Why Are Creepy Clown Sightings Cropping Up Across the Country?

Oct 4, 2016

From Texas Standard:

Clowns: They're not just for circuses anymore.

Across cities throughout Texas and around the country, police and schools have been on lockdown and high alert over reports of people with a Bozo-like appearance making threats – usually on social media.

But these recent clown sightings aren't the first we’ve seen. In fact, they go back to at least 1981 in Boston and spread across the country. One theory claims that these clown sightings come in waves, mirroring the fears and uncertainties of American society at the time.


Joe Durwin, a freelance journalist who’s studied the clown phenomenon, sheds some light on the topic.

“In the whole history of clown scares," Durwin says, "there’s never been an incident where there’ve been so many communities in such a short span of time that have had it."

In effort to explain the recent uptick in clown sightings, Durwin says people relate them to current societal issues – from the social upheavals happening in the South to the ongoing presidential election.

“People are looking for a social explanation,” Durwin says, “for why clowns are in the air in 2016.”

Durwin says that clowns have always had a more subversive role in history – rather than providing entertainment.

“They haven't been these silly, comic buffoons like we've seen in the past century in America," he says. "They’ve been kind of dark. They've had a social function of lampooning and mocking the established order, whether it's religious or political, really subverting the established institutions."

In the era of Ronald McDonald and birthday party clowns, Durwin says we have forgotten the purpose clowns have in society.

"We've repressed something that is fundamental to what a clown is and what a clown does in society," he says. "I think we've strongly repressed some of those parts of our culture, some of those trickster attributes."

Previously, Durwin says clown sightings weren't easily verified. But social media can serve to verify clown sightings that elevate these accounts to more than mere rumor.

“We’ve reached a new phase with the participation,” Durwin says. “Now we’re seeing people being arrested for just walking down the street in a clown mask because there’s such concern at this point.”

Post by John Flynn.