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  #1  
Old 10-18-2004, 04:02 PM
Charlie Tan Charlie Tan is offline
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When and why did clowns become creepy?

"If it were funny, clowns wouldn't be doing it"
I'm paraphrasing Terry Pratchett from one of the Watch books (don't remember which).
And a little while ago, I saw a re-run of C.S.I. and there was that thing again. CLowns are creepy and kids don't like them. Then there are this, this and this. The first time I think the evil clown was channeled was in Stephen King's It with the truly creepy clown Pennywise. This was in '85, but King must have picked up on some undercurrent.
Where did it start?
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  #2  
Old 10-18-2004, 04:15 PM
Eve Eve is offline
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Clowns have always been terrifying.
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  #3  
Old 10-18-2004, 04:15 PM
shamrock227 shamrock227 is offline
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They just are. **shiver** I have always hated clowns. They creep me out like nothing else except maybe spiders.

I can't imagine that this feeling is all too common. Otherwise, clowns wouldn't be as popular as they seem to be, right? Most kids I know seem to love them.
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  #4  
Old 10-18-2004, 04:16 PM
Ike Witt Ike Witt is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by The Gaspode
Where did it start?
John Wayne Gayce?
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  #5  
Old 10-18-2004, 04:17 PM
shamrock227 shamrock227 is offline
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Yeah, thanks for the nightmare fodder, Eve.
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  #6  
Old 10-18-2004, 04:27 PM
Charlie Tan Charlie Tan is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by shamrock227
Most kids I know seem to love them.
Most kids I know find them boring. But in pop culture, they're scary, creepy and evil.
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  #7  
Old 10-18-2004, 04:32 PM
Mangetout Mangetout is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by shamrock227
They just are. **shiver** I have always hated clowns. They creep me out like nothing else except maybe spiders.

I can't imagine that this feeling is all too common. Otherwise, clowns wouldn't be as popular as they seem to be, right? Most kids I know seem to love them.
Most kids I know find them scary or boring; I don't know many who find them genuinely entertaining; clowns doing magic tricks and making balloon animals at children's parties are among the most threatening.
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  #8  
Old 10-18-2004, 04:38 PM
kunilou kunilou is offline
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Mrs. Kunilou has been creeped out by clowns ever since she was little, so I assume that as long as there have been clowns, there have been kids creeped out by them. At least from the Baby Boomer era. I can remember 50's TV shows that had the bad guys dressing up as clowns, and I'll bet that part of the myth goes back a lot further.
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  #9  
Old 10-18-2004, 04:40 PM
Miller Miller is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by The Gaspode
Where did it start?
My theory, almost entirely unpolluted by facts or evidence is "Some time in the neolithic." I'm pretty sure that we conceive of as a clown today is a direct descendent of something like this.

Much like fairy tales, clowns were never meant to amuse children. They were meant to terrify them into obedience. Modern ideas about childrearing have mostly neutered the old fairy tales into something more acceptable to contemporary propriety, but clowning has been more resistant. Let's face it, no matter how much you lie to your kid about how clowns are safe and funny and whimsical, they're still smart enough to recognize that there is something deeply disturbed about a grown person dressing up like this.
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  #10  
Old 10-18-2004, 04:43 PM
jsc1953 jsc1953 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kunilou
Mrs. Kunilou has been creeped out by clowns ever since she was little, so I assume that as long as there have been clowns, there have been kids creeped out by them. At least from the Baby Boomer era. I can remember 50's TV shows that had the bad guys dressing up as clowns, and I'll bet that part of the myth goes back a lot further.
Of course, for every Boomer who saw a TV show with a clown-villain, there were a million who saw Bozo the Clown. And Ronald McDonald.

I tried this same thread a year or so ago; didn't get much further, either.
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  #11  
Old 10-18-2004, 04:50 PM
AuntiePam AuntiePam is offline
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It's the makeup, particularly the stuff that makes them look like their mouths go from ear to ear. ::shudder::
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  #12  
Old 10-18-2004, 04:54 PM
Charlie Tan Charlie Tan is offline
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When did clown first appear, then?
The court jester? Commedia del'arte? Some time after that, the grease painted guy with the bucket of white wash and a pie turned up. Vaudeville?
Was Victor Borge a clown? Marx Bros? Harpo certainly had some clownish feaures.

And mimes? Does anyone like them?
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  #13  
Old 10-18-2004, 04:55 PM
Mr. Blue Sky Mr. Blue Sky is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Miller
My theory, almost entirely unpolluted by facts or evidence is "Some time in the neolithic." I'm pretty sure that we conceive of as a clown today is a direct descendent of something like this.

Man, Whoopi Goldberg has really let herself go!
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  #14  
Old 10-18-2004, 04:56 PM
Charlie Tan Charlie Tan is offline
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I know what Miller was getting at, but I think The First Slayer was never meant to be funny.
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  #15  
Old 10-18-2004, 04:56 PM
StGermain StGermain is offline
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Auntie Pam - "All the better to eat you with, my dear!"

StG
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  #16  
Old 10-18-2004, 04:59 PM
Murcielago Murcielago is offline
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Sometimes a creepy clown can also be hilarious.

Case in point. Though Ronnie loved his "Happy Meals," the resulting periods of depression eventually became too much to bear...
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  #17  
Old 10-18-2004, 05:09 PM
t-keela t-keela is offline
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I've never had a clown phobia but I remember when I first realized that not all clowns were like Bozo or Clarabell.
It was the Joker on Batman... an evil clown if there ever was one.
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  #18  
Old 10-18-2004, 05:18 PM
Hey, It's That Guy! Hey, It's That Guy! is offline
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I remember reading something about children in medieval times who were kidnapped, tortured and disfigured by the kidnappers, and then sold to kings to be court jesters. Children's mouths were often slashed ear to ear into giant, creepy smiles, leading to the image of the modern clown with the big red smile-mouth. Can anyone give a cite with more information? All I know is that's a horrible story, and clowns ARE scary.
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  #19  
Old 10-18-2004, 05:22 PM
Hey, It's That Guy! Hey, It's That Guy! is offline
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I remember reading something about children in medieval times who were kidnapped, tortured and disfigured by the kidnappers, and then sold to kings to be court jesters. Children's mouths were often slashed ear to ear into giant, creepy smiles, leading to the image of the modern pale-faced clown with the big red smile-mouth. Can anyone give a cite with more information corroborating this horrible story that has haunted me for years?

By the way, clowns ARE scary.
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  #20  
Old 10-18-2004, 05:28 PM
Grossbottom Grossbottom is offline
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As a young child I cried hysterically at the sight of actual human beings dressed as clowns (a fact my mother still has never ceased taunting with). I don't know why I did it, but I remember doing it. Very strange. Ronald McDonald never creeped me out...it had to be a real person. Something about the face...

Marionettes with human features had the same effect. I remember a puppet from Mexico my uncle had sent me, I wouldn't sleep in the same room with it.


I don't do it anymore though, good thing. Wish I still had the puppet, it was pretty cool.
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  #21  
Old 10-18-2004, 05:32 PM
Burrido Burrido is offline
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Stephen Kings "It". Never saw clowns the same way after I read that book and saw the movie.
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  #22  
Old 10-18-2004, 05:33 PM
t-keela t-keela is offline
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Here's the guy...Cesar Romero the original evil clown that we saw everyday as a kid. He'd popup out nowhere with his insane laugh and scare the piss out of all the little kids watch Batman that week. He was NOT the clown we were used to seeing and apparently a lot of us still haven't gotten over it.
BTW the comic book goes back to the 30' and I realize the "evil clown" probably goes back a lot farther. My point was the mainstream idea of an evil clown presented to the masses via the media.
You ever see a toddler with his first "Jack in the Box". I've never seen one laugh yet. Not on the first "pop" anyway. Jack is usually a clown. You think that night instill some tramautic memory related to evil clowns. Just a thought.
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  #23  
Old 10-18-2004, 05:40 PM
Mycroft H. Mycroft H. is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AuntiePam
It's the makeup, particularly the stuff that makes them look like their mouths go from ear to ear. ::shudder::
Like Julia Roberts ::double shudder::

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  #24  
Old 10-18-2004, 05:46 PM
AncientHumanoid AncientHumanoid is offline
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Clowns disguise their true identity. Going as far back as whatever the Eden Story came from, bad people disguise their identity for nefarious purposes.

Okay, maybe that's just whacked, man, but clowns ain't right.
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  #25  
Old 10-18-2004, 05:47 PM
Binarydrone Binarydrone is offline
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Clowns are simply designed to make us uncomfortable. They stand outside the normal rules of society and the laughter they provoke is more of a "whistling past the graveyard" catharsis than laughter of joy. They lead pointless absurd lives, tumbling out of little cars, smashing pies into each other's faces and squirting each other with flowers. They are a mirror that is held up to the audience that reminds us that, for all of our striving and deeds, in the end our lives are pretty pointless as well. In some cases, such as the old Comedia del Arte, the clown could not be seen by the other characters and was always messing with them. In this way they are a lot like fate or death.

In short, I don't think that clowns were ever supposed to be funny. I think that they are there to help us let off steam, in much the same way that ghost stories or roller coasters do.
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  #26  
Old 10-18-2004, 05:59 PM
Miller Miller is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by The Gaspode
I know what Miller was getting at, but I think The First Slayer was never meant to be funny.
The implication being that clowns are funny. I think I'm going to need a cite for that one, Gaspode.
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  #27  
Old 10-18-2004, 06:31 PM
t-keela t-keela is offline
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Just following up on my earlier thoughts.

Conrad Veidt from the 1928 film, The Man Who Laughs http://www.popmatters.com/film/revie...ughs-dvd.shtml
He was the first "Joker".
the character upon whom the Batman Joker and many other evil clowns would be based. For the next 40 years, villians in comic books and cinema would be portrayed as insane and appear almost clown-like in their features. The huge grin and eyes that reflect the evil intent of the mentally disturbed arch-villian.
http://www.4reference.net/encycloped...The_Joker.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evil_clown


I remember one time a friend of the family had their child over. IIRC it was a first birthday party and somebody got the kid a Jack in the box... the kid was absolutely terrified of the toy. He was frantic, screaming and shaking for several minutes. They tried to calm him down and show him the clown was supposed to be funny etc. No way, that kid went nuts when they showed him that damned Jack after that. They tried to crank the box slowly and you hear this "pop goes the weasel tune" I hate that damned tune...when the music started..the kid began to shake and you could tell he wasn't gonna go for it. It was a horrible thing to witness. That child was terrified.
I can promise you that kid has a clown phobia.
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  #28  
Old 10-18-2004, 06:34 PM
Miller Miller is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by t-keela
I remember one time a friend of the family had their child over. IIRC it was a first birthday party and somebody got the kid a Jack in the box... the kid was absolutely terrified of the toy. He was frantic, screaming and shaking for several minutes. They tried to calm him down and show him the clown was supposed to be funny etc. No way, that kid went nuts when they showed him that damned Jack after that. They tried to crank the box slowly and you hear this "pop goes the weasel tune" I hate that damned tune...when the music started..the kid began to shake and you could tell he wasn't gonna go for it. It was a horrible thing to witness. That child was terrified.
I can promise you that kid has a clown phobia.
You know, I bet they could have saved that kid a small fortune in future psychiatric bills if, instead of trying to convince the kid to like the toy, they'd just given him a hammer and let him go to town on it.
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  #29  
Old 10-18-2004, 07:13 PM
Mangetout Mangetout is offline
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http://www.ihateclowns.com/
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  #30  
Old 10-18-2004, 07:31 PM
AuntiePam AuntiePam is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mycroft H.
Like Julia Roberts ::double shudder::

I can't stand Julia Roberts, and now you've explained it. Thanks!
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  #31  
Old 10-18-2004, 08:31 PM
t-keela t-keela is offline
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http://www.moviepoopshoot.com/comics101/46.html
an interesting comic book site that shows the evolution of the Joker from a homicidal maniac to the evil clown he eventually became.
It also has some photos and original drawings which compare the original Joker with a photograph of Conrad Veidt.

Miller that kid was so scared within just a few minutes that even the box caused him anxiety. I can see how that would/could be the basis of a clown phobia. I also think that most children would probably behave in a similar fashion if exposed to a "surprise" before they were mature enough.
Combine the initial traumatic event with the exposure to comic books, novels, cartoons, TV series and movies which have elements of the maniacal clown. It's no wonder so many people are scared of clowns.
This is of course an attempt at explaining the modern phobia. How far back does this fear go? That'd be another story I would think. The jester...a cursed wretch. One who deceives...the liar, the fool...etc. Sure we could go there, but I think the modern phobia has less to do with medieval beliefs and more to do with pop culture.
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  #32  
Old 10-18-2004, 08:51 PM
masonite masonite is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Big Bad Voodoo Lou
I remember reading something about children in medieval times who were kidnapped, tortured and disfigured by the kidnappers, and then sold to kings to be court jesters. Children's mouths were often slashed ear to ear into giant, creepy smiles, leading to the image of the modern clown with the big red smile-mouth. Can anyone give a cite with more information? All I know is that's a horrible story, and clowns ARE scary.
Follow the Wikipedia link above to Evil Clowns, thence to clowns, thence to court jesters. That article confirms what you heard; it adds that children born with physical and mental defects could sometimes find employment as jesters.

Court jesters go back to prehistory, and I think the evolution of the clown could be traced back that way. As far as the evil aspect: just speculation: perhaps people were always leery of court jesters, especially the ones with striking deformities.

I need to brush the dust off my King Lear, which I suspect is the most famous example in literature containing a court jester -- does anybody remember if Lear's Fool had an aspect of creepiness about him, or merely tragedy?
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  #33  
Old 10-18-2004, 08:54 PM
Where'd Who Go Where'd Who Go is offline
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The bulk of my personal clown terror comes from the film Poltergeist. A close second would be Tammy Faye Baker.
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  #34  
Old 10-18-2004, 10:10 PM
t-keela t-keela is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by The Gaspode
The first time I think the evil clown was channeled was in Stephen King's It with the truly creepy clown Pennywise. This was in '85, but King must have picked up on some undercurrent.
Where did it start?
Okay...according to Stephen King, he grew up reading comic books. Loved 'em, his first published work was for a comic book. His father (Dan) left him, his brother (David), and mom (Nellie) when he was very young. He and David were in the attic and found some books that his dad had left. He was an aspiring writer himself. These books were all on the occult and horror. Which apparently set the wheels in motion.
(BTW: His dad went out for smokes and never came back.)

just one of many cites but it'll do
http://www.teenreads.com/authors/au-king-stephen.asp
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  #35  
Old 10-18-2004, 11:18 PM
Chastain86 Chastain86 is offline
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I think it has something to do with the time I went to the circus, and a clown shot my dad.
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  #36  
Old 10-18-2004, 11:37 PM
Horatio Hellpop Horatio Hellpop is offline
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When I was little (Mid 1960s), there was a movie they had us watch in Religion class. It was the story of the Passion, told in the context of clowns and an evil ringmaster who had the good Jesus clown killed. Afterwards, he regretted his action, put on the clown makeup and continued the good clown's works. That was the first time I associated clowns with creepiness.
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  #37  
Old 10-18-2004, 11:48 PM
Batsinma Belfry Batsinma Belfry is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jsc1953
Of course, for every Boomer who saw a TV show with a clown-villain, there were a million who saw Bozo the Clown. And Ronald McDonald.
Bozo is EVIL! My sister was on his show and he made her pee! Luckily, she was off camera. When my parents would retell the story, (because parents are kind of evil too), they said it was because she was so excited. But I think not.
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  #38  
Old 10-19-2004, 01:39 AM
Charlie Tan Charlie Tan is offline
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Lot's of interesting reading, t-keela.

If I'm not mistaken though, I think Pennywise is the first truly evil clown. Bad guys dressing up in clownish ways aren't clowns. The joker was never meant to be funny and turned out creepy. It might be that court jesters offered a way to let out anxiety.
But I can't really find a clown, truly only a clown, that was downright evil, before Pennywise. They float....
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  #39  
Old 10-19-2004, 02:13 AM
t-keela t-keela is offline
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I could probably argue that evil disguised as a clown does not a clown make.
But I get your point.
There are some pics of the Joker in full clown makeup.

But my main ponit in all of the replies I made was in answer to this part of your OP.
Quote:
"This was in '85, but King must have picked up on some undercurrent.
Where did it start?"
Stephen King, IMHO must have picked up on this idea from his childhood facination with comic books, many of which depicted the villian as a maniacle psychopath that in many cases were quite clownlike in appearance. If he read the popular comic books at the time he most assuredly was familiar with the Joker. Who was an evil villian and mass murderer who in time started actually wearing a clown costume. That's all I was saying.

BTW I found the subject interesting myself.
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  #40  
Old 10-19-2004, 03:21 AM
Scissorjack Scissorjack is offline
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"Hey, hey, kids!" What about Krusty?
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  #41  
Old 10-19-2004, 03:36 AM
Evil Death Evil Death is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by The Gaspode
Lot's of interesting reading, t-keela.

If I'm not mistaken though, I think Pennywise is the first truly evil clown. Bad guys dressing up in clownish ways aren't clowns. The joker was never meant to be funny and turned out creepy. It might be that court jesters offered a way to let out anxiety.
But I can't really find a clown, truly only a clown, that was downright evil, before Pennywise.
Well, Harlequin was never exactly nice.
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  #42  
Old 10-19-2004, 07:05 AM
Trunk Trunk is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by The Gaspode
Lot's of interesting reading, t-keela.

If I'm not mistaken though, I think Pennywise is the first truly evil clown. Bad guys dressing up in clownish ways aren't clowns. The joker was never meant to be funny and turned out creepy. It might be that court jesters offered a way to let out anxiety.
But I can't really find a clown, truly only a clown, that was downright evil, before Pennywise. They float....
as someone said before, what about John Wayne Gacy. He was before "it".

There's a picture of him getting his clown on at the bottom of this page.
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  #43  
Old 10-19-2004, 07:12 AM
Bosda Di'Chi of Tricor Bosda Di'Chi of Tricor is offline
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There's actually Clown Porn.

And, it's disturbing... hunt for it on the Web at peril of your ability to sleep at night.
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  #44  
Old 10-19-2004, 07:14 AM
Bosda Di'Chi of Tricor Bosda Di'Chi of Tricor is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chastain86
I think it has something to do with the time I went to the circus, and a clown shot my dad.
I kind of hope you're kidding, but I'm not certain, Chastain.
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  #45  
Old 10-19-2004, 07:37 AM
Johnny L.A. Johnny L.A. is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Murcielago
Sometimes a creepy clown can also be hilarious.

Case in point. Though Ronnie loved his "Happy Meals," the resulting periods of depression eventually became too much to bear...
Maybe it's the early morning lack of caffeine, but I laughed at the bottom photo for a full minute.

I've never found clowns to be scary, unless they were intended to be scary. I used to watch reruns of Bozo when I was a kid. I've been to the circus. I never saw The Joker as a clown, but as an "evil jester".

I like the idea of scary clowns, but I've never been scared by them. Of course it's disturbing that John Wayne Gacy was a mass murderer who dressed like a clown when he wasn't killing boys; but in non-real life, I like evil clowns. I think the ones in Killer Clowns From Outer Space are the best.
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  #46  
Old 10-19-2004, 07:40 AM
Bosda Di'Chi of Tricor Bosda Di'Chi of Tricor is offline
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Related LINK
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  #47  
Old 10-19-2004, 08:12 AM
Eve Eve is offline
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Originally Posted by hillbilly queen
Bozo is EVIL! My sister was on his show and he made her pee!
Gee, I don't remember that segment of the show!

By the way, I was yet another child terrorized by a Jack-in-the-Box present as a tot. I still remember the nightmares . . .
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  #48  
Old 10-19-2004, 10:02 AM
AuntiePam AuntiePam is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chastain86
I think it has something to do with the time I went to the circus, and a clown shot my dad.
Ha! Jack Handy?
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  #49  
Old 10-19-2004, 11:32 AM
Otto Otto is offline
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No more need be said.

No more except for "can't sleep...clown'll eat me..."
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  #50  
Old 10-19-2004, 12:13 PM
Bosda Di'Chi of Tricor Bosda Di'Chi of Tricor is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Otto
No more need be said.

No more except for "can't sleep...clown'll eat me..."

"Can't Sleep Decepticons Will...."

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