Top Ten Creepy Clown Clusters of 2016

By: Twilight Language

Top Ten Creepy Clown Clusters of 2016
by Loren Coleman, author of The Copycat Effect
(New York: Simon and Schuster, 2004).


Following in the tradition of my clown list from 2008, my notes on evil clowns (and Joker copycats) for 2009, my documenting of real killer clowns in 2010, my list of evil clowns of 2011, similar weirdness in 2012, a compilation for 2013, and the creepy clown reports in California, countrywide in the USA & in France, ending us back in Aurora for 2014, and finally Top Ten Evil Clown Stories of 2015, here is my new “top ten” gathering of “creepy clown clusters” that occurred in the extraordinary Year of 2016.

First, let us reflect on 2016. No year since 1981 – when Phantom Clowns were sighted and then first discussed in book form via Mysterious America –  has there been such a multilayered, massive explosion of reports of clown accounts among the populace, first in America, and then worldwide.
The hints began in the Spring of ’16, overseas.

(1) Germany ~ February

The first unusual clown event of 2016 occurred in Kassel, Germany. Two activists in clown costumes disrupted a meeting of the German anti-migrant party Alternative for Germany by throwing a cake into the face of Beatrix von Storch, one of the party’s leaders and a European Parliament member. The men approached von Storch while she was presiding over a closed-door Alternative for Germany party meeting held in Kassel, Germany, on February 28, 2016. They sang “Happy Birthday” as one of them threw a cake into von Storch’s face and the other filmed the incident.
(2) Mexico ~ March

On the weekend of March 19-20, 2016, Tony Tambor, also known as Marco Antonio Vazquez, claimed he was repeatedly punched and kicked at a Sonora, Mexico party for 30 children, according to the Houston Chronicle. Tambor may lose his eyesight, according to the Mexico News Daily.

(3) Wisconsin ~ August

The largest wave of reports of clowns in recent history began in a small way in Green Bay, Wisconsin, in early August 2016. A mysterious clown that seemingly came out of someone’s warped sense of humor was spotted in Green Bay, according to photographs making the rounds of the social media. A Facebook page called “Gags – The Green Bay Clown” claimed the first sighting happened August 1, 2016, at 2:00 a.m.

By definition, these clowns were “stalking clowns.”

(4) Carolinas ~ August

“Phantom Clowns” soon popped up. On August 29, 2016, residents at the Fleetwood Manor Apartments in Greenville County, South Carolina, reported that a person wearing a clown costume had been spotted lurking around the apartment complex trying to convince children to come into the woods. This was followed quickly on September 4, 2016, when police in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, received a call about a clown looking to lure children into the woods. The Phantom Clown accounts then spread throughout the Carolinas. See also “Phantom Clowns in Greenville: Four Sightings,” “Phantom Clowns: Spartanburg,” “Phantom Clowns: Winston-Salem,” “Phantom Clowns: Two New Piedmont Triad Incidents,” “Phantom Clowns: Fayette Factor,” and “Phantom Clowns: High Point.”

These reports were classic “Phantom Clowns,” and did not seem to be real people dressing up as clowns, i.e. “Stalking Clowns.” See, “Phantom Clowns: Classified.”

(5) Ohio ~ August

Like dropping a pebble in a pond, the ripples of Phantom Clown sightings went out from the Carolinas. Ohio seemed to be hit first.

A knife-wielding clown reported in the Northland area might prove a hoax, but Columbus, Ohio, police say they aren’t taking any chances. A 14-year-old boy told police that a 6-foot-tall man in dark clothing and a clown mask chased him a short distance as he walked to a school bus stop at about 6:15 a.m. Tuesday, August 30, 2016, said police spokesman Sgt. Rich Weiner.  The boy told police that the incident occurred just before sunrise in his neighborhood, near Satinwood and Ironwood drives.

See also, “Phantom Clowns: Ohio.”

(6) Georgia and Alabama ~ September

Next, leaping from the Carolinas to Ohio, clown incidents turned up in Georgia and Alabama. On September 14, 2016, McDuffie County deputies in Georgia say Cameron Frails, 12, and his little brother, were walking to a bus stop when they were chased by men donning clown costumes. The next day, on September 15, 2016, authorities locked down Escambia County High School and Flomaton High School in Southern Alabama after clowns threaten students and post gun emojis on Facebook. So-called “Flomo Klowns” were spotted on the premises of both schools. On September 15, 2016, police in Flomaton, Alabama, arrest 22-year-old Makayla Smith and two underage accomplices in connection with the threats to students at Escambia County High School and Flomaton High School. A middle school girl in Athens, Georgia, was arrested on September 21, 2016, after bringing a knife into school. She claims it was for protection against clown attacks.

See also, “Phantom Clowns: Alabama,” “Phantom Clown: Macon + LaGrange,” and “Phantom Clowns: Greensboro + Green Name Game.”

(7) United States ~ September

Creepy Clown Sightings Map 2016.

After the initial sightings, all kinds of encounters with clowns were reported throughout the United States, as can be seen from this summary or this one.

      Sep. 19: Several children report a series of clown sightings in different neighborhoods of

Annapolis, Maryland

      . Police later confirm the reports to be a hoax.
      Sep. 21: A 12-year-old in Pottsville, Pennsylvania, is chased by a clown through a park.
      Sep. 24: A Palm Bay, Florida, resident reports spotting two “killer clowns” while walking her dog. She says the clowns were staring at her and frightened her to the point that she called police after returning home.
      Sep. 25: A child in

Phillipsburg, New Jersey

      , is chased by three people who emerged from the woods dressed as clowns. Nobody has been hurt in the town but it is the fourth such incident reported in the area. Residents plead with the troublemakers to stop their antics.
      Sep. 27:

Tennessee

      officials put out a warning telling residents to be vigilant as Halloween approaches. One teenager reports being attacked by a clown.
      Sep. 27: Police in

Phoenix

      say two different fast-food restaurants were robbed by suspects wearing clown masks.
      Sep. 30:

The New York Times

      reports that false reports or threats in connection to sightings of “creepy clowns” have led to the arrest of

12 people in over 10 states

      .
      Sep. 30: Threatening Facebook post from the account “Aint Clownin Around” leave at least five schools in three separate states on high alert. The post sent to students in students in

Westside High School in Houston

    reads, “We will be at all High schools this Friday to either kidnap students or kill teachers going to they cars …”
By October, reports were coming in from Idaho, Alaska, California, Arkansas, and several other states.
(8) Worldwide ~ October
By mid-October 2016, clown sightings were being recorded in Australia, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Ireland, New Zealand, Netherlands, Norway, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom.
Reports in the UK – in England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland – called them “Killer Clowns.”
(9) USA ~ October
One of the major outcomes of the “Creepy Clown Epidemic” of 2016 was the temporary (?) retiring of Ronald McDonald.

On Tuesday, October 11, 2016, the McDonald’s Corporation acknowledged that it will henceforth be “thoughtful in respect to Ronald McDonald’s participation in community events” as a result of the “current climate around clown sightings in communities.” It became obvious that the overlap was not imaginary.

See also, “Precursor to Creepy Clowns: Ronald McDonald.”

(10) USA – 2016

An earlier indicator that “creepy clowns” were on the horizon happened in June 2015, and continued into early 2016, when front page clown images and political cartoons of Donald Trump appeared in New York City and other newspapers.
The number of clown-Trump visual jokes merely increased as the year went along.
The above meme was based on an infamous scene from Stephen King’s IT!
+++
One last note.
The media’s many stories on the “Creepy Clown Epidemic” personally pulled me into the analysis long before any reporter interviewed me. Instead, the use of my 1981 work and coining of the phrase “Phantom Clowns” caused journalists to write about and quote me. See here and this brief overview.

Creepy Clown Considerations

(excerpt: Twilight Language)

The Daily Mail mapped out what clown reports they had gathered, as of October 1, 2016. There are many more than these.
Thirty-five years ago, the phrase “Phantom Clowns” was added to my twilight language lexicon, when the actual “Phantom Clowns” appeared in America. I wrote about them, in depth, in Mysterious America.

For those who have been wondering about my recent silence, in the midst of these days of heightened clown sightings, a word or two.

I have been traveling for weeks now, giving talks at conferences and festivals. While my presentations have centered on cryptozoological subjects, people have often wanted to discuss the epidemic of clown appearances. I am keenly aware this is a topic of interest to many folks.

My journeys have taken me from Point Pleasant, West Virginia, to Niagara Falls, New York, and then on to Minerva, Ohio, as well as from the Berkshires of Massachusetts to upcoming events in Minnesota and Wisconsin. I have watched with much interest the explosion in the “Phantom Clowns” incidents, and the confusion by the media with the “Stalking Clowns” accounts.

I need to be in one location (home in Portland, Maine) to analyze, track, and compile what has been happening. Please be patient with me. I will get to this important work.

I have kept in reserve some contributions that I will use from a few of you, including links being sent my way.

The input has been overwhelming. For example, reportedly, there are 30 sites in Ohio alone where “clowns” of one kind or another have been “sighted.”

Vocativ’s image of a “Phantom Clown” may be a bit too cheery, compared to the luring clowns reported.

There are also accounts of a deadly school shooting, a clown-related death, and perhaps harm done to someone in a clown costume. Is there a predictive link between the clowns and school violence? I hope to capture some newsworthy items here, in the near future, and ponder their linkages.

Rolling Stone’s horrific “Phantom Clown” image is much scarier than most descriptions of the “real” ones seen.

I have also noticed that the alternative and mainstream media – Atlas Obscura, Seeker,  VocativWashington Post, New York Times, Rolling Stone, ReasonThe Conversation, Quartz, and others – have jumped in with overview “Phantom Clowns” articles, often quoting me.

I am grateful that there has been all due acknowledgment of my 1981 coining of the phrase “Phantom Clowns,” and the realization that the 1981 cases came a half-decade before Stephen King’s IT, published in 1986.

It is intriguing to read that I “came up with something called “The Phantom Clown Theory,” which attributes the proliferation of clown sightings to mass hysteria (usually sparked by incidents witnessed only by children).” Source, The Conversation, September 28, 2016.

Credit: J. D. Crowe

Also, there does seem to be a growing awareness that the “coincidence” of these clown sightings in this 2016 election year may, indeed, be synchromystic.

Phantom Clowns: All News Is Local

(excerpt: Twilight Language)

The International Cryptozoology Museum has a current exhibit on the differences between Phantom Clowns (coined by me in 1981) & Stalking Clowns.

“All news is local.”

The Creepy Clown Epidemic is global. But all stories begin locally, and even national stories are written to reflect the local angle, as the old adage conveys.

Coverage can be national and local. What happens when even your hometown newspaper – in this case from the same publisher whose papers I delivered as a paperboy to over a hundred homes in the 1960s – catches up with the phenomenon?

DECATUR – Coulrophobia – a morbid fear of clowns – is spreading across the nation like a flu outbreak, and its symptoms are infecting people in Central Illinois.
Decatur police have received several calls from Facebook users worried about threatening messages that pop up, accompanied by pictures of clowns. These have turned out to be hoaxes but they are part of a coast-to-coast pattern of scary clown sightings and reports of clowns frightening people, most proving false but some real, that are intensifying as Halloween approaches.
“Social media causes stuff like this to just blow up and get way out of proportion,” said police Sgt. Chris Copeland. “I even heard that somewhere down in the south part of the country, and this might be another rumor floating around Facebook, someone actually got shot while wearing a clown suit.”
Copeland said people have a legal right to dress as whomever, or whatever, they want for Halloween. But he urges caution on where you wear a clown suit and how you behave, and says this might be a very good year to make another costume choice.
And he also has a word of warning for coulrophobia sufferers: don’t overreact. Copeland has seen aggressive messages on Facebook targeting clowns and threatening to wipe the smile off their faces with violence.
“I would also like to caution anyone thinking that, just because someone is wearing a clown suit, that gives reasonable cause to shoot them or kill them,” added Copeland. “That is not the case.”
Nationwide news reports on the scary clown phenomena have quoted instances of schools being locked down on reports of clowns wandering the campus. Rolling Stonemagazine featured an interview with author Loren Coleman, a Decatur native, who wrote about something he called “Phantom Clown Theory” in his 1981 [sic ~ the coining was in 1981, the book was published in 1983] Mysterious America.
Coleman is quoted as saying stories about clowns trying to lure children have persisted for years and can warp into a mass hysteria.
Professional clowns, meanwhile, are feeling the pain: both in their wallets as bookings get canceled and in fear for their own safety. One group met in Tucson, Ariz., recently to stage a costumed protest march called “Clown Lives Matter.” A flier for the event said: “The march is a peaceful way to show clowns are not psycho killers … Come out, bring the family, meet a clown and get a hug!”
Decatur Police Chief Jim Getz, watching the clown scare roll across the internet, said he’s not seen anything like this before. “As good as the social media can be for some things, it can be just as detrimental in other ways,” he said.
Source:
Clowning around isn’t so funny now by Tony Reid, Herald & Review, Decatur, Illinois, October 11, 2016.

Rolling Stone has mentioned me, at least twice, in their recent clown articles:

“‘Killer Clowns’: Inside the Terrifying Hoax Sweeping America: Clowns have been spotted lurking in woods from South Carolina to upstate New York,” By Suzanne Zuppello, September 29, 2016.

The Phantom Clowns, as they were dubbed by cryptozoologist Loren Coleman given their allusive nature, spread to Kansas City, Denver, Omaha, and Pennsylvania. Since the 1980s, clowns have made appearances across the country, usually in the weeks and months leading up to Halloween.

Coleman’s phantom clown theory is rooted in the “primal dread that so many children experience in their presence.”

In his 1981 [sic ~ 1983] book Mysterious America, cryptozoologist Loren Coleman coined the phrase “Phantom Clown Theory,” which refers to the way a few sightings of clowns ‘luring’ children into vans, cars and forests can turn into mass hysteria – even though no clowns are ever actually caught. He says that, though this phenomenon has existed for over 30 years, the recent spate has become worse because of social media.

“The initial sightings were classic Phantom Clowns,” Colman tells Rolling Stone, referring to the early reports in South Carolina. “Then, this was then diluted by ‘Stalking Clowns’: real people dressing up to scare, be seen and be photographed.” There is a real danger here – just not where one might expect. “Place this ‘Clown Sightings’ flap in the middle of an extremely violent year, with so many guns available, and you are going to have potentially dangerous events occurring,” he says. “Not for the ‘Phantom Clowns’ but for the human ‘Stalking Clowns’ who will be the targets of angry, scared citizens.”

Coleman’s prediction is becoming reality. Last week, students at both Pennsylvania State University and Nashville’s Belmont University announced campus-wide search parties for clowns after sightings were reported on both campuses. But an amusing evening turned potentially grim as students armed themselves with bats during the march. One student leader “underestimated the power of hysteria” that their marches against clowns would stir up. While those searches luckily stayed peaceful, videos from elsewhere, under the tag #ClownLivesMatter, show people encountering clowns, who appear non-threatening aside from their creepy ensemble, and beating them up. One video even shows a clown being beaten senseless with a baseball bat.

Other recent interviews and mentions of my past research include:

How a Maine-based Bigfoot expert found himself at the center of the national clown frenzy,” by Dugan Arnett, Boston Globe, October 7, 2016.

The article is an extensive overview of a long interview with me, as well as containing a quote from a key member of the Museum’s staff.

As assistant museum director Jeff Meuse puts it, “It’s been quite a frenzy with him trying to make sure that everyone gets a little piece of Loren Coleman.”

Please see entire article.
Creepy clown trend dates back to ’80s, but this time it’s different,” by Dean Balsamini and Melkorka Licea, New York Post, October 9, 2016.
Cryptozoologist Loren Coleman (Photo credit: Jenny Coleman)

But while the clown craze is disturbing, it’s mostly harmless and nothing new, says cryptozoologist Loren Coleman, an “investigator of human and animal mysteries” and author of 35 books.
He traced the phenomenon to Massachusetts in 1981, when children reported evil clowns attempting to lure them into vans.
The clowns were never seen by adults.
“There were no arrests, no photographs, no evidence and no abductions,” Coleman told The Post.
Soon after, the “phantom clowns,” as Coleman calls them, turned up in Providence, RI, Kansas City, Mo., Omaha, Neb., Denver, and Pittsburgh.
At the time, Coleman was working as director of the Charlestown office of the Massachusetts Department of Social Services. He wrote to 400 “fellow researchers and writers,” wondering if they had heard of the “unexplained phenomenon.”
The feedback revealed there had been similar reports in local papers. “That was the mystery. How do people in different parts of the country have the same experience? There was no internet or wire stories or national stories about this phenomenon,” said Coleman, who wrote about the sightings in his book Mysterious America.
To this day, the 1981 “phantom clowns” remain a “total mystery.”
“There are long stretches where nothing happens,” Coleman said, noting minor sightings from Phoenix in 1985, and South Orange and Belleville, NJ, in 1991.

There have been other examples. If I thought the 1981 wave of Phantom Clown sightings were widespread, nothing could have prepared me for 2016’s spread of both Phantom Clowns and Stalking Clowns events.

Channel WCSH6/NBC TV’s Katie Bavoso reports live from the Phantom Clown exhibit at the International Cryptozoology Museum in Portland, Maine.

Political Creepy Clowns Cartoons Connections Continue

(excerpt: Twilight Language)

The linkages between political cartoons of Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, and the Phantom Clowns/Stalking Clowns/Creepy Clowns epidemic of 2016 continues.

Phantom Clowns and Bigfoot

(excerpt: Twilight Language)

What’s the connection between “Phantom Clowns” and “Bigfoot”? The visual comics and cartoonists have not been afraid to venture into this realm, long before the current flap.
McDonald Corp., 2006.

Daniel Charles Piraro, 2010

Kerry Callen, 2014.

Chris Holm, 2016.

The origins of the overlap…

Louisiana, Missouri, 1972 (Momo)

Brookline, Massachusetts, and the elsewhere, 1981 (Phantom Clowns)
Greenville, SC, 2016 (Phantom Clowns)

Phantom Clowns and Political Cartoons: The Final Ones, Hopefully

(excerpt: Twilight Language)

Some political cartoons and memes are still being created. Hopefully, this mixing of creepy clowns and politics is over soon after Halloween and the Election.
++++
Clown memes and aligned visual jokes have about run their course in 2016.
Jokers to the left and clowns to the right.

Phantom Clowns: Fayette Factor

 By: Twilight Language

The ripples in the media keep moving out from the original Greenville Phantom Clown sightings, and it was only a matter of time until other Forteana would get involved.

I have kept alive Jim Brandon’s remarks on the impact of the Fayette Factor through tracking the incidents way beyond his first mentions of them in his The Rebirth of Pan and his private correspondence. They hold an intrinsic truth for synchromystic investigators, and these self-evident discoveries are key to gathering insights through time and space.

I expected the Fayette (“little fairy,” “little enchantment”) Factor to show itself in the midst of this current rapidly expanding Phantom Clowns flap. (The term “flap,” by the way, comes from the use of the word in World War II, as in “there’s a flap on” – an excitement or some especially chaotic event – first spread through ufology via a wave of flying saucer sightings, a “ufo flap.”)

The only question would be will it be a Fayette, a LaFayette, a Lafayetteville, or a Fayetteville?
The winner? Fayetteville. In North Carolina.

Fayetteville police said around 10 p.m. Tuesday [September 6, 2016], a call came in for a sighting of a clown near the wood line at Fillyaw Road and Applewood Lane.
Officers responded but said they found nothing suspicious.
An anonymous call made the report and when law enforcement got on scene, they say they could not contact the caller.
“Definitely something out of the ordinary. We want people to report those if they see any clowns in the area. At this point in time, it is unconfirmed. We can’t say there was or wasn’t a clown but we will check up on any reports,” said Officer Shawn Strepay with Fayetteville police.
However, some people who live right at the intersection have no doubts about it.
“I think there really is someone out here dressed. I think someone watched too many clown shows, you know, American horror stories or something and they are trying to impersonate or do the same thing,” said Chris Brinkley who lives at an apartment complex right at the intersection where the sighting came from.
Other people aren’t as sure.
“I haven’t seen any sightings of a clown,” said Corrisa Corbitt.
Corbitt lives right across the street from where the sighting happened.
She says her 9-year-old son and 6-year-old daughter play outside all the time, she says regardless of clowns when she heard about the story…she told her kids to be careful.
“Anything could happen it could be a hoax it could be true but I still take safety precautions….” Source.

That was followed by this:

A 911 call reveals the moments after two women said they saw a clown standing near a Fayetteville intersection Tuesday [September 6, 2016].
“We just saw a man dressed up in a clown outfit on the side of the road trying to stop cars,” the caller told the dispatcher.
Fayetteville is the latest city in North Carolina with reports of a clown sighting. The past week, clown sightings have been reported in Greensboro and Winston Salem.
“We saw on the news about all this stuff,” the caller said.
The woman called 911 around 10 p.m. after seeing a man in red clown mask standing at the intersection of Fillyaw Road and Applewood Lane.
“I’m scared. I want to go home,” the caller said.
She described the man as wearing a red clown mask and a paintball vest.
“That was scary as heck,” she told the dispatcher.
About half way through the five minute call, the woman turns her vehicle around to confirm the intersection.
“Is he still standing there?” she said. “If I see him out, I’m going to flip the hell out.”
Officers responded but said they found nothing suspicious.
“Definitely something out of the ordinary. We want people to report those if they see any clowns in the area,” said Officer Shawn Strepay with Fayetteville police. Source.

h/t Robert S; Steve L. 

Phantom Clowns: High Point

I discovered a bizarre time-space reality about the original Phantom Clown reports I first investigated in 1981. I found that concurrent clown encounters would happen in different locations without police, reporters, or researchers for each of the sites knowing that similar incidents were happening elsewhere.

In the recent wave of Phantom Clown incidents, something like this has been revealed to have been occurring.
The first sightings – according to all the media accounts – took place in Greenville, North Carolina, on August 20, and were reported on August 21, 2016.

Now it has been acknowledged by another Piedmont Triad community’s police department that they too had reports on August 20th, but they were hidden from the public until a press release of September 7, 2016.

In a news release from Captain Mike Kirk dated September 7, 2016, the High Point Police Department stated they have investigated “eight reports of suspicious activity involving people dressed as clowns” in High Point, North Carolina, since August 20, 2016. Kirk said some of the reports include information that children were approached or chased by the clowns.

High Point police car (WGHP file photo)
The local media summarized it this way:

High Point appears to have taken the lead in the number of recent Piedmont Triad clown sightings….
The descriptions of the suspicious persons are limited and vary from call to call, [Captain Mike] Kirk said. Some callers refused to give their names and others were reporting third-party information.
In all but one of the reports, officers were unable to locate any subjects matching the descriptions.
No criminal activity has been discovered while investigating any of these calls, Kirk said.
In the call in which the reported subject was located, officers found that the subject was an employee of a promotional entertainment company wearing a company costume. The subject was pumping gas into a vehicle at a gas station.
The following are the reports High Point police have received:
8/20/2016 – 7:14 p.m. – 3231 N. Centennial St.
8/25/2016 – 8:24 p.m. – 1039 Oakview Road
9/5/2016 – 9:53 p.m. – 1609 Franklin Ave.
9/6/2016 – 8:00 a.m. – Zelma Avenue and Beaucrest Avenue
9/7/2016 – 1216 a.m. – 1516 Birkdale Court
9/7/2016 – 4:46 a.m. – Gordon Street and Cedrow Drive
9/7/2016 – 8:00 a.m. – 1920 McGuinn Drive
9/7/2016 – 9:02 a.m. – 3350 N. Main St. (Subject identified)
Source.

As noted earlier, here, High Point, North Carolina, was the location of The Paddler incidents, which changed from a serial paddler to a serial killer of boys. The local law enforcement authorities have a foundation for taking any reports of the possible endangerment of youth quite seriously.

Phantom Clowns: Pied Piper of Hamelin

As I mentioned previously, one of the benefits of all the current media interest in the Phantom Clowns this time around are the historic overviews that are being revealed.

An old article that is being revisited is one by folklorist Jan Harold Brunvand.  Brunvand had just published a new collection, Curses! Broiled Again, and then wrote the following review of 1981 and 1985 cases, plus taking a then-contemporary look at some new 1991 Phantom Clowns encounters. While the article is important as it did review past recent events, it also reminded people that these stories go back to the Pied Piper of Hamelin folktales, dating from 1300 A.D.

Killer-clown rumors surfaced briefly again in 1985, then faded until this June [1991] – exactly 10 years after the first cycle of similar stories [in 1981].
This time the setting is New Jersey. My first report of the return of the phantom clowns came in a letter from West Orange, N.J., postmarked June 12 [1991]. I haven’t been able to decipher the signature, but I did manage to make out the message:
“My mom teaches school in South Orange, N.J., and the kids at school are all terrified by the rumor that there is someone dressed as a clown driving around kidnapping children. The story has grown to the point where the clown has a name, Homey, and now they are saying that there are a whole bunch of clowns riding around in a van.”
The next day I got a note from Joseph Zarra of Belleville, N.J., enclosing a clipping from the Newark Star-Ledger of an article headlined “Child-abducting ‘clown’ rumor persists in plaguing Essex towns.” It’s the same old story.
First-, second- and third-grade children in several communities were claiming that a van containing a clown, or several clowns, was cruising the streets looking for young victims to kill or abduct. The name “Homey” came from a character who frequently appears on the Fox network series In Living Color.
An East Orange police officer commented, “It just spread, from one kid to another, and continued until there was a kind of a hysteria.”
One child, who later retracted his story, told police that a clown holding a machete in one hand and an Uzi machine gun in the other fired five shots at him before he drove him off with his bookbag.
New Jersey police questioned 700 schoolchildren, many of them “petrified” by the rumors, but concluded, “We couldn’t substantiate the existence of a clown. We have no sightings, no assaults, no homicides.”
Mysterious America, a 1983 book by Loren Coleman, gives a good account of the 1981 phantom-clown scares. In May, reports of clowns riding in vans and threatening children surfaced in Boston and some of the surrounding communities. Shortly afterward the same story showed up in Providence, R.I.; Kansas City, Mo.; Kansas City, Kan.; Omaha, Neb.; Denver; and Pittsburgh.
Many of the children’s stories included specific details: They said that the vans were black, green, blue or yellow, and that the clowns were armed with swords, knives or guns.
The only other clown scare I’m aware of since that time occurred in late March 1985, when the Phoenix area experienced a brief period during which similar stories spread among local schoolchildren.
Although no police authorities anywhere have verified the existence of the phantom clowns, some people take the threat seriously. A warning circulated in a 1986 newsletter claimed that clowns were responsible for children being “spirited away to join the throngs of missing children whose pathetic faces peer at us from milk cartons, shopping bags and telephone bills.”
If child-abductors disguised as clowns exist, why do they cease their nefarious activities for such long periods of time? Who is sending in these clowns, and why don’t the police ever catch them?
Probably the source of the stories lies more in folklore than in actual crimes. Loren Coleman suggests a connection to the Pied Piper of Hamelin who, according to legend, lured away all the children of the German town, never to be seen again. ~ Jan Harold Brunvand, “Someone Keeps Sending in the Phantom Clowns,” Deseret News, August 9, 1991.

For more on the Pied Piper of Hamelin, see also here.

“Pied” refers to clothing “having two or more different colors,” the attire of a clown.

As has been noted by some comment makers, it is intriguing that a concentration of the recent reports have been in the Piedmont Triad in North Carolina. (See here and here.)

Phantom Clowns: The Politics of Hillary

In the wake of my discussions of Phantom Clowns, Donald Trump, and clown headlines, it appears that Hillary Clinton is now in line with a none-to-subtle linking to an infamous clown, Cavity Sam.

On Tuesday, September 13, 2016, due to Clinton’s 9/11 health incident, the New York Post has published a political cartoon headline entitled “Illary.”

It is a direct use of the 1965 “skills game” Operation.

Wikipedia has this introduction to the game and its history:

Operation is a battery-operated game of physical skill that tests players’ hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills. The game’s prototype was invented in 1964 by John Spinello, a University of Illinois industrial design student at the time, who sold his rights to the game to Milton Bradley for a sum of USD $500 and the promise of a job upon graduation. Initially produced by Milton Bradley in 1965, Operation is currently made by Hasbro, with an estimated franchise worth of USD $40 million.
The game is a variant on the old-fashioned electrified wire loop game popular at funfairs around the United States. It consists of an “operating table”, lithographed with a comic likeness of a patient (nicknamed “Cavity Sam”) with a large red lightbulb for his nose. In the surface are a number of openings, which reveal cavities filled with fictional and humorously named ailments made of plastic. The general gameplay requires players to remove these plastic ailments with a pair of tweezers without touching the edge of the cavity opening. Source.

“Cavity Sam” with his bright red nose is straight from the clown world of midways and carnivals.

A midway at a fair (commonly an American fair such as a county or state fair) is the location where carnival games, amusement rides, entertainment and fast-food booths cluster.
The term originated from the World’s Columbian Exposition held in Chicago, Illinois, in 1893. It was the first world’s fair with an area for amusements which was strictly separated from the exhibition halls. This area, which was concentrated on the city’s Midway Plaisance, included amusement rides (among them the original Ferris Wheel), belly dancers, balloon rides, and other attractions.
After the Exposition, the term midway came into use as a common noun in the United States and Canada to refer to the area for amusements at a county or state fair, circus, festival, or amusement park. Source.

The “Cavity Sam” character is merely a clown from a carnival transformed into a midway patient.
Individuals attempting to duplicate the game as a Halloween costume use the red-clown-nose as part of their outfit.
The game has evolved, appeared in many editions, and been used for many meanings.
And used, in recent years, for political commentary.
But the New York Post was not the first to use Operation as a way to discuss Hillary Clinton.

Political cartoonist Ben Garrison did an earlier version of the Operation Skills Game cartoon with Hillary Clinton as the subject.

All uses of Operation link back to its “clown” origins, and in the year of the Phantom Clowns, this makes sense.

h/t to Drudge, Tom Mellett