or in their stores. That’s a lot of revenue to forfeit. It’s clear Target finds nothing funny about scary clowns.
And Stephen King knows he’s got some culpability here. In fact, he actually sent out a tweet recently that said, “Hey, guys, time to cool the clown hysteria–most of em are good, cheer up the kiddies, make people laugh.” Hmmm. Strange way to put it.