Until the last week or so, if someone referred to “that clown” they meant a specific, foolishly acting person. Even though it sounds like some bad political joke, however, recently “those clowns” are everywhere.
Friday, Sept. 30, Piqua Daily Call headline: “Unconfirmed clown sightings…”
Wednesday, Oct. 5, Rolling Stone Magazine: “Killer Clown Scare Causes Frenzy at Penn State.”
Wednesday, Oct. 5, The Sun (UK): “Penn State Sees 6,000 Students Form Huge Vigilante Gang to Hunt for Creepy Clowns.” (6,000? Really? 6,000 moderately smart kids from a pretty good college can’t find a clown? Maybe the clowns are cloistered in the classroom where common sense is taught.)
NPR: “Sinister Clowns Are Scaring People in Multiple States.”
L.A. Times: “We Want This to Stop. Creepy Clown Pranksters Spread Fear.”
These banners conjure up more than white face paint and floppy red shoes. They also bring forth an entirely pertinent question. That question is, “Huh?”
All the articles stress it is not against the law to dress up like a clown. None of the articles can explain the phenomena of (1) why some people are dressing up like clowns and (2) why other people are chasing them/fleeing from them/being paralyzed in stark terror of them.**
My brilliant, triathlon-running, upstanding-citizen, business-owning, mechanical engineer, MBA sister has coulrophobia. This is the fancy name for fear of clowns. I thought I could put my two years of Latin to work in figuring out how this word was derived but it was invented in the 1980s (the word, not the fear) which is well past the time I sat in Latin II.
The worst — the very worst — night of her life was when she checked into a hotel in the French countryside. This little stone inn was modest, indeed; the lights were dim and the rooms were dark and dank. As she tried to fall off to sleep in her moldering bed she kept feeling some sort of disconcerting presence. At first she thought it was just the encroaching mildew keeping her company. Then she got out her travel flashlight and saw that the wallpaper border of her room featured clown faces. Lots and lots of clown faces. Everywhere she looked. All of them staring down at her. Well, “merde,” as we say in Covington.
What normally makes a clown a clown? Most have an over-sized mouth and gravity-defying orange hair. Wait! This reminds me of someone. And yes, he could be described as a clown and yes, he scares the bejeebers out of me.
I do have one more question. Isn’t “killer clown” an oxymoron?
**(P.S. neither can this one).
Marla Boone resides in Covington and writes for the Troy Daily News and Piqua Daily Call.