A clown was recently sighted in a Chicago cemetery late at night, raising questions and alarm among many locals. A couple saw and recorded the brief encounter with the colourful creep.
The clown apparently stood in front of the cemetery waiting to be illuminated by the headlights of a passing car. Once he (or, possibly, she) was seen, the clown paused, waved slowly for maximum creepy effect, likely inspired by the famous scary film clown Pennywise of Stephen King’s novel and TV miniseries “It”, then scaled the gate and ran away. Officials investigated and found no vandalism in the cemetery, just a clown waiting for an audience.
This is only the most recent in a series of creepy clown encounters. Though scary clowns have always been with us, the phenomenon of people dressing up as clowns to scare people, usually at night, is fairly recent.
The first to achieve international notoriety was the so-called “Northampton Clown,” a masked fiend who prowled the streets of Northampton, England, in October 2013. He did not harass, attack, or threaten anyone, he just appeared long enough to frighten people and get his photo taken. He soon had his own Facebook page where people who glimpsed him were encouraged to post their sightings and photos. He was later revealed to be a local prankster and amateur filmmaker.
Around the same time a cluster of reports swept across France. According to a paper presented at the 2015 International Society for Contemporary Legend Research by Belgian folklorist Aurore Van De Winkel, the European clown panic “began in France on Oct. 10 with a disguised teenager chasing his terrified neighbour with a plastic knife in downtown Périgueux (in central France), simply as a practical joke.”
While the first reports and pranks were inspired by news media reports from the United States and online pranks and videos, malicious people began to use the clown scare rumours as a cover to commit crimes. Van De Winkel noted that there were several reported clown attacks throughout October and November, including an incident on “Nov. 5 when a 90-year-old woman was attacked by two hostile clowns in Paris while she was withdrawing money from an ATM. They stole 300 euros from her account.”