a The history of clowns
b Examples of modern horror clowns
c Thesis statement
II Comparing early clowns to horror clowns
a Skills and character traits of early clowns that can be seen in today’s horror clowns b Negative incidents of clowns in history
i The “parasite”
ii Medieval fool
iv The Arlecchino
III Modern occurences of horror clowns in movies and real life a Determining the point at which the horror clown became mainstream i John Wayne Gacy
ii It & Poltergeist
iii What does this tell us about society
a First hand experiences that help understanding the phobia
iii Psychological explanation
The Horror Clown
What is it about clowns? They seem to be a happy enough bunch, delighted to suffer a pie-in-the-face or a seltzer-down-the-pants just to make us laugh. But what dark compulsion drives these men to hide behind their painted-on smiles and big rubber noses? What madness turns a man into a clown?
-- Dave Louapre and Dan Sweetman, A Cotton Candy Autopsy
There is an old Italian dictum from the writer Aldo Palazzeschi: “Il riso fa buon sangue”. The literal translation says, "Laughter makes good blood", which essentially means laughing is healthy. For ages, comic entertainment made people laugh. The main comedian has ever been a very similar figure to the clowns we know nowadays. Be it “pranksters, jesters, jokers, harlequins, and mythologized tricksters” (McRobbie). Clown-like comedians were part in many different cultures all over the world. Their history can be dated back to the high cultures of Egypt, ancient Rome and ancient imperial China. American native cultures also use clown-like figures for entertainment. Ancient holy rituals among the Hopi Indians involving Hopis dressed up very similar to American circus clowns today, can still be witnessed in Hopi villages. This long and multifaceted history of clowns is remarkable. (McRobbie, Towsen) But, even more interesting is the most recently occurrence of bad, lunatic and horrific clowns in our modern society and the rising numbers of people confessing their often smiled at fear of clowns. The contrary to the silly and sweet, fun personified clown became a substantial part of our society and can be witnessed in several movies, like Stephen King’s It, Steven Spielberg’s Poltergeist or in the more recent film The Dark Knight. But also in real life, horror clowns do appear. To only name a few examples: You have horror clowns in the music industry, like the Insane Clown Posse (ICP), who have been capable of establishing a large number of fans, who are called Juggalos (Cizmar). The Juggalos celebrate an annual event called the Gathering of the Juggalos, where 20,000 people, most of them dressed up as evil clowns like their role models from IC, meet (Boa). Moreover, the nightmare of evil clowns who harass and even kill people came true in the person of John Wayne Gacy. He was convicted for thirty-three counts of sexual assault and murder. This infamous serial killer, who is also known as Pogo the Killer Clown, hit America’s newspapers’ headlines. (Macintyre). So, the first part of this paper will focus on early historically documented occurrences of clowns acting rather horrifyingly than funnily. Some of these historical occurrences can be compared to the present-day evil clowns and their roles can be seen as a paragon for the atrocities depicted in film or committed by humans today. Additionally, this essay will examine the point in time at which the dark clown became relevant in our society and when the frightening side of clowns became popular. Lastly, this essay will deal with clown phobia, also known as ‘coulrophobia’1. Therefore, I will examine first hand experiences of clown phobia and its causes at the end of this paper.
First of all, it is very important to know what a clown is and how he works but, due to the...
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