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Friday, October 7, 2016

Send in the clowns

The news picture depicts a clown, a terrifying clown with a white face streaked with blood and a smile marred by long and pointed teeth. One tooth is blood stained. It would be a great piece of photojournalism if it actually was journalism. But it's not. It's photographic clip art.

Clowns have been in the news lately. Well, at least talk of clowns. It seems clowns, in fact, haven't actually done all that much that's news worthy. It's often kids that are being arrested, if anyone is arrested at all.

For instance, in London, Ontario, after online threats to kill teachers and kidnap students were made, police arrested two kids not yet old enough to be in high school.

So, the London clowns were kids. A picture of a couple of kids laughing and texting on an iPhone would have been a more accurate image than one shown but, as it wouldn't have been the actual kids, it still wouldn't be journalism.

I decided to google this recent clown craze. I found a Slate article titled: The Wave of Evil Clown Sightings Is Nothing to Worry About. It Happens Every Few Years. I learned:


  • May 1981, Brookline, Massachusetts: Elementary school children report two clowns driving a black van offering them candy. A rash of  sightings follows but no clowns are found.
  • March 1988, Louisville, Kentucky: Across a three-county area, children suddenly begin calling police with stories of a malevolent clown offering rides and, in one case, pursuing a child on foot. No arrests are made. The clown vanishes without a trace.
  • Oct. 1991, Chicago: The city police are overwhelmed with reports from  schoolchildren of a man dressed as Homey D. Clown from In Living Color. The clown offers them candy to ride in his van. Children variously report the van to be blue, white, or red, an eighth-grader claims to have punched the clown in the nose and an adult reports seeing a clown abduct a girl. Before the epidemic subsides, clowns are reported in Evanston and Joliet as well as Chicago.  As the panic over clowns drew to a close, not one clown had been placed behind bars.
  • Sept. 1992, Rock Hill, South Carolina: A wave of terrifying clown sightings comes to an end when four teenage boys are arrested. The boys aren’t charged; authorities cannot find a law that has been broken.
  • Oct. 1992, Galveston, Texas: An evil clown reportedly attempted to kidnap a little girl. The police and media are flooded with sightings. A police investigation leads to no arrests.


Yes, I have been selective. And, yes there have been cases of evil doers dressed as clowns. But, if an evil clown is sighted, I would not bet on its veracity too quickly. I'd let the paper to that.

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