14 young teenagers were arrested here in France on Saturday night. They were armed with baseball bats, knives – and guns. Nothing particularly unusual in that; it is legal (for adults!) to buy a gun in France – what was different about this ‘gang’ is that they were young teenagers – and all dressed as circus clowns.
They were part of a growing sub-culture of ‘scary clowns’ that is spreading faster than Ebola. It started in America (where else!) where a clown in a ‘Ronald MacDonald’ type outfit posed outside a restaurant in Albuquerque, New Mexico for some publicity shots – presumably hoping to sprinkle a little MacDonalds marketing magic onto the restaurant in question. The resulting picture found its way onto social media.
Within days, a Twitter account had sprung up – The Real Wasco Clown – (Twitter have suspended the account now – but the hashtag continues) and Scary Clowns armed with an alarming array of weapons were popping up in Wasco, Delano and Bakersfield. When Police turned up in response to calls from members of the public, the only clown they managed to catch was an unarmed 14 year old who said he was responding to something ‘he had seen on social media’ – however, other calls had claimed that clowns were armed with machetes and chasing people down the street.
Still within a matter of days of these events, Portsmouth Police in Britain were called out to reports of a Clown chasing people down the street – again a 15 year old boy. He appeared to be following in the footsteps of an earlier ‘Northampton’ clown who claimed to be copying Steven King’s It’ rather than responding to social media. The London Metropolitan police report that they dealt with 117 clown-related incidents in 2013 alone.
Two days later, police in Montpellier, France, arrested a man dressed as a clown after assaulting a man with an iron bar. Then in Bethune last week a man was given a suspended six-month jail sentence for chasing minors down the street dressed as a clown while brandishing a stick at them. Last week French police arrested a group of five teenage vigilantes armed with a teargas canister, hammer and truncheon who had set out to hunt down a clown after hearing about it on Facebook.
On Monday, a woman who had just got out of her car in Paris called the police, saying two clowns – one of whom was armed with an axe, which mercifully turned out to be fake – had attacked her, a source said. They escaped when a passer-by armed with a baseball bat tried to stop them, although one was later detained when police spotted him, white make-up still all over his face.
Whilst in the US and Britain, the appeal of this phenomenon could be put down to Halloween – Halloween is unknown in France apart from a few ex-pat kids hopefully going round door to door, much to the bemusement of the French, ‘trick or treating’. ‘Tis a mystery to be sure.
A genuine Internet phenomena. Out of interest, I looked up the supposedly ‘correct’ word for fear of clowns – Coulrophobia – and discovered that it of itself is a creature of the internet, though the term is being widely bandied about in the media both here and on the continent – it only exists in the Online Etymology Dictionary. The Online Etymology Dictionary states that the term “looks suspiciously like the sort of thing idle pseudo-intellectuals invent on the Internet and which every smarty-pants takes up thereafter” – so Ms Raccoon wont be using it!
I can find plenty of articles explaining why children are frightened of clowns – but nobody seems to be hazarding a guess as to why this is mainly children who are dressing up as clowns and arming themselves with serious weapons to terrorise adults…has Lord of the Flies come to life?
Anybody got any theories?