Saturday, March 14, 2015

CLOWNHOUSE Director's Career Highlights Worst Aspects of Evil Clowns

This post is the second part of a two part analysis of the subtle link between clowns and sexual predation in the life and work of Victor Salva.  Read part one here.  

Part 2:  

After 15 months in prison, Clownhouse writer/director Victor Salva was paroled from a 3 year sentence on 5 different charges of child sexual abuse related to his victimization of Nathan Forrest Winters... a sentence totaling about 1/3 of the period of time he'd been molesting the child actor, beginning at age 8.  

At this point, he might well have sunken into obscurity, a registered sex offender stripped of all respectability and career.  This is often the case for convicted pedophiles. 

But not so much in Hollywood, where seemingly any act short of the sin of losing money, can be forgiven.  Upon his release, Francis Ford Coppola, whose company had produced Salva's first film Clownhouse, gave him $5,000 to get by on his first year out of prison.  Coppola has continued to defend and work with Salva since then, producing a number of his films.  

"I didn't know of anything improper going on, although I witnessed some things that caused me to raise an eyebrow," he says of Clownhouse, partially filmed in his home. "Only in retrospect did things really add up. You have to remember, while this was a tragedy, that the difference in age between Victor and the boy was very small — Victor was practically a child himself."  (Salva was 29, Winters 12) 

Salva had a directing hiatus of about four years, during which time he worked as a telemarketer and wrote scripts on the weekend, then went back to filming.  In 1995, Disney released the film Powder, to lackluster reception by both critics and box office, along with protest activity launched by Winters and his family.

"He paid for his crime, he paid his debt to society," countered producer Robert Birnbaum. "What happened eight years ago has nothing to do with this movie."

"How deeply I regret my actions. I payed for my mistakes dearly," said Salva in a statement released around the film's debut, saying he wanted to move on and contribute positively to society as a film maker.

Yet it is especially difficult to forget, when his films themselves continue to exhibit these subtle reminders of his background and disturbing thought process.

In this film, curiously, the curiously pre-pubescent boy figure is also the Clown figure, in a sense, though of a different sort.  Powder, an all-white, hairless high school youth gifted with special powers, stands in for a different kind of clown role, that of the "innocent primitive," or savant Fool.  

This somewhat older, but even more childlike and innocent boy character, who just happens to lack the secondary sex characteristics of a normal high school youth of his age, also spends a goodly portion of the film shirtless, when he is not being stripped completely naked in a vicious hazing scene by other stronger youths.

In another scene that seems strange even for many who don't know the filmmaker's past history, a school teacher played by Jeff Goldblum discusses his sexual arousal and intimately strokes the pale young boy's face and bald head.  Odd enough on its own, but in light of Salva's known predilections, the adult authority figure's overtures offering friendship and seemingly orgasmic facial expressions as the boy's touch "electrifies" him... take on something distinctly macabre.

By far, Salva's largest commercial successes have been the two Jeepers Creepers films, released in 2001 and 2003.  The appearance of such questionable hints into Salva's underlying interests are more toned down in these blockbusters, but palpable traces remain.  In Jeepers, a demonic creature relentlessly stalks a boyish college youth (played by 23 year old Justin Long), in one scene even stopping to sniff his underwear.  In the end, he hauls off Long, leaving his sister behind, to playfully mutilate his naked body, a lingering sweep of which concludes the film.

Obligatory shirtless scene
A sequel, more annoying and devoid of worthwhile cinematic attributes than the first, continues to play out Salva's obsession with the torment of young boys, starting off with the opening scene, where the creature hunts and flies off with an adolescent male.  Throughout the rest of the film he proceeds with the successive slaughter of a group of high school athletes, consuming portions of their body while preserving others- all in between bizarrely long scenes of their urination, and lingering camera shots of their smooth bare chests.  

In 2006, Salva released Rosewood Lane, wherein a psychotic paperboy terrorizes a radio talk show psychiatrist played by Rose McGowan.  Since producers are not doubt reluctant to let Salva, who will spend the rest of his life as a registered sex offender, work with underage actors, he set about casting most youthful-looking prettyboy he could find as the villainous paperboy antagonist.  Then-22-year old Daniel Ross Owens proceeds to spend the film buzzing about on his BMX being creepy, despite his clearly apparent adulthood, still being gratuitously referred to throughout the film as a "boy," a "kid," and "a minor."  

And in a departure from previous films, the "boy" is no longer the protagonist, but the sociopathic evil driving the piece.  I cannot help but wonder if this marks a certain psychological change in Salva, a vengeant bitterness toward the boy victim, from whose molestation he is finding it increasingly hard to distance himself with the continued growth and ultimate inescapability of the internet- a fact that has clearly contributed to his steadily shrinking film sales and progressively smaller budgets.  

His next, even lower budget release, Dark House again returns the young male main character to the role of protagonist (albeit a thoroughly unlikable one)... but it's too hard to try to identify any clear pathology at work, because this film is such a godawful hodge-podge of mismatched nonsense that it seems the story was simply an attempt to stuff every possible type of horror movie cliche into one film without the slightest hint of irony or parody.

...Meanwhile, some horror fans have continued to wait anxiously (for some reason that completely eludes me) for the long delayed filming of Jeepers Creepers 3, which as rumors have it is creeping closer to production after more than a decade of inertia.  Until that time, if it ever arrives, we will just have to wait and see what new and disturbing torments and mutilations Salva has dreamed up for a new batch of young boy victims at the hands of his ambiguously demonic and vaguely pervy monster.

Evolution of a Latent Fear

Aside from the continuation of the film industry's long tradition of patronizing sex offenders, the saga of Victor Salva is interesting to me because it represents the convergence of a sexually predative child abuser with a keen understanding of what makes evil clowns scary to the modern American mind.

Over the years, I have long charted the curious connection between clowning and sexual taboo-breaking in multiple cultures, along with the repetition of sex crimes in the history of clowns-gone-bad in modern criminology.  
In my 2004 paper, Coulrophobia and the Trickster, I noted that a theme of wildly uninhibited sexuality, sexual deviance and intentional sex-taboo-breaking is a theme commonly shared in the clowning practices of many traditional societies, particularly among those studied in indigenous North American cultures, and also one of the defining characteristics of their thematic and spiritual parents among archetypal Trickster figures worldwide.  

In modern times, clown rapists, child molesters, and child pornographers are a recurring reality- my file of news articles collected over the years contains at least a hundred such instances over the past thirty years or so. 

Prominent exposes such as the documentary Capturing the Friedmans and coverage of the Fells Acre scandal in Massachusetts also underline this theme of a link, as do the the exploits of the two most prominent real life "killer clowns" - John Wayne Gacy and Emmett Kelly III.  

In the case of the urban legend of clowns-in-vans or "Phantom Clowns" that has reappeared in dozens of cities since the early 1980s, fears of clowns become inescapably associated with the child predator "stranger danger" concept that plagued the same generation, and persists today.  

Hence, while the connection between clowns and outlandish and even criminal sexual behavior dates back thousands of years, it has seemed to reach an apex in the modern era of coulrophobia, crystallizing into a more pronounced theme of direct victimization, particularly of children.  

It is therefore noteworthy that Salva's first film, for all its low budget and high camp flaws, is keenly perceptive with regards to the key aspects of what is found to be scary about clowns (see Part 1), when his own personal life and film-making motifs so clearly underline his lustful desire to terrorize young boys, a miniaturized, semi-sublimated version of the very drives which characterized the brutal killing spree of Pogo the Clown (aka Gacy).
His noteworthy 1980s addition to the evil clown genre of cinema, followed soon after by his highly publicized conviction, no doubt helped cement this very association in the evolving figure of the "evil clown."


Thursday, February 26, 2015

Victor Salva: Hollywood's Evil Clown Molester

With questions about Victor Salva's planned Jeepers Creepers III, stuck in development hell for the past decade, having risen to a dim but noticeable uproar among some horror fans... it seemed as though it might be a good time to revisit the sordid saga of that filmmaker's relationship with evil clowns and the aura of sexual criminality that seems to repeatedly haunt that archetype.


Clownhouse (1989) was one of the classic early Evil Clown films, released the year after Killer Klowns from Outer Space and the year prior to Stephen King's IT. To summarize briefly for those who've not seen this somewhat obscure, currently out of print piece of 80s horror:

Coulrophobic adolescent Casey (Nathan Forrest Winters) is dragged to the circus by his two older brothers, the semi-sympathetic Geoffrey (Brian McHugh) and the classic 80s dickhead older brother Randy (skillfully played by Sam Rockwell in his movie debut), where Casey is barraged with predictable clown and macabre circus imagery, then terrified and humiliated by overly aggressive clowns under the Big Top.  

After the show, some of the surly, dirty-talking circus clowns are brutally murdered by 3 violent psychotics who escape from a nearby mental hospital and end up at the circus.  Taking up their costumes and makeup, the three killers prance across town in a giddily deranged fashion, stalking the boys back to their house, where a standoff akin to a more murderous version of Home Alone ensues. 

Despite its cheesiness, for what it is, Clownhouse actually does a pretty good job of climbing inside the mindset of acute coulrophobia, successfully dramatizing the triggers to provide some decent scares throughout- ostensibly far moreso for anyone already afraid of clowns.  Judged on its own terms, it is a solid horror flick, and arguably Salva's best work.  Its contribution to the genre, and to the overall perception of clowns as objects of inherent creepiness, cannot be overlooked.
As protagonist Casey reflects, in a candid attempt to explain his phobia to one of his brothers:

"That's what I don't like about clowns.  Their faces are fake.  Big happy eyes.  Big painted smiles.  It's not real.  You never know what they really are."

Real Life Predator

Sadly, what was going on off-camera was more horrifying than anything in the movie.  

Writer/Director Victor Salva had actually met the film's star, Nathan Winters, several years prior, while working at a day care center (the filmmaker was also a writer of children's books, and a participant in the Big Brother program).  After meeting Nathan's mother Rebecca, he became "a trusted family friend," and later cast Nathan in his first short film, Something in the Basement (1986).  The following year, filming began for Clownhouse.

Given the family's years of association with Salva, at first no eyebrows were raised when he began asking the 12 year old star of the film to stay late for additional rehearsals.  It was only later, after the completion of Clownhouse, that Nathan came forward to his mother with the admission that Victor Salva had been engaging in sexual conduct with him since he was 8 years old.  

Throughout the filming of Clownhouse, the filmmaker had repeatedly forced him to perform and receive oral sex, acts which he videotaped to add to what would turn out to be a growing collection of child pornography.  After Winters came forward, a police raid on Salva's home uncovered not only videos he'd made with the young actor, but a variety of other pornographic videos and still photos of underage boys.

In retrospect, Clownhouse is not without its clues to Salva's appalling predilections.  

The full first five minutes of the film are almost completely taken up by underage boys shirtless, in their underwear and bare-assed, and within the first 30 minutes the boys are back in the bathroom in a state of undress.  In a more general way, there is something disturbing about the way the film's direction seems to gleefully relish the terror inflicted on the adolescents.  It's a subtle effect, and would most likely not stand out so much if not for the revelation of the molestation that was taking place behind the scenes.  

Salva pleaded guilty to 5 felony counts of child sexual abuse in 1988, and was sentenced to three years in jail.  He served 15 months in total, and was released on parole in 1989.

Nathan never acted again; however, it was far from the end of a Hollywood career for Victor Salva, who would return to film making a few years later with his largest budget ever.

Stay tuned for Part II, where Salva returns to playing out his pedophilic fantasies in films, this time under the patronage of Disney, along with a more in depth discussion of the recurring connection between evil clowns and sexual deviance.

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Saturday, February 21, 2015

The Full Story of Joyland's Missing "Louie" Clown

Social media was ablaze with coulrophobic sentiments this week, as an odd bit of news from Kansas quickly spread across numerous outlets: Louie, a long-missing iconic mechanical clown from an abandoned Wichita amusement park, turned up unexpectedly in the home of a convicted sex offender.

The sheer unsavory weirdness of the story, complete with absurdist press conferences photos of the clown sitting to the side of a Wichita PD detective, virtually guaranteed it would gain some fairly extensive viral reach.  

"The word creepy popped up a lot," said KSN TV's Darren Dido to the public reaction seen in the wake of Thursday's news.  "It is really just a surreal story."

While Louie was instantly recognized by Wichita natives, most people outside of Kansas had no real idea who "Louie the Clown" was, but were nonetheless caught up in the bizarre circumstances and perhaps not-so-subtle undertone of associations inherent in the story.

According to state records, Damien Mayes, the former Joyland employee in whose home police found Louie following new tips on the case in recent weeks, has been serving time in Kansas Correctional facilities since his conviction in 2011 for fondling and aggravated criminal sodomy against an eleven year old child in 2008.  He now joins the ranks of more than a hundred sex criminals in recent decades who are linked, in one way or another, to clowning.  

Now, for a bit of backstory...  Joyland opened in  1948 and took up residence at its permanent location in 1949, and operated continuously as a theme park for 55 years.  According to the son of one of the original founders of Joyland, Louie, who greeted visitors near its entrance playing the park's Wurlitzer organ, was a staple there since nearly the beginning.  
Acquired at a trade show sometime in the early 1950s, Louie's association with Joyland is an inseparable part of its history.

“Louie was very important to the park and the whole atmosphere of going to Joyland, It just provided excitement instantly as you walked into this park,” Harold Ottaway told local newscasters.

Judging from the recollections of some Joyland visitors, Louie was as much a source of fright as it was amusement to many entering its gates.  

Joyland closed in 2004, just months after a girl sustained injuries falling 30 feet from a Ferris Wheel at the park.  It was reopened briefly two seasons later, then forced to close permanently by its aging owners, who purchased the park in the 1970s after meeting and falling in love as employees there in the 1950s.  It was during this period that Louie is believed to have gone missing, though it's disappearance was not public knowledge until 2010.

An attempt a a few years ago to restore and reopen the park is an inspiring but ultimately ill-fated story.  In 2011, high school student Alex East went before the Wichita City Council to appeal for help with an ambitious $10 million plan to restore Joyland to its former glory.  Rallying other volunteers to his Joyland Restoration Project, the following year East filed to incorporate the umbrella organization Project Hope as a 501 nonprofit.

In 2012, according to its Facebook page, the Joyland Restoration Project was informed by a private collector that Louie and his organ were safely intact in his possession.  However, it was known that several replicas had been made of the antique clown, and no further information materialized, leaving the disposition of Louie still shrouded in mystery.

In its first two years, the organization managed to raise only a little over $10,500 in private donations and appears to have enjoyed no real support, aside from enthusiastic lip service, from city government or other local revitalization and preservation organizations.  Hopes of restoring the park were dealt a mortal blow in May 2014, when news broke that the owners had begun donating and selling key historic pieces from the crumbling theme park.  It's merry-go-round went to a local botanical gardens, and shortly thereafter the Historic Preservation Alliance of Wichita and Sedgwick County removed several pieces of ephemera, including an animated neon Louie the Clown sign.  The society hopes to eventually exhibit these along with other items it's purchased from Wichita history at a yet-to-be-built museum.  

A month later, Project Hope announced it was disbanding, splitting up its funds into donations to the HPAWS and Botanica, the new home of Joyland's carousel.  

The salvage of some of the most historic items from the abandoned park only fueled further curiosity on the yet unanswered question: "What happened to Louie?"

Renewed speculation may have triggered some revived interest in the case by Wichita police, as Detective Lang mentioned in Thursday's press conference he'd been assigned to the case only a month ago.  Then came the first break, in the form of an anonymous phone call.  According to KWCH News, this led the detective to a Facebook post in which a woman had commented, "the original Louie is in my brother's house." 

Google Street View of the Wichita house where Louie was found
 According to Det. Lang, charges will be filed against Mayes along with an accomplice, for the theft of the vintage clown, whose value is estimated at around $10,000.  It is being returned to Joyland's owners, though the Historic Preservation Alliance, who had made efforts to locate Louie over the years, has voiced potential interest in acquiring it.  

“This would be one of the very few marquee pieces of Joyland Amusement Park.” said director Gregory Kite.

Given the circumstances of its reemergence and the identity of its thief, however, it is likely that perceptions of Louie have been altered permanently.  After all, many found the clown pretty creepy to begin with, and that was before he gained national attention for having spent close to a decade in the basement of a child molester...

In fact, almost as soon as the news broke on Thursday, a new Twitter account for Louie was born, already gaining nearly 400 followers and serving up over 200 tweets in the past couple of days.  The tone of Twitter's @JoylandLouie is predictably and decidedly... creepy.

By the way, though, as far as I'm concerned, Louie the Clown was never the creepiest thing to be found at Joyland... this thing is:

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Fear of Clowns podcast- The Tom Gulley Show

Thanks to the Tom Gulley show for this great interview covering many aspects of the emergence of coulrophobia as a prevalent fear, the rise of evil clown themes, and how it all intersects with the history of clowns and modern clowning in the 21st century.

Listen to the 1 hour interview here.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Criminal Clowning: This Month in Coulrophobic News

An arrest finally came in the assault of a Troy, NY art gallery owner who was brutally assaulted while dressed as a clown on Halloween.  Cody Santalucia, who perhaps ironically looks a bit clownish himself in some photos circulated through media in recent weeks, is being held in Rensellaer County Jail following his arraignment for the attack on Ray Felix which left the gallerist with major head injuries.

In Florida, reports of a group of bikers wearing clown masks "terrorizing" a 55 year old woman outside an Ovieda gas station on New Year's Eve had police on the alert.  Later information clarified that only one of them was wearing a clown mask, and is still being sought by local police, after two of the motorcyclists identified cooperated with investigators and admitted to "driving erratically."

On January 3, man in a clown mask robbed a Subway restaurant at gunpoint in Hempfield, Pennsylvania, swiping the cash register before stealing $2 from a 17 year old customer who entered during the robbery to buy a soda, then took off in a white minivan.

“He had the scariest clown mask I’ve even seen,” the Subway worker told a local tv station. “I haven’t slept. I haven’t eaten. It just keeps replaying in my mind. I keep hearing his voice over and over.”

Less than a week later, police arrested  Matthew Goodwin, 36, who was found overdosed on drugs next to a broken cash register at a nearby trailer park.  The clown mask and toy gun apparently used in the heist were also found in the trailer.

This is the second robbery of a Subway by a clown masked perpetrator in less than 3 months, after a similar incident in Greenville, North Carolina in late October, and at least the 5th such robbery of a Subway I have on file from recent years.

On January 13, Toronto police collared two suspects believed to have been behind eight robberies since October 31.  Authorities allege that Daniel Crosby, 20, and Marek Adam, 19, knocked over a series of dollar stores and fast food joints while wearing scary clown masks and brandishing an axe and a replica assault rifle.

A McDonald's in Taylorsville, Utah was similarly hamburgled by two men on January 22, one wearing a clown mask, and the other a plain black face mask, though in typical fashion, most media headlines opted to focus on the flashier, iconic image of the clown mask.

What clown crime round-up is complete without a Juggalo appearance? A Forth Smith, Arkansas man was hospitalized after an intruder in an ICP mask beat him with a baseball bat about the arms and head, declaring "Consider this a warning." other clownish news, an eastern Michigan man this month rejected a plea deal on charges that he obstructed police while trespassing in a clown mask during some sort of prank, the details of which remain murky...

...and an annual UK clown convention was in full swing this week in Lowestoft, Suffolk... which coincidentally happens to be the same British town that the notorious "Northampton Clown" whored himself out to a haunted house attraction last Halloween, following his 15 minutes of internet fame traipsing about the Northants area. As with a recent clown convention this side of the pond, the Lowecraft convention saw some acknowledgement of increased awareness of coulrophobic and evil clown motifs are on the rise, signalling once again that the professional clown community has finally ceased dismissing this and begun discussing it openly as a real issue facing their occupation....

... and I just love how much one of my all-time favorite DC characters, Harley Quinn, has been really blowing up recently.  Her standalone comic book reboot, launched last January, is still selling well, 13 issues in, and attention to her character has further been boosted by trailers for the much-hyped Arkham Knight game due out in June, along with publicity around the casting of Margot Robbie to play the former psychiatrist in a first ever live action appearance in the upcoming Suicide Squad film.  Now, there is even a new "Harleen" fashion line, on sale at Hot Topic stores.

I saw some of it at a Hot Topic the other day, and it's mostly quite hideous, but that's ok... it was never her look that most endeared me to her, anyway, but her tragic, frayed psyche.
I can't help it, obsession and instability are just hot to me... they just are.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Ku Klux Klowns: A New Theory Of “Phantom Clown” Scares

A chapter in a newly released anthology of historical curiosities by Robert Damon Schneck has reopened one of the most perplexing facets of modern coulrophobia culture and dissected it in a novel and innovative light, contributing significantly to the study of some of the most bizarre and intriguing territory in modern “urban legend.”

Having corresponded here and there over the past several years with Schneck about our shared interest in the subject of reoccurring Phantom Clown scares (using here the term coined by fortean anthropologist Loren Coleman, whose 1980s research is principally responsible for bringing this phenomenon to popular attention), I was particularly excited to dig in to this portion of his new book, Mrs. Wakeman Vs. The Antichrist, And Other Strange But True Tales From American History.

 I was not disappointed.

Since Coleman, the legendary legacy of Phantom Clowns has been examined by a number of folklorists and other researchers, including Jan Brunvand, Joseph Citro, Robert Bartholomew, Peter Muise, Greg Jenkins, myself, and most recently filmmaker Josh Zeman (in his new documentary Killer Legends), and yet it has remained curiously obscure, given its relatively long tenure and widespread geographical reoccurrence (by my count, more than 30 regions on at least four continents have coped with these panics from the late 1960s to 2014 -that we know of.) While there has been some level of variation on its structure, Schneck does a good job of first recapping its basic chronology and surprisingly consistent elements, which I will summarize much more briefly and cursorily here, for sake of space:

Sudden, sensational rumors which spread rapidly across a community of a clown (or clowns), typically traveling in a van or similar vehicle, attacking, attempting to abduct, or otherwise harassing children. Generally, local police are quickly inundated with such reports, passed on by terrified parents from accounts that almost always originate with children under the age of 10. While first taken very seriously, investigations persistently fail to locate any such individuals, and eventually it is dismissed as pernicious rumor or mass hysteria.

Speaking generally, Schneck assesses the broader context of sociological factors associated with these types of rumor-panics, particularly prevalent in the 1980s through mid '90s:

Beyond fears of child abduction, the clowns-in-vans should be considered in relationship to the pedophilia, serial killing, and satanism panic that beset Americans at the end of the twentieth century.”

Having treated the already much-vetted aspects of the phenomenon with admirable conciseness, he then turns to the true meat of his exploration- a historical and psychological connecting-the-dots that ranges from mid 19th century origins of Klansmen and “Night Doctor” legends to the modern media intersection of John Wayne Gacy and the Atlanta Child Murders, ultimately arguing for a major racial component to its origins when viewed against the backdrop of a national culture deeply scarred by a history of wholesale abduction by white faces.

The history of clowns-in-vans,” Schneck contends boldly, “begins with the demand for labor created by colonizing the New World.”

Beginning this story in the antebellum south, he recounts several means by which southern whites attempted control African abductees and their descendants, both before and after the Civil War, tactics which do seem to bear a certain uncanny resemblance to attributes of the “Killer Clowns” that have occupied the headlines of numerous American cities in recent decades.

From pre-War “Patterollers,” who worked to keep slaves from wandering or gathering at night often impersonating ghosts in white sheets and masks, through the continued evolution of this tradition by the KKK, Schneck follows these kind of savage traditions to the obscure but relevant figure of the “Night Doctors,” - legendary figures based on real horrors of racist abduction and body-theft by the early medical community, who in stories took on mythic and even supernatural qualities over time.

From there, Schneck follows the trail forward to the time frame immediately preceding the appearance of clowns-in-vans, examining both the clown-tinged media sensation of the Gacy killings, and more intriguingly the Atlanta child murders. In these killings, we see a kind of convergence of the rising fear of serial killers, child abduction (“Stranger Danger”, etc) with reasonably deep seated underlying fears of kidnapping and murder of African Americans by racially motivated Caucasian villains- as at the time, the culprit for the growing number of slain black youths was widely believed to be one or more rogue racists of the Klan or similar varieties.

Additionally, it was publicly suggested that the motivation behind the killings could be one of illegal medical experimentation, in a manner that clearly hearkened back to recollections of night doctors.

If rumors about Atlanta involving Klansmen/night doctors and children were circulating through the black community nationwide,” speculates Schneck, “they could have provided the basis for the clowns.”

I won't go into full detail of the intricacies of his argument, because you really should buy the book, of which this chapter is but one of twelve fascinating subjects from the fringes of U.S. History. However, it presents a fairly convincing theory for how the convergence of events at this juncture of late 70s and early 80s could have synthesized a set of seemingly disparate subjects and lore into something that combined both age old archetypal fears and the news of the day into a new kind of terror, one that might have had particularly striking impact in black communities.

In doing so, Schneck provides a compelling possible answer to one component of the Phantom Clown mythos that has always puzzled me- namely, why it is that in so many American cities, these rumor-panics when traced back to their first emergence in said cities, seem to first crop up in predominantly African American neighborhoods.

It does not, however, address instances of virtually identical rumor-panics prior to Atlanta, which date back at least to 1969, or some of those which occurred later in isolated rural areas of other countries unlikely to have been exposed to these instances in American media. However, his emphasis on the possible underlying fear of medical experimentation as motive for the Phantom Clowns' attempted abductions is especially provocative, in light of the fact that when these scares occurred later in Latin American countries in the mid-1990s, pre-existing cultural fears of organ theft were very explicitly associated with alleged abductions by clowns-in-vans.

So while Schneck's examination does not address or explain every aspect of the Phantom Clown phenomenon -nor, I believe, does it intend to – it does present a very solid and well crafted case for the role of these earlier American boogeymen in influencing this modern folkloric re-occurrence.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Who was that masked man? Clown robbers abound...

A bandit is on a rampage in the San Diego area, where a man has robbed three convenience stores this month.  The mask, shown in surveillance footage released by local police, is a typical type of rubber "evil clown" mask popular in costume stores.

Coincidentally, these three strikes by the San Diego area clown robber have occurred even as in Sacramento, another individual was being tried for a trio of break ins in January 2012 in which a similar evil clown mask was used.

Meanwhile in Sheridan, Indiana, a group of home invaders burglarized a house around 3AM . One wore a clown mask, the other wore a devil mask, but the ultimate headline focused on the former "Robber wore clown mask in home invasion"

Police are still seeking another clown masked armed robber in Columbus,  and Merseyside, UK authorities have no new leads on a suspect who robbed a currency exchange in full clown attire.  In Winnipeg, Canada, however, the clown-masked, hostage-taking robber mentioned in our previous blog post, has turned himself in.

Use of a clown mask to shield one's identity during a robbery`is nothing new, with instances as far back as at least 1898, though there has been a very definite uptick again with the emergence of the Northampton Clown, and really since the release of The Dark Knight. Joker, of course, the ingeniously psychotic early evil clown brain child of Bob Kane and Jerry Robinson, excelled at the art of the heist. His garish greasepaint and painted gleeful grin has always seemed to strike some disabling combination of fear and dangerous underestimation into his victims.

In other news...

Elsewhere in the world of dubious fringe clowning, said Northampton Clown, that brief but significant viral sensation on which this blog has offered much analysis, has been hacked, and his Facebook has been in a downward spiral of lost fans since it began posting porn links a couple of weeks ago...

...and in Florida, where such a large percentage of clown controversy and nefarity is generated like a regional export, the city council in Fort Meyers had some heated debate over whether to allow Insane Clown Posse to perform at an upcoming horrorfest of some kind this October...