A 13-year-old boy rushes through his front door after walking home from school. He sees his mother and runs to her and sobs: “Mama, there’s clowns out there in the woods and they’re trying to get us to come out there.”
His younger brother trails behind him, adding: “Some had chains, some had knives, and some were holding out money, saying, ‘Come here, we’ve got candy for you,’ but [we] wouldn’t go.”
Does this sound like the plot of a sadistic horror movie? It’s not. In fact, this was exactly how the first sighting of the phenomenon of “killer clowns” was reported in August of this year. Clowns – once sources of joy and laughter – are now pinning people down. News of the “killer clown” craze has spread all over the Internet.
How did this start?
“They’ve been popping up everywhere in the U.S. ever since the initial sighting, I think, was it in North Carolina?” – Katherine Sun, SAS Junior
“Yeah, it started somewhere in Carolina and then just spread.” – Lauren Mai, SAS Junior
While some might suspect that this is a new trend, the original “killer clown” was actually American serial killer and rapist, John Wayne Gacy. Although Gacy didn’t technically dress up as a clown to kill, the name of the modern killer clown can be traced back to him because he daytimed as a balloon-twisting party entertainer.
Many horror movies and novels have, rather ironically, characterized the once fun-loving clowns to be psychotic mass murderers. Stories like Stephen King’s It, may have something to do with newfound distrust of clowns. Coulrophobia, the fear of clowns, is also an age-old phobia that many, particularly young children, face. The frequent depiction of clowns as creepy, dangerous characters only increases the fear that the clown – as a generic archetype – poses.
According to BuzzFeed, the rebirth of the killer clown started in Greenville, South Carolina on August 20 of this year, after local police authorities received an anonymous call about clowns being seen in the woods behind Fleetwood Manor Apartments. The next day, a Fleetwood resident reported to the police that her son had “seen clowns in the woods whispering and making strange noises,” that even she had “observed several clowns in the woods flashing green laser lights, [who] then ran away in the woods.”
Clowns have been popping up everywhere ever since, with reported sightings and threats in nearly 20 states within the U.S. and now overseas as well.
What does this mean for the rest of the world?
In the U.K. alone, there’ve been more than 50 killer clown reported, with most sightings originating in Durham, England. The number of these sightings increased gradually towards the end of October – most likely due to Halloween – reaching a climax of “14 incidents in less than 24 hours” over a single weekend in Thames.
Canada—particularly in the provinces of Alberta, Nova Scotia, Ontario, and Quebec—have faced a multitude of killer clown encounters. In the city of London, located in Southwestern Ontario, a clown threat was spread through social media. A photo posted on Instagram carried the caption: “We are coming to every single (high school) in London, we are kidnapping students and killing teachers, we’re not clowning around.” Although online threats have been used in some cases, they haven’t been popular.
So what does this mean for Singapore?
Though the majority of the killer clown craze has been based in the U.S. and the U.K. – it has affected Singapore too. In fact, the only known killer clown scare in Asia took place in Singapore. Joel Wong, a 19-year-old Singaporean student who runs a YouTube channel by the same name, created a (now deleted) video compilation showing him dressed up as a killer clown and then scaring people around Singapore. According to the Straits Times, Wong, clad in white with red hair with blood splattered on his clothing, hid in a park and a nearby underpass to scare unsuspecting pedestrians. Despite his intent (to make a viral video), Wong endangered civilians in the process of doing so and later admitted that his plan had “backfired.” Fortunately, no one was physically harmed in the making of his videos, and no weapons—real or fake—were used. However, what can be taken away from this incident is that what originally was supposed to be a small-scale scare tactic, could easily turn into a large-scale threat. Since this incident, Wong has apologized for his actions.
What would you do?
When asked how they would react upon encountering a killer clown, most SAS students said: “I would run.” However, some asserted that they would react differently: Junior, Sabrina Campedelli, said that she’d “Fight. I would beat ‘em up!”
Though we, in the relatively safe city of Singapore, may laugh at these outrageous stories and imagine that there is no harm to be done in a simple prank, killer clowns can be dangerous. Whether you actually come face-to-face with a killer clown, read about them in the news, or even have your own aspirations of dressing up as one, watch out; killer-clowning around is no laughing matter.