Thursday, October 06, 2016

Classic Phantom Clowns Cases: Pre-2016

The following is my chronological analysis of past "Phantom Clowns" flaps, from 1981 until the beginning of the current 2016 "epidemic," as Wikipedia entitles it..  The phrase "Phantom Clowns" was coined by me (Loren Coleman) based on my research on the first major wave in 1981. It was initially used in my 1982 article of with that title, in the Chicago-based national publication, Fate Magazine, before appearing in subsequent books, including the 1983 compilation pictured above.

The comic book, Scooby Doo Where Are You!, Gold Key #9, from Hanna-Barbera, "Phantom Clown," appeared in 1971, as I would discover decades after I independently coined the phrase for the 1981 mystery abduction phenomenon.

(Please note, this list does not include the "Stalking Clowns" events that also have been reported in recent years. See "Phantom Clowns: Classified" for the definitions separating "Phantom Clowns" from "Stalking Clowns.")

All the following are reports of non-photographed, uncaught clowns sighted by children and reported to be attempting to abduct or "bother" children.

1981, May:

Brookline - two clowns - black older van, ladder on side, one headlight broken
Boston (Roxbury, Jamaica Plain) - men in clown suits - black van
East Boston - clowns - vans
Charlestown - clowns - vans
Cambridge - clowns - vans
Canton - clowns - vans
Randolph - clowns - vans
"other cities" near Boston - clowns - vans

Rhode Island
Providence - clowns - vans

Kansas City - a clown in a black shirt with a devil on it, black pants with candy canes down the side of each leg, with a sword - yellow van

Kansas City - a clown with a knife - yellow van (six different school; 12 incidents)

Omaha - clowns  - vans

Denver - clowns - vans

1981, June:

Pittsburgh (Hill District) - two clowns - van
Pittsburgh (Garfield neighborhood, Allegheny Cemetery) -  rabbit-costumed individual - blue van
Arlington Heights - clown, costumed characters - vehicle

Story stayed out of the national news until this Associated Press story of June 11, 1981.

Source for 1981 cases: Loren Coleman, Mysterious America: The Ultimate Guide to the Nation's Weirdest Wonders, Strangest Spots, and Creepiest Creatures, Chapter, "Phantom Clowns" (Boston & London: Faber & Faber, 1983; New York: Paraview, 2001; New York: Simon and Schuster, 2007); Fate Editors’ The World’s Strangest Stories, “Phantom Clowns,” (Chicago: Clark Publishing, 1983).

1985, March: 

Phoenix - clowns

1991, June:

New Jersey
South/West Orange - clown - van
Belleville - clown with a machete and an Uzi machine gun - van

Source for 1985 and 1991 cases: Jan Harold Brunvand, "Someone Keeps Sending in the Phantom Clowns," Deseret News, Salt Lake City, Utah, August 9, 1991.


Scotland - clown - blue van

Source for 1991 case: Sandy Hobbs and David Cornwell, "Killer Clowns and Vampires: Children's Panics in Contemporary Scotland," in Supernatural Enemies (Durham: Carolina Academic Press, 2001).

1995, October:

Tegucigalpa - clowns - ambulances/cars
San Pedro Sula - clowns - ambulances/cars

Source for 1995 case: Gillian Bennett, Bodies: Sex, Violence, Disease, and Death in Contemporary Legend (Oxford: University of Mississippi Press, 2005).

2000, June:

Fitchburg - clown in blackface - on foot, luring into woods

Source for 2000 case: Loren Coleman, Mysterious America: The Ultimate Guide to the Nation's Weirdest Wonders, Strangest Spots, and Creepiest Creatures, Chapter, "Phantom Clowns" (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2007).

2008, October:

Chicago (South Side, Wicker Park) - a clown - white or brown van

Source for 2008 case: Loren Coleman, "Phantom Clowns Are Back," October 17, 2008.

2012, April:

Idaho Falls - clown - red SUV

Source for 2012 case: Loren Coleman, "Idaho Phantom Clown Incident," April 28, 2012.

2012, December:

New York
Red Hook - man in black ski mask - van

Source for 2012 case: Loren Coleman, "Red Hook's Mask + Van Incident," December 28, 2012.

2015, October:

Kent - clown - van

Source for 2015 case: Benjamin Radford, Bad Clowns (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico, 2016); Loren Coleman, "Phantom Clowns of 2015, Copycats of 1981?" (October 19, 2015).


PDXWiz said...

The clowns are hitting very close to home for me.

My sons' school district has been dealing with the rumors and sent out this message on their website:

My oldest mentioned there had been police at David Douglas High School where he attends on Monday, and I saw a police car there today when I dropped him off. Apparently, there was supposed to be a threat tomorrow.

But I got this email today, from my younger son's school, Floyd Light Middle School:
Dear Floyd Light families:

I wanted to alert you to an incident that happened this morning outside our school. The safety and security of your students while they are in our care is our highest priority, as well as communicating with you about any incidents.

At about 8:25 a.m., after school had started, a man approached the school wearing a clown mask and boxing gloves. He did not enter the school, but was seen outside shadow boxing. The man was immediately confronted by a Floyd Light staff member, who also called 911. The man fled into a nearby residential area.

Portland police arrived and were directed to a residence where they believed the man fled to. At about 8:40 a.m., police apprehended and arrested the man and took him into custody.

At no time did the man gain access to the school, and he posed no threat to any students, who remained safely inside the building.

As you are probably aware, there seems to be a fad or craze nationwide and in Portland around people dressed as clowns and frightening other people. This incident seems to be a case of that fad. While the man in this morning's incident was not connected to our school, our school district is aware that some students have talked about joining this fad by dressing as clowns as a prank.

Please have a conversation with your student about the potential dangers associated with doing this. Police are on heightened alert, and these clown rumors have many people on edge, creating a potential hazard.

Please don't hesitate to contact us with any questions or concerns.

Thank you,

Doug Pease, Principal
Floyd Light Middle School

I had been worrying ever since you posted about the name Logan, since that's my youngest son's name. Before that, my name (Gordon) showed up in one of the Clown posts, where you had listed the streets in one of the communities where police were following reports of a clown. And in the Chelsea bombing, I saw numbers of importance to me: one bomb was near '7th Avenue' ... and the second was found 'on 27th St'. My birthday is 7/27, and that's an anagram of my address (and apartment number), 272. And the day you posted Logan, I was reading one of Linda Godfrey's books, American Monsters, and one of the (I think) lake monsters had a witness named Genevieve---which is the name of their mom (my ex).

Feel free to use any of this information for any posts, or in the case of the Clowns and my kids' schools, for any book you might write. I believe that you really should, in light of all that's happened this year.

Gordon Long

PDXWiz said...

Also today, there is a news report of a murder-suicide of a father and his children in a Portland suburb; Greenway appears twice in the article, as does Enfield (and I thought of the monster you investigated):

Police on Thursday morning identified a father and his two children who were found dead in an apparent murder-suicide at a Beaverton apartment complex.

Man, two children dead in apparent murder-suicide at Beaverton apartment

Police have confirmed that two children and one man were found dead at the scene of a shooting at an apartment complex in Beaverton.

Officers with the Beaverton Police Department responded to the Redwood Creek Apartments near Southwest Hall Boulevard and Southwest Greenway Avenue just before 4:30 p.m. Wednesday after a woman called 911.

Continue reading >>
Officers responded to the Redwood Creek Apartments near Southwest Hall Boulevard and Greenway Avenue just before 4:30 p.m. Wednesday after a woman called 911.

Police said the woman discovered three bodies in an apartment at the complex.

When officers arrived, they found Lakalo Kawika Enfield, 36; Lakalo Vergara Enfield, 6; and Lehua Elaysea Enfield, 8 inside an apartment.

It appeared all three were dead, but when officers stepped out of the unit they heard a gunshot, which they believe was Lakalo Kawika Enfield taking his own life.

Police say Lakalo Kawika Enfield is the father of the two children.

A Beaverton School District spokeswoman said both children attended Greenway Elementary School.

The school brought in a team of counselors on campus Thursday to help students and staff deal with the loss of the children.

"It’s sober in terms of the staff," district spokesperson Maureen Wheeler said. “Our hearts and thoughts are with the family and the loss of these dear children.”

Detectives with the Beaverton Police Department and Washington County Major Crimes unit are investigating the deaths as a murder-suicide.

Police confirmed they responded to the location on Sept. 29 on reports of a verbal domestic disturbance. Officers said there were no signs of an assault and Lakalo Kawika Enfield agreed to go to a relative's home.

Officers were not called to that location again until Wednesday.

Copyright 2016 KPTV-KPDX Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved.

And I saw this sad news as well:

MCKEESPORT, PA (WPXI/CNN) - Police found two parents dead inside their home, after an alleged drug overdose.

Their 7-year-old daughter went to school Tuesday and told officials that something was wrong.

Jessica Lally and her boyfriend Chris were addicted to heroin, according to Jessica’s sister Courtney Lally.

They were also the parents to four young kids.

The oldest of which was the one who notified authorities.

"That's like the hardest thing because that's a 7-year-old. That's a 7-year-old that did that," Lally said.

Reminded me of Captain Scott Lally of the Westbrook Police and the Wessie snakeskin story. I also used to know a Bryan Lally through my union connections, but his family were the only Lallys I had ever heard of until Wessie, and this article.

Tom Mellett said...


I just came across this article about Phantom Clowns which was written 9 months ago, long before the present flap. It's quite detailed about the events of 1981 and mentions you halfway through. It's on the website of Jason Blum, a very successful Hollywood producer of micro budget horror films as well as mainstream movies like Whiplash.

When Pennywise Was Real: The Phantom Clown Scare of 1981

Loren Coleman, a university professor who had a long standing interest in cryptozoology, was the first to start putting all these sightings together, which he collected in his book, Mysterious America. In the time before the internet, stories like this lived and died on local news channels, and most everyone wouldn’t notice the clown conspiracy happening across the country. Coleman, who looked for the strange in everything, caught it and found that it may have started even earlier in the year back in March.

Newspaceman said...

Hiya Loren, the "clowns" have reached Scotland.


PDXWiz said...

Updated on the arrest at my son's school of 55 year old grandfather David Dahlman.

That page has a few more recent clown links from around the state of Oregon.

He's got a history of arrests as I saw when I looked him up at pdxmugshots, but also saw a James Wayne Dahlman with an even bigger history. Yeah, Wayne.

For Dahlman, there's a spirit and Ouija investigater named Karen Dahlman, who regular appears on paranormal radio shows and podcasts.

I also saw a listing for a book at Amazon, called The Dahlman Files: A Tony Dahlman Paranormal Mystery (The Dahlman Prophecy Book 1), by Sudie Crouch. Apparently it is set in Wisconsin, a known paranormal hotspot state.

Everyday gets crazier...

Tom Mellett said...

New word coined by the Daily Mail in the UK


Clownmageddon continues! Now a woman is forced into premature labour after being terrified by masked figure while children run in terror from a knife-wielding clown

An expectant mother who was scared by a 17-year-old boy dressed as a clown went into premature labour

According to social media the mother and baby are doing ok but people are now calling for police action

'Killer clowns' are being spotted all over the UK in terrifying pranks on adults and even children in play parks

Some police forces are warning the 'clowns' will be arrested and patrols are being increased in some areas

Have you been terrorised by a clown or spotted one in your area? Email