Friday, October 17, 2008

Phantom Clowns Are Back!

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They have returned.

In Mysterious America, I detailed the national wave of shadowy 1981 sightings of clowns in vans, trying to kidnap children, from Boston to Kansas City.

The encounters began in May of 1981, in Boston, Brookline, and other Massachusetts communities. By the end of the month, the local newspapers in Kansas City were publishing warnings about "Killer Clowns" said to be after children at bus stops there.

During an era before emails and the Internet, I was able to discover, via my network of correspondents, that a rash of local news articles were appearing across the USA, describing similar abduction scenarios. Although the national newspapers and wire services were totally unaware of the widespread nature of such accounts, the stories were remarkably alike. I called them the "Phantom Clowns."

Repeats of almost identical Phantom Clown encounters have been recorded since 1981. The latest one is now developing in Illinois.

The reports coming from Chicago have even been tied to a Wicker Park, which has a symbolic name linked to New York City's Son of Sam killings of 1976-1977. In letters to the media, the serial killer signed himself as "The Wicked King Wicker" and allegedly shoot a Wicker Street German shepherd.

In the October 2008 incidents, a man wearing clown make-up and a wig is using balloons in an attempt to lure children into his vehicle on the South Side of Chicago, Illinois. Police issued an alert about a week after a man with a similar description was spotted on the West Side.

The near abductions were reported in the 8300 block of South Mackinaw and the 10000 block of South Normal, according to a community alert by Calumet Area detectives.

The man, who wears clown make-up and a wig, approached children with balloons attempting to lure them into his vehicle, but the children ran and called 911, the alert said.

The man, who wears a clown mask or white face paint with teardrops on the cheek, has approached children walking to and from school, police said. Witnesses told police he was seen driving a white or brown van with the windows broken out.

The attempted kidnapping/child abduction occurred on October 7, 2008, at 5:55 p.m. and October 10, 2008, at 8:55 a.m.

Police on Sunday morning, October 12th, said the sightings have not been concentrated to one specific area and there have been multiple sightings of clowns across the city, according to a Harrison Area Special Victims Unit detective.

One suspect was seen on foot in the Garfield Park neighborhood and near Beidler Elementary School, 3151 W. Walnut St., and Polaris Charter Academy, 620 N. Sawyer Avenue.

Dressed in a multi-colored clown suit with a mask or white face paint, a red nose and a teardrop on his cheek, the man escaped in a van after the failed attempts.

Police elaborated that there have been multiple sightings of clowns across the city, including one sighting in Wicker Park, but there has been no hard evidence leading to a suspect. No arrests have been made.

(Thanks to Christopher Balzano and Richard D. Hendricks for their news tips on the developing Chicago story.)


To undermine any incorrect misunderstandings regarding the rumored origins of the Phantom Clown stories, they cannot be referenced as being "caused" by Stephen King, as is sometimes written.

Stephen King's It (below) terrorized children (as a novel in 1986 and a TV movie in 1990), after I published my notes on the discovery of the "Phantom Clown" wave of 1981 (first in magazine articles and later in my 1983 first edition of Mysterious America).

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42 comments:

Luke F. said...

Very interesting article Loren, I know why I'm affraid of clowns. Who knows, maybe you caused Stephen King's "It"?

Rabbit said...

I hate clowns.
I always hated clowns.

Glen Warner said...

Hi, Loren.

I note that you wrote that the "outbreak" began in Illinois. Any idea where the first series of incidents began?

I think it might be an interesting exercise to track these incidents, paying attention to such things as which cities are affected, are the cities in the vicinity of ley lines or window areas, any reports on the vehicle's licenses (are they unlisted, like those of the MIB?), etc. (I'm sure you can come up with more things to look for).

Should be an interesting -- if disturbing -- bunch of data.

--gdw

Noblesensei said...

Best advice to parents of children: Enroll your kids in a self defense school so that they can protect themselves against these perverts...be practical, be safe....

Role' said...

The October 2008 incidents that happened in Chicago, sound very similar to events that happened in Chicago around 1990-91. We were warned about clown sightings outside of my school in Corkery which is on the Chicago Westside. The clown was also said to be driving around in a van and was referred to by the name "Homie the Clown" (like the show In Living Color around the time) Then he just seemed to disappear and no mention was made again. Creepy

Regan Lee said...

Interesting post as always Loren. I too hate clowns, really don't like them, and my intense dislike and creep out sensors seem to have gotten stronger through the years.

Anonymous said...

One of many varieties of Intelligence operations that our mob bosses (in the central banks) are running to confound and confuse us.

Nightghost said...

I concur with rabbit. Clowns creep me out. I Like your blog.

Anonymous said...

The Return of John Wayne Gacy

Killer Klowns from Outer Space 2

Anonymous said...

Hi im Tiara and i find this clown thing chaotic and psycotic.These clowns are now in Markham,Illinois.On 10-24-08 my friend was walking home by himself and a white van pulled up and asked him how he was doing and he looked at them and they started laughing.Once they started laughn he ran and they chased him with the vehicle until he cut through a short cut to our friend's house.I was in formed that the police has been imformed.I hope they catch them and I have heard that they have been in these locations in Illinois:Country Club hills,Hazel Crest,Markham,and Oak Forest.This makes no sense!Why would some one think of something so irrelevent as this!They must have no degree or common sense because in my 13 years of being alivei havent seen nothin at all like this.

Bernadette said...

I'm in my 50's and I've always been creeped out by them too. I'm glad other people starting talking about it cause I always thought I was the only one.

But when I was a kid you never heard stuff like this, now there's a reason for all kids to be afraid of them.

hellabella said...

This definitely brought back a flood of memories from my childhood.

I was born in 1980. When I was 5 or 6 years of age my two older cousins and my older sister terrified me with a similar story.

They told me to beware of a white van full of clowns without noses that would abduct children and blow them up into balloons. Of course there was more information to this that I have forgotten over the years. I'll have to call them tomorrow to see if they can remember any of it, but probably not.

I'm from Yakima, Washington which is nowhere near the places mentioned in your article, but this must have originated from the news of the day with some twists to the story. It's definitely too similar to not have originated from the story you're referencing.

I never thought I would be reminded of the story they terrified me with nor did I think it was based to some degree on a real event. I definitely still get the creeps from clowns to this very day.

Thank you for the article,
Jeretta D.

Anonymous said...

Do you think this has any connection to "Smiley Face Killers" that have been linked to deaths of college students in the midwest over the last 3 years?

Joel said...

A short while after watching Stephen King's "IT" as a young child (my babysitter let me watch pretty much anything), I remember going to my grandpa's house and staying the night in a spare bedroom. The room was full of clowns. They were everywhere: on the walls, on the dresser, on a chair. To be perfectly honest, I was scared shitless. I didn't get a whole lot of sleep that night.

Anonymous said...

Well Thius makes a lot of sense. I know more people who have a fear if not downright phobia of clowns.

One of my associates worked for the Illinois Department of Corrections and the federal Bureau of Prisions. While at Menard state(IL) prison, he got to interact with John Wanye Gacey before his execution.
My associate told me that JWG actually had an "aura" of evil about him. We both agreed that we have no use for clowns.

I don't know if the sightings of "Clowns" are "copycat" individuals, or simply a persona of evil and debauchery that simply moves from place to place looking for a host body to use.

In My law enforcemt carrer and other security work I have had the misfortune of being around individuals of such demonic acts as to be called for lack of a better term "possesd".

Of course their official diagnosisi was schitsophenia, bipolar, sociopath or whatever combination thereof. The bottom line is they wer a personifcation of simple evil.

gandamack said...

I hate clowns too...and as an initiation or training event,it makes sense....the country is full of sicko's....

Anonymous said...

Remember, John Gacey was a Clown from Illinois too........

Anonymous said...

I believe the whole Phantom Clown wave of 1981 was probably inspired by street gang characters in the 1981 movie Escape From New York. Just a hunch.

Anonymous said...

seems to me there are plenty of clowns out there as it is.

Anonymous said...

I wonder if all of this is just some sort of urban legend that comes into the media's attention every so often. I grew up in Glasgow, Scotland. I remember my teacher telling the class to watch our for 'clowns in vans' (the vehical not the sneaker) who were trying to abduct kids. That would have been in the late 80's/ early 90's. So it's something that's not just confined to America.

Anonymous said...

John Wayne Gacy (March 17, 1942 – May 10, 1994) was an American serial killer.

He was convicted and later executed for the rape and murder of 33 boys and young men between 1972 and his arrest in 1978, 27 of whom he buried in a crawl space under the floor of his house, while others were found in nearby rivers. He became notorious as the "Killer Clown" because of the many block parties he threw for his friends and neighbors, entertaining children in a clown suit and makeup, under the name of "Pogo the Clown".

Gacy was the inspiration for a "Killer Clown" serial killer character in a popular comic book and since his exploits took place prior to the 1981 flap I suspect these are more of his "fans"

Anonymous said...

I live in Buffalo NY. There was a clown incident here too. In Sept a man dressed as an evil clown did a home invasion in the University District. They said he had a machete.

mfritz said...

Warn your kids, especially this month with Halloween.

Anonymous said...

Good article. But I must say it seems obvious to me that anyone in a mask or make up is suspect. Clowns are architypal for mischief. But anyone able to hide their identity is suspect. Nothing supernatural here.

Anonymous said...

When I read this, I also thought of John Wayne Gacy. Makes you wonder if it's his 'fans' out there emulating him. Creepy. And truly frightening.

Recall also the clown doll that turns demonic/menacing/evil in the movie Poltergeist. My pick for one of the scariest movies of all time.

Anonymous said...

They say that there has been
reports of a clown in a van in
BLOOMINGDALE, IL which is just a
suburb about 20 minutes from the
city. It happened at Winnebago Elementary and Blackhawk Elementary.

Anonymous said...

I ALWAYS HATED CLOWNS AND WHEN I FIRST HEARD ABOUT THEM MY COUSIN TOLD ME ABOUT AND THEY TOOK A PICTURE OF HIM IN CHASED AND I LIVE IN ILLNOIS OVER IN THE AREA OF HAZEL CREST I SCARED TO WALK TO THE BUS STOP NOW THEY NEED TO DO SOME THING ABOUT THESE CLOWN AND QUICK

Aidan said...

clowns.. the only things worse than two girls one cup...

Ghost of Robert Anton WIlson said...

I grew up just outside of chicago during the "homey the clown" scare that Role mentioned of the early 90's. A friends mother told us all to watch out for a brown raggedy van with a clown in it. I didn't really believe her until a few days later at my grade school we were issued a similar warning and told not to accept rides or candy from anyone in clown makeup. Still skeptical I was in for a shock when when that weekend joshing about with my friends we in fact did see a man in clown make up driving a busted up brown van down 15th street. As I remember he had black and white face make up with a single tear (similar to the recent sightings in the chicagoland area) strange plushed our red hair and a look in his eyes that was fucking eerie. He slowed his car down and stare at us as he approached. My two friends and I exchanged a single wordless glance and then bolted very probably leaving dust outlines of ourselves behind us. I still can't explain the weirdness of that moment to this day. Their has never been any mention of who this person was or what they wanted (To the best of my knowledge no child was ever taken, no crime ever committed). But I can say this the Chicago land area has always had an interesting relationship with clowns, Back during Chicagos earliest history when a gambling house and tavern at the mouth of the chicago river would occasionally host traveling performers in (what would now be called) clown make up, to the lake front being regularly occupied by traveling circuses through the mid to late 1800's. The outlandish circus shows during the Colombian expedition which brought in performers from all over the world. The circus train wreck (and some say haunting) in riverside. Even Bozo the clown got his start and remains based in Chicago. Since the 70's though Chicago's been a bit spooked on the idea of killer clowns. I'm speaking of the serial murders committed John Wayne Gacey. Who murdered at least thirty three young men, and boys and dressed as "pogo" the clown" to entertain children. This may be an impetus behind the rash of clown related weirdness, a strange sort of 10- 20 year copy cat effect of our own. it might be the natural psychological reaction of a certain portion of the population living in one of the most corrupt cities in America. The clown is based of the medieval archetype of the jester and the fool who can be traced to the french harlequinnade and the characters of the Italian comide de l'arte (sic?) movement. What all of these character modalities have in common is they speak sense through senselessness, often keep great secrets and are willing to shout down the highest echelons of power when others dare not speak (Think the fool in King Lear.) These characters were also often dark, chaotic, murderous, evil, as well as mad in many stories. The fool by nature of his insanity remains unbound by convention, and ideas of normalcy. The joker card in a modern day deck of cards is based on the fool card in the tarot deck. The fools number is zero meaning it exists outside of the order of the deck (in most modern card games we almost never use the jokers, yet they are included in almost every deck.. why?). The Joker or Fool has a role but remains unbound by order. The response I was talking about is one of needing to interject some real fear into a population that mirrors the completely banal fear which is around us everyday. The fear of an ineffectual in fact criminal government. The fear of a police force that we know tortures and brutalizes it's citizens. The fear of uncertainty, for ourselves and most of all our children. The fear of that which is different. All of these things are pervasive in Chicago, and in much of the world (which is why I think the phantom clown phenom is bigger than just one city) yet solutions are few, discussions and methods of coping are little to non existent. The rash of "killer" or evil clown sightings puts a face to the unaddressed fears we face everyday. A character who shouts down power but plays with life and death like a toy. A character that juxtaposes it's intention switching it to the opposite just because (clowns meant to entertain children catching and harming children). The "killer clown" in this aspect is the very embodiment of those unaddressed and unresolved fears. The whole phenomenon may be a mass hysteria of sorts giving people an outlet for felling powerless from their fear, and be nothing more than that. No clowns no attempted child abductions, no massive criminal conspiracy. It also may be a few people who feel so afraid they are pushed to commit acts of horror as a way to cope with feelings of anger and powerlessness they feel everyday (Like John Wayne killing because of his disgust over homosexuality). Or they might just be fucking crazy. Or maybe we all are. Or maybe society is. My bet is its all three. In any case I will read through your blog watching for more phantom clown sightings and wondering if my encounter many years ago was with a lunatic child snatcher, a hysterical delusion, or just some guy running late to a kids party.
Fnord

Anonymous said...

I can remember sometime in the early 80s driving home with my parents from visiting relatives of ours. It was night, and as we were on the final approach to our house, there were two indivuals running up the side of the road, who were clowns. I think that one of them was carrying a small bag in his hand, but that could just be the memory of a 10-year-old.

My sister, who was about six or seven at the time, pointed them out to all of us. It was in October, but it wasn't yet Halloween. We were expecting them to ring our doorbell and demand candy, but that never happened.

To this day, I have always wondered who and/or what that was.

Anonymous said...

Quite frankly, none of you have grasped the obvious and most logical explanation: Government or private industry covert training operation's. Put simply, the training of sanctioned assassin's. Out of the two million people reported disappearing under violent circumstances each year, how many of these are the victim's of such operation's? From accidental death's to the framing of innocent people and everything in between. After all, unlike TV, most assassination's, by nature, must appear accidental to avoid unwanted attention. Do we believe, collectively, that our government, or private industries, do not utilize assassination? Of course we do, both publicly and privately, and are the most adept at it. Do we also believe we send said assassin's, untrained, to other foreign nation's without first training them? And where better to train than in your own backyard, where you can easily remain anonymous and mitigate any factor's that are nearly uncontrollable in other countries. How many of these supposed "copy cat" crimes are, in fact, tactical operation's using old crimes to cover new ones, even to the point of totally obfuscating the new crime, leaving it totally undetected. Keep in mind that no, you are wrong, training an assassin would entail assigning target profiles from vagrant's to the wealthy elite. After all, if you easily mark a vagrant, but not a banker, what use are you? And they must also be trained to successfully mark a target sans violence; enter the accidental death. Keep in mind that the figure 2 million DISAPPEARANCES, no murder's, but disappearances, A YEAR, as reported by the US Dept. of Justice, Bureau of Vital Statistic's, does NOT include any such disappearances when the victim is a John, Jane, or Baby Doe. As with murder or any death, if you're listed as a John, Jane, or Baby Doe, your death is not statutorially directed to be reported to the USDOJ/FBI. How many of these disappearances AND murder's of John, Jane, and Baby Does are there a year in America and why don't we have a statistic? I can think of ten reason's inside of five seconds to answer this, and every answer includes governmental direction, at every level. Ignorance does kill and I think it's time we put a statistic to that.

Anonymous said...

So my interest was peaked by the re-emergence of the phantom clowns so I got busy googling. I came across an old Ute legend called the Siats, who were cannibalistic clown-like monsters. I googled it and came across a young ladies facebook page. Her name is Christine Siats. Christine was a novel/movie about a possessed car written by Stephen King. He also wrote It, featuring the homicdal clown Pennywise. Her last name is Siats, which are man eating clown monsters. Talk about Twilight Language.

Loren Coleman said...

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Anonymous said...

I grew up in Glasgow too and remember the killer clown story, I was in primary 2 at the time so that would have been 1990/1991 that it happened. I remember being told they had a blue van,and I remember being told they were at our school,it was so scary at the time.

hello said...

hi i also live in glasgow and remember the killer clown i remember the blue van as well.our school warned us too about folk dressed uo as clowns and trying to lure kids into there vans it was the late 80s early 90s. i remember our school held an emergency assembly and were told we werent allowed to walk home from school only if we were in groups or we had to get a relative to pick us up.the police were also there to talk to us as well as there was so much of a panick about it.i also remember the police were also there at home n lunchtime at our school and at hometime a helicopter would circle the area.the worse thing i can remember was when we were in school one day our school is next to a {bing]big hill at the top there was a blue van at the top looking at our school and the school next to us our class was on the 3rd floor and we could see it just sittin there looking at the school was very creepy it went before the police arrived

justme746 said...

When I was about 6 or 7yrs old and lived in Somerville Mass around 1981 there was a time when I was playing w/my cousins outside when another kid ran up the block shouting "the clowns are coming!" and every kid on the street scattered into nearby houses... being just 6 or 7y, I dont remember if we actually saw the van drive by but I do remember hiding in the house w/my cousins being scared of "clowns in the van". Until today I always wondered if this was some urban myth or prank the older kids had played on us....then I decided to google the memory and came across your webpage. Unbelievable!

Greg said...

This is a fascinating subject, and has intrigued me for years after reading Mysterious America so long ago. I think these things; these phantom clowns might just inhabit several aspects of a strange continuum that coexists with our known levels of understanding. The first aspect would be the corporeal, a man or woman dressed as a clown with questionable motives towards others. The second aspect might be of a paranormal nature, meaning a possible spirit-like entity or even something within the demonic categories. This may also include any number of possibilities within the Fortean enigma categories, such as the Spring-Heel Jack and the Mad Gasser. And, finally, these odd personas may be a residual concept of the popular Jungian archetype ideal, such as the Trickster/Scarecrow archetype, a thing manifested via consciousness, and observed since the dawn of humankind. As bizarre as this may sound, we must at least acknowledge any possible answer, as our universe is now being observed in very different ways.

I had recently released my forth book on folklore and urban legends entitled: Chronicles of the Strange and Uncanny in Florida, with Pineapple Press. In it I discuss the collected accounts of the Phantom Clown sightings that have been reported in my state. I was able to glean on several of the most interesting examples, so if this is a subject that intrigues you, then please check it out. I have to say that I doubt this strange phenomenon is just going to cease all together…No, I think we’ll be hearing more from these denizens of the uncanny.

Greg Jenkins, PhD

Rodney S. Niemi said...

Loren,
Back in May of 1981 Michigan had a few sighting of the Phantom Clowns. I am a survivor of 1 such case, it wasn't always an attempt to take the children; sometimes it was an attempt to straighten out the parents. Look at society and the child rearing today...and you wonder why the Clowns have returned

tinseitown said...

there was an incident were i stay in castlemilk glasgow around 1989/1992 when we all were warned about clowns going around glasgow stalking children i dont think anyone was ever harmed to be honest but i think it started with 1 time clowns turned up at a primary school and started painting the fence and handing out sweets to children but scattered when a teacher came out.there were lots of sightings and apparantly 3 men escaped from a local mental institution at the same time and were never found. scary times for an 8 year old.

kamagra said...

Clowns are very entertaining but I don't like them. They are usually use in disguise in kidnapping children.

Anonymous said...

The phantom clowns are still a mystery. They maybe all related. It could be some kind of organized cult that abducts kids. Perhaps its Satanic. Perhaps they are pedophiles. It certainly looks sinister. Have any of these evil clowns in vans ever been caught and identified? Its a dangerous world.

Jeff Ryder said...

I recently read "Mysterious America" and was particularly intrigued by the chapter about "Phantom Clowns." In the early 1980's, in Lakeville, Massachusetts, my brother and one of our friends were playing in a field in back of our houses. The field was adjacent to Route 79, a moderately busy road. They say that as they were playing, a van stopped on the side of the road and a man dressed as a clown tried to lure them into it.
They were immediately frightened and ran home. From that day forth, my brother, my friends and I referred to this man as the "clown guy" and became wary of any van we saw within the vicinity of our neighborhood.
Although my brother and friend were only around 6 or 7 years old when this happened, they still stick to this story over 30 years later.