The Great Creepy Clown Hysteria of 2016 started in August in Green Bay, Wisconsin with reports of a clown wandering the streets late at night – or sometimes just standing by the side of the road – holding a bouquet of black balloons. The clown, it turned out, has a name – Gags the Clown – and was part of a guerilla marketing campaign for a short horror movie. But the evil clown meme, which is actually older than this country, had taken hold again, starting in South Carolina, where police started getting reports of sinister clowns trying to lure children into the woods with promises of cash. It spread from there. (One thing that’s new this time: Google Maps. The Mercury News put together a Creepy Clown Sighting Map – check it out at the bottom of the page).
Behind those map pins: school closures, arrests, and plenty of fear. The New York Times ran a fascinating piece on the history of Creepy Clowns, noting that such hysterias and urban legends “spread in times of anxiety, when there are low levels of trust in official institutions and sources of information.”
‘Nuff said, right? Almost. Here are some vintage photos of creepy clowns to ease you into the Halloween season, along with a good essay question:
The question, “Are the clowns real?” is beside the point. The question we should be asking ourselves is, “What are we really afraid of?”
Image source: Vintage Everyday.
Map from The Mercury News.