• The Darkened Corridor

2016, Year of the Clown

Updated: May 25, 2019

I remember in my Journalism MA, we would sit down each week and talk about the biggest stories of the week to see if we could find new angles to them to create some tasty content. Mostly it was the same Brexit themed circus that kept rolling into town, whether anyone would want it to or not, but I remember a strange time when it wasn’t the story I remember talking about the most. For this brief interlude we, rather ironically given the metaphor I just used, were talking about clowns.

It was of course the clownpocalyse, where we were all going to die in a squeaky shoed, red nosed armageddon the likes of which the world had never seen. Small villages quaked in fear as these menaces stalked late at night, rapping on windows and grimacing in the way that only £5’s worth of latex can achieve. I remember that there were so many counts around both were I lived, and where I went to Uni -80 miles away (which I used to commute everyday. Ouch.) that I was surprised I hadn’t seen one. I mean this was clearly a huge problem, right? Children petrified, grown adults brought to tears at the site of the harlequin menace which had descended upon not just the United Kingdom, but the world.

Where did they come from? Where did they go? Where did they come from, those creepy clowns though?

Source of terror: The clownpocalypse begins

It seems that the Killer Clown phenomenon largely sprung up at a time where clowns were a big deal on the horror scene. We were getting prepped for the new It movie which was due to drop the next year, and we’d just emerged from American Horror Story: Freak Show. It may have looked to the casual media critic that we were in the clown equivalent of the ‘goldilocks zone’ - we were the soft fondant filling in a clown shaped Oreo.

It may well have had some influence, but really, and let’s be honest here, clowns are a bit creepy anyway. It’s part of the whole get up. I mean we’ve been told for years that we should be a little scared of them when we see them through a vast catalogue of horror cinema. What’s more, clown costumes tend to be relatively cheap, and readily available. I looked around my local fancy dress shop’s online store, and guess what - loads of clowns.

The glorious cocktail of availability and preconditioning was everything that was needed. The inception had begun. We knew from that day onwards that we would have to tell our Grandchildren not only how we had survived the 2012 rapture, but now the clownpocalypse.

We’ll just whisk little Jimmy and Sally aware from their mind-implanted augmented versions of Snapchat, and say “Si’ down kids”, before turning wistfully towards the roaring artificial fire. “Did I ever tell you. Did I ever tell you about the Clownpocalypse?”, voice cracking as the painful memories flood back. We’ll tell them…. We’ll tell them that they never had it as bad us as. When we couldn’t walk down the street without fear for our lives. When we couldn’t sleep at night from the comedy squeaks outside. When a Mini Cooper pulling up next to you meant that you could be surrounded by a squadron of 20 armed clowns in a matter of seconds. We’ll tell them about the horror. Lest we ever forget it.

Part 2: The disappearance of Bozo and his chums

Of course one day, what actually happened is that the clowns just sort of upped and left. We all emerged from the panic rooms, held our hands above our eyes to deflect the sun’s harsh rays, burning our eyes which had grown accustomed to the darkness. We were free.

Okay, i’m over dramatising obviously, but it did pretty much seem that overnight, the craze just ended. Done, over. It seemed like the drunken Uni students had found something better to do with their time - maybe there was a deadline coming up sometime soon or something, I don’t know. It happened almost as quickly as it started, and I for one felt a little confused with how something so bizzare had dominated the pages of even sensible newspapers for so long.

Now that it was over,it was time for people like me who like to absorb the gravitas of the situation, and cooerce it together into some kind of almost readable format that we feel slightly ashamed to call anything else but a ‘thought piece’. Unfortunately I couldn’t do that, I was busy making a film about Brexit, and a whole plethora of other clowns.

Episode 3: The Killer Clowns Strike Back

That sort of leads us to the present day. There were drips of clown based stories, such as this one in the Sun in 2018, which showed that there were still a few people who wanted to don the garments again, and go out to relive the golden days of ‘16. I like to imagine they did so with a tear in their eye, remembering what once was and living in the cold knowledge that we’ll never again live in the Year of the Clown. They put on the mask to hide the pain, but we all know it’s there.

Never has there been the level of exposure of the levels of 2016, but I noticed one of my local newspapers running a story about a Killer Clown mere weeks ago at time of writing. We had a fair share of Killer Clowns in the hay day, so could we be heading back to it? Will the clownpocalypse return?

The Truth

Let’s be real for a minute though. Everything I’ve said so far isn’t really about Killer Clowns. It’s about a tabloid media which values sensationalism over quality content. There is no real evidence that the Killer Clown plague was anywhere near the scale you would have believed from the headlines. It was the same kind of tabloid shenanigans as we saw with the Momo challenge, which I also wrote about here. Fear is a really potent emotion, and as a result it’s easy to cash in on. If you create a false sense of panic, people will buy into it and naturally want to know more to prepare themselves and the ones they love incase it affects them. It’s why if I printed on the front page of my tabloid newspaper “Quick! Comet heads towards Earth. What do YOU need to know”, I’d anticipate higher sales than if I ran a story about the weakening economy and potential job losses. Incidentally, the asteroid story is actually true, we’re due a close one on the 25th of May , and strangely enough tabloids did decide to run with it, with exactly the same sort of urgency to a headline which is succeeded by the clarification in the article that it will be 2,550,000 miles away. Whilst that’s a similar scale to the stopping distance a pensioner thinks is necessary to keep between them and the car in front, I think we’ll be fine. And I failed sciences at college, so you’re in safe hands with me.

Sure there have it. There will continue to be Killer Clown stories every now and then, and there was a disproportionately large amount in 2016, but this was largely created by sensationalism across the media, not just in the UK, but across the world.

So, as a final word of comfort, just remember that we’ll probably have nothing of interest to tell our Grandkids. We’ll open our mouths to interrupt their augmented battle royale game, then cower away when we realise - perhaps we needed the clownpocalypse afterall.