Saturday, January 25, 2014

One Friday the 13th A Clown Appeared on the Streets of England. What Has Followed Will Seem Like a Long Cough Syrup Induced Nightmare

Everything You Need To Know About the Evil Clown Apocalypse
By Joe Durwin

You see, as kids get angrier, the clowns they produce will become more wicked.. Yes, eventually all clowns will be evil zombie clowns. The disintegration of society will eventually bring clown terror to the entire world...”
-The Northampton Clown, in 21 Insights to the Psychotic Happy Life of the Northampton Clown

And thus our celebrity antagonist predicts the coming “Zombie Clown Apocalypse,” in his new book out last month, an impending era of “evil zombie clowns lurking on every street corner in the world.”

And sitting at my desk on a cold Saturday morning, browser tabs open to the kind of increasingly bizarre types of news stories coming in the last four months here at the Coulrophobia Desk of the Institute of Weirdness, the psychotic happy analysis of TNC, the new self-proclaimed future “king of the evil zombie clowns” starts to sound like the sanest analysis I've heard...not only of the broiling postmodern pop culture phenomenon in front of me, but just maybe something much bigger, and more germane to this psychotic/happy era we now occupy circa 2014 A.D.

Yesterday, Santa Fe, New Mexico elementary school was locked down when reports came in to the principal  of a 23 year old man's plans to invade the school dressed as a clown to take pictures of the kids' scared reactions. 

Now, there was a time when rumors going around elementary schools about clowns bothering children were more playground legend than real danger (see: Phantom Clown Scares), but clown harassers have stepped out of the sewers of folklore ostenstion and taken to the streets of real madmen and tricksters.

News also broke yesterday of a newly released document from London police that shows 117 reports that relate to clowns in one form or another in the last year, most in the wake of TNC's appearance in September, including about a dozen burglaries and assaults in which someone dressed as a clown was either a perpetrator or victim.  Less populous areas have seen more police reports of specific copycat clown terror...29 in Derbyshire, where in Ripley a clown chased two teenage girls ; In Cambridgshire several sightings of a TNC copycat had some residents calling police every time they saw anyone wearing or possessing a clown suit.

BLUEBOTTLE, himself (sometimes also known as Tony Eldridge, secretary of Clowns International, which represents costumed entertainers throughout the UK), has recently spoken out against the madness there, denouncing these TNC copycat antics as doing real harm to society.

Already long come and gone are the spin offs of Fall 2013, Boris the ClownCatcher, theMansfieldClown
the DoncasterClown, the Fenton Clown or 'Silent Man' , the Carrickfergus Clown and the Carrick ClownCatchers.

But In the U.S. and elsewhere, strange new threads in the history of the Clown are also being written.  In addition to the incident in New Mexico yesterday, recent clown-masked robberies in Montana and New Jersey  and a bomb threat from a travelling circus clown at an Australian bank  have all helped to fuel the coulrophobic crime coverage that has been surging since October.

Elkhart Killer in Juggalo attire
Insane Clown Posse announced this month that it will sue the FBI for its controversial designation of Juggalos as gang members just a week before widely reported “revelations” from Facebook that Elkhart, Indiana spree shooter Shawn Walter Blair was a Juggalo ICP enthusiast.  Elsewhere, Tuffy the Clown, the longtime rodeo clown who sparked nationwide controversy with an Obama-mask wearing routine, was first condemned, then lauded, and eventually nominated “Person of the Year”... in Sedalia, Missouri, anyway. 

Even in Florida, a longtime club hub of circus, carnivalesque and clownish characters, a clown convention in Largo is being quietly edged out bylocal government. 

The Contextual Clown

The madman is not always regarded as an object of commiseration.  On the contrary, there is a widespread notion which is not quite extinct that the lunatic is an awe-inspiring figure whose reason has ceased to function normally because he has become the mouthpiece of a spirit, or powers external to himself, and so he has access to hidden knowledge.”  - Enid Welsford, The Fool:His Social and Literary History (1935)

The clown is the public face of the Trickster in western civilization, and it's persona has changed with the arc of our culture's history. From shamans of the pre-Christian era to medieval jester to renaissance revolutionary to artist-rebel against the post-Enlightenment rationalization of the world,  glittering performers of the fin de siecle through the catastrophic roaring 20s, only to be replaced by the ragged Weary Willie bums of the Great Depression. After that, society kept adding water to the Fool until they'd been all but relegated to the goofy confines of children's parties and corporate family picnics.

However, long before they began to be brought into the fold, to be controlled, before they became the playthings of Kings and were given the first day of April on which to celebrate their topsy-turvy world of inverted polarities... before that time these figures were known to be dangerous, to be uncontrolled, licentious, blashphemous and terrifying to all the we hold to be norms. All of that was just pushed down, hiding, waiting out the TV Land, Cold War white-washing of western culture, and in the gritty beginnings of the next age the darker beastial side of the archetype began to loose itself once more.... and Spielberg noticed, and King noticed and Simpsons ran with the ball, and back before any of them Gacy sensed it and so did hundreds of parents clogging the police lines in Boston, Providence, Pittsburgh, Kansas City, and a few other cities in the Spring of 1981. (See again: Phantom Clowns)

And maybe Bob Kane and Jerry Robinson figured it out before any of us, and nearly 7 decades later the psychopathic clown they unleashed on Gotham, who was originally never supposed to survive his first issue, reached its peak incarnation thus far with the posthumous debut of Heath Ledger's 2008 performance. 

And when an angry, deranged student walked into an Aurora Colordado theatre a year and a half ago and slaughtered 12 people, claiming that character as his inspiration, even the mainstream media began to nervously take stock of the misshapen memetic beast that was emerging...  and are now struggling to wryly chronicle individual instances without stepping too far back to talk about the growing patterns, to launch an inquiry devoid of questions and somehow find a way to cover this thing without revealing their own obvious, bloody thumbprint smeared across the whole crime scene in thirty years of lurid headlines.
Associated Press, June 11, 1981

Enter The Northampton Clown... in the form of film student/viral trickster figure Alex Powell, on Sep. 13, 2013.

For make no mistake, Powell is The Northampton Clown: speculated, exposed, confirmed- and at times I find it reassuring to remind myself of this, that this is merely a horror-book ripoff, fictional character impersonation, and not some semi-occult schizoid thought projection of cultural archetype intruding into the halls of psyche on the verge of bodily possession... not like whatever weirdness consumed three generations of the Kelly family in the guise of America's favorite clown... this was clear and obvious parody.

It is, isn't it?

Or, as The Northampton Clown explains in his book, clowns are born from children blowing bubbles, while just in the right magical state of mind. Cheerful, lighthearted wishes become fun, playful clowns.  The nihilistic thoughts of angry, disturbed children bring to life Evil Zombie Clowns 

And while the Phantom Clowns that a generation ago were still amorphous, hysterical manifestations of urban legend that could not be pinned down, these symbolic Evil Zombie Clowns are now are popping up on street corners like some kind of twisted, year round Santa Clauses... and the question for many has been, when will it end?

Ten years after I published my first paper on coulrophobia & evil clowns in the Journal of Trickster Studies, I now believe the reality is that it never will, that you can only have so many confluences of legend, pop culture and performance before an icon reaches some critical mass, and like of vampires, and werewolves and zombies before them, the clown-as-monster is now here to stay.

On many levels this prophesied arrival of the Evil Zombie Clown Apocalypse should come as no surprise, for we are already knee deep in the age of Loki and Coyote, the era of the Trickster. 2013 was truly the Year of the Clown, the year Kanye was dubbed our most interesting person, the “year we broke the internet” (according to Esquire ) from the collective weight of our bullshit. This was the year we took in more fake news than we did “real” news, the year scientists announced that we are more likely to believe false information presented first even when immediate corrected with neutral factual information. 

We cannot now feign too much shock as scary painted hobos crop up increasingly along the piled up breakdown lanes of the Misinformation Superhighway.

Every day has become April Fool's Day As this culture enters into its most overloaded, post-post-postmodern cycle, the lines of the ironic and moronic so hopelessly blurred that we can scarcely delineate. Perhaps history had no other answer to this riddle than to Send in the Clowns.

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