It is widely accepted that clowns are scary. Far more people suffer from coulrophobia than we can imagine. Which is not surprising since the dark side of clowns goes back to ancient times. In modern times horrifying clown movies and stories, both fictional and real, have only manifested such a fear.
Below you will find some of the stories that certainly have contributed to the widespread fear of clowns.
Clowns always had a dark side
The belief that clowns are harmless is only recent. Clowns have always been characters who reflected a funhouse mirror back on society and often in the most unsettling ways.
From the time of the Egyptian pharaohs to Ancient Rome, through the medieval ages to the 18th and 19th century, they were the only ones who could get away with ludicrous antics. Or as French literary critic Edmond de Goncourt put it in a writing in 1876, “The clown’s art is rather terrifying and full of anxiety and apprehension. Their suicidal feats, monstrous gesticulations, and frenzied mimicry reminding one of the courtyard of a lunatic asylum.”
Clowns have been unsettling and also a great source for drama
In the 1892 Italian Opera Pagliacci, which translates to clowns, the main actor murders his cheating wife on stage. In one of the arias, the clown sings that his job is to make the audience laugh, even if he is crying inside. Then later on, “if my face is white, it is for shame”.
In the 1887 play La Femme de Tabarin, a clown also murders his cheating wife on stage. As she is dying, she smears her husband’s lips with her blood.
In France, Jean-Gaspard Deburau’s pantomime character, Pierrot, was so well known that people even recognized Deburau on the streets without his make-up. But then in 1836 he beat a boy to death with his walking stick just for shouting names at him.
All three of the famous clowns were men with troubled and dark sides hidden under their masks. Which makes it rather difficult to look at a clown and not wonder what kind of darkness is hidden under all that make-up.
Real-life Killer Clown Stories
The murder of Marlene Warren
On May 26, 1990, Marlene Warren opens the front door of her Florida home. She is surprised to see a clown with white face paint, a red nose and an orange wig standing on her doorstep. The clown holds flowers and balloons in one hand. One of the balloon’s text reads, “you’re the greatest”. Without saying a word, the clown offers Marlene the flowers and balloons. Then suddenly raises a gun in the other hand, fires one bullet into Marlene’s mouth and kills her on the spot. Marlene’s son arrives just in time to witness the brown-eyed clown drive off in a white Chrysler LeBaron.
Four days after the murder police finds the white Chrysler LeBaron. They call it in and find out that it had been reported stolen from a car rental parking lot. Turns out that person running the car rental agency is no other than Marlene’s husband, Michael Warren. When police searches the car they find a brown paper bag from Publix and some orange fibers stashed away in the trunk.
During the investigation, detectives from the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office that Michael Warren’s business associate Sheila Keen, who runs a car repossession company, is regularly seen at her apartment. Seen so many times, that neighbors believed the couple to be husband and wife. Both deny any romantic involvement, but do admit that they travel together on business trips. Although, Sheila too is married, her and her husband are living separated.
The detectives find two employees of a costume shop who identify Sheila Keen from a photograph. They say that she had purchased a costume that fit the one of the terrifying clown’s description. They also added that Sheila had requested extra face whitener to ensure “facial coverage”. In addition, a woman fitting Sheila’s description has been seen purchasing balloons and flowers at a nearby Publix supermarket.
However, all efforts to link Michael Warren and Sheila Keen to the murder are fruitless. The detectives are serving a search warrant for Sheila’s apartment, but come up empty handed. Michael Warren is able to provide police with an alibi for the time of the murder. The orange fibers from the trunk of the car cannot be linked to anything. To make matters worse, the detectives are unable to find any other evidence or more witnesses.
Eventually the prosecutors are able to build a case against Michael Warren. They find that Warren is rolling back odometers at his car rental agency on a regular basis. This way he obtains warranty repairs for free, and can sell used cars for more than they are actually worth.
In August of 1992, a jury finds him guilty of racketeering, 21 counts of odometer fraud, 11 counts of grand theft, and 10 counts of petty theft. Warren faces up to 237 years in prison. The judge, however, furiously accuses prosecutors of “selective prosecution,”. He bases it on their inability to build a case for the murder by the terrifying clown. He sentences Warren to only 20 years of probation. In 1994, during an appeal, the original sentence is replaced with a nine year prison sentence. Warren spends only 3 years in prison and is released in 1997.
To this day, the clown who killed Marlene Warren in cold blood, is yet to be charged and prosecuted.
Public records show Sheila Keen divorcing her husband, Richard, in 2000. In 2002 Sheila and Michael quietly marry each other in Las Vegas.
Terrifying clown Klutzo performs as a “Christian Clown”
Klutzo the clown bills himself as “available for vacation Bible schools, children’s crusades, Sunday school, children’s church, church parties… and more of which can be used to present the gospel of Jesus Christ to your children.”
The dark and sinister soul hiding behind the mask of a clown is A. Paul Carlock Jr. He is a former police officer of Springfield, Illinois, serving four of his years there in the Youth Division. Carlock says that prior to this job he had been employed by the state of Illinois at DuPage Boys School in Naperville.
His work history also includes a four-year job working for the Illinois Department of Public Health’s Child Health Division. Later, he serves as the Grandview Police Department’s certified juvenile officer, and enjoys employment in at least two daycare facilities.
More than 30 years, almost always, see Carlock working or volunteering with children.
Carlock calls himself a christian conservative. Being a former minister of the Church of the Nazarene, he and his wife are with the Missionary Church International, where they work as Klutzo and Smilee, “available for vacation Bible schools, children’s crusades, Sunday school, children’s church, church parties…and more.”
On a trip to the Philippines, Amon Paul Carlock visits the House of Joy orphanage in San Isidro as Klutzo, the Christian Clown. This is not his first visit there. Just like with the other orphanages in other countries, like the one in Mexico he had been last in 2002, he visits them on a regular basis. But what the children get to experience is not joy and laughter. Klutzo the Christian Clown has a dark side… the terrifying clown.
He returns to San Francisco Airport on the 12th of June, 2007. Since he arrives from a country known for its sexual exploitation of children, and because he had gone to places in that country where he had access to young children, custom agents are searching his bags. They are especially looking through his electronic devices, where they make the discovery a number of digital photographs of naked boys on Carlock’s computer.
Some of the boys are playing, some are in the shower. Other pictures show boys who are just sitting there without their pants on. Some of the boys know they are being photographed, and others look like they don’t know what is going on.
Carlock tries to explain that the photos just show, in the most natural way, how the children live. He says the photos are to show Americans that some children in other countries are too poor to afford clothes. Carlock goes on to explain that he intention is to edit the photos. Thus making them more appropriate to share with others in his ministry.
One of the programs on his computer is called Evidence Eliminator. When asked about it, he says that a friend suggested it to him. That he really only uses it to get rid of old files.
What he can’t explain away is the fact that he only ever uses the program to digitally enlarge sections of the photos that contain the boy’s genitals.
Investigators go to the House of Joy Orphanage to ask the boys about Carlock’s visit. Specifically if he does anything inappropriate during his visits. Three of the boys confess to wake up in the nights to Carlock playing with their genitals.
With enough to get a warrant, detectives search Carlock’s home on September 28th, 2007. There they find six DVD’s with more than 21 movies of child pornography.
Carlock’s wife mentions that her husband is volunteering in the Big Brother program, which prompts the detectives to interview the 6-year old boy who is meeting with Carock for 2 months at that time. The boy tells them about two DVD’s that Carlock had given to him. On one of the discs are pictures of the boy fishing with Carlock. The other one contains photos of naked Philipino children. Both DVD’s are confiscated by the detectives.
On October 9th Carlock is being arrested and charged with child pornography and traveling to engage in sexual conduct with a minor.
While he is in jail waiting for his trial, one of the guards tasers him to death inside his jail cell.
Cartel leader killed by a mysterious terrifying clown
On October 18th, 2013 Francisco Rafael Arellano Félix, a Mexican drug lord and former leader of the Tijuana Cartel, is celebrating his 64th birthday in Los Cabos, Baja California Sur. Including his wife, children and friends there are about 80 to 100 attendees at the party in Ocean House, a beachfront banquet hall owned by Hotel Marbella. Among the guests are prominent businessmen, politicians, celebrities, and sport figures like former Mexican footballer Jared Borgetti and boxing champion Omar Chávez. The party is also host for a number of musical groups.
At around 8pm a black SUV enters the private property and parks near the entrance of the ball room. Inside are three men. Two are in the front seat and a third one, a clown, in the back seat of the vehicle. The clown exits the vehicle and heads toward the kitchen door.
As he enters the ballroom through the kitchen he sees Francisco at the center of the room. The clown begins walking towards Francisco and when he is about 1 m (3.3 ft) away from him he pulls out a pistol and shoots Francisco in the head. As Francisco falls to the ground, the clown proceeds to shoot several more bullets into his chest and head. Francisco dies at the scene while the terrifying clown runs through a rear exit.
All around attendees yell, fall to the ground and hide under tables. Once outside, the clown fires four more shots to scare off one of Francisco’s sons who is chasing him. The clown jumps into the black SUV and manages to get away.
Anonymous tip leads to arrest
Authorities receive an anonymous tip and about twenty-four hours after the murder, the Mexican federal police arrests Manuel Aguirre Galindo alias “El Caballo” – “The Horse”. He is a founder of the Tijuana Cartel and a high-ranking leader, who also launders money and has been a fugitive for more than 20 years, in Mexico City.
The motives behind the murder case are officially unknown. Mexican authorities believe that it was organized crime, and that the motives possibly stem from “unpaid old debts, and old retributions”.
A witness to the murder was at the murder uploads a 1:04 minute video on YouTube on November 7th, 2013. It shows the scene before Francisco Rafael was killed.
The video starts with the former vocalist of Banda El Recodo singing “El Señor de las Canas”alongside a mariachi group.
As it continues, the camera moves to the side and shows former footballer Jared Borgetti sitting at a table with Rocío del Carmen Lizárraga, the wife of Francisco Rafael.
Toward the last seconds of the video, a bald-looking man passes through the back of the tables in front of the camera and gives a hand signal to someone before walking away. Then, a clown passes by the camera and heads towards Francisco.
Seconds later, one shot is heard. Most of the guests are not aware right away of what is happening and the music continues. Soon after, four more shots are heard. The music stops and people start screaming. The video stops a few seconds later.
Pogo, the infamous clown
John Wayne Gacy, an established community leader, is one of America’s most notorious serial killers. He is named the Springfield, Illinois, “Man of the Year” in 1964 by a local group. And what a man he turns out the be; the dark and sinister kind of man.
In 1967 Gacy commits his first known sexual assault. He lures a 15-year old boy into his house, supplies him with alcohol and forces him into oral sex. He goes on to sexually abuse several more teenage boys over the next months. A number of those teenagers believe Gacy’s lies that he is commissioned with carrying out homosexual experiments in the interests of “scientific research”. He pays up to $50 to each of the boys for their “participation in the study”.
Then in 1968 the father of the 15-year old finds out about the assaults and Gacy faces his first arrest on sodomy charges. Gacy is sentenced to 10 years, but after 2 years of showing good behaviour the parole board grants him early release with a 12 month probation.
After his release he starts a contracting business in Des Plaines, Illinois. At this time he creates Pogo, the clown and becomes a popular figure at birthday parties and the children’s hospital.
The clown evolves to include torture and murder
Gacy picks up a 16-year old boy from Chicago’s Greyhound bus terminal. He takes the boy home with him to spend the night. According to Gacy, he wakes up in the morning and finds the boy standing over him with a knife. As Gacy jumps up the boy then raises his arms, like he is surrendering. By doing so he tilts the knife upwards and accidently cuts Gacy’s arm. This sends Gacy into a rage. He wrestles the knife away from the boy and proceeds beating and kicking him. Then he repeatedly starts to stab him in his chest.
Gacy then goes into the kitchen and sees an open carton of eggs and unsliced bacon on the table. The boy had gone into Gacy’s room to wake him up, while absentmindedly carrying the kitchen knife in his hand. Gacy buries the teenager in his crawl space and later covers the grave with concrete.
During an interview, Gacy says about his first murder that he had felt “totally drained” after. But that he had also experienced a mind-numbing orgasm as he killed the boy. He adds: “That’s when I realized that death was the ultimate thrill.”
John Wayne Gacy goes on to murder at least 33 boys from 1976 to 1978. He calls it the “cruising” years, during which he lures the boys and handcuffs them to torture, rape, and then strangle them to death.
In 1978 justice is catching up with him. On the morning of May 9, 1994 John Wayne Gacy, aka Pogo the clown, aka terrifying clown, receives a lethal injection inside the execution chamber of Stateville Correctional Center in Crest Hill.
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The Ghost of a clown
Frederick Zozzaby decides to move from his home in Czechoslovakia to New Brighton, England. He patterns himself as the French Pierrot, mixing pantomime with facets of Commedia dell’Arte. Although Zozzaby adds his own trademark. It is an overlarge, pointed nose, often red in color. In Czech, a derivation of “big nose” is “zosbe”, so he takes on the name Zozzaby, the clown.
New Brighton has seven theaters at his time, including the Floral Pavilio. When Zozzaby arrives there in 1920, his depression and addiction to alcohol and drugs already show their bad influence on his performances. His routines are way too old and lack originality.
Zozzaby’s depression is getting worse, and one day he plots to hurl a bucket of gasoline over his audience and set them into flames. Luckily, the theater director finds out about the plan and calls the police. Zozzaby ends up in the Lancashire asylum where he kills himself in 1929.
The haunting of a terrifying clown
Ever since his death, Zozzaby haunts people with his appearances. Workers in the Floral Pavilio as well as people in the audiences claim to see him with his big, pointed, red nose. He either lingers around backstage or wanders the aisles during a show.
But he is not content with only staying at the theater. When he see a sleeping child, he will start laughing out loud. When the child awakes from the strange sound it will see a terrifying clown standing over the bed and staring down at it with his big nose. Some children even claim that he has blackened, eyeless sockets. Parents who come to comfort the screaming child describe to find a sickly sweet smell in the room.
On other occasions he will appear and start swaying back and fourth, pointing the finger at the people who see him. Then he just laughs and laughs.
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