“WHY SO SERIOUS ABOUT CLOWNS?” True Stories of Creepy Clowns and Clown Criminals! #WeirdDarkness
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Listen to ““WHY SO SERIOUS ABOUT CLOWNS?” True Stories of Creepy Clowns and Clown Criminals! #WeirdDarkness” on Spreaker.
IN THIS EPISODE: Why do clowns creep us out? We’ll look at some of the reasons. We’ll review real creepy clown sightings – it happens a lot more than you might think! Plus, we’ll also look at some true cases of clowns committing crimes… and sometimes killing.
SOURCES AND REFERENCES FROM THE EPISODE…
BOOK: “Bad Clowns” by Benjamin Radford: https://amzn.to/3On6ebh
“The Tamarac Square Clown” posted at DarkStories.org: https://weirddarkness.tiny.us/yck74etk
“Why So Serious About Clowns?” by Frank T. McAndrew for The Conversation: https://weirddarkness.tiny.us/2p9cd2hp; and Beth Forrester for Spirit Halloween: https://weirddarkness.tiny.us/2p8s8m3h
“Creepy Clown Sightings” by Matthew Dessem for Slate.com: https://weirddarkness.tiny.us/5fdppc8j; Nina Young for Kidspot.com: https://weirddarkness.tiny.us/2p852r3b
“Clowns of Crime” by Lauren Tousignant for The New York Times: https://weirddarkness.tiny.us/2p8thetd; Maggie Panos at PopSugar.com: https://weirddarkness.tiny.us/2p87t7hh; and from iHorror: https://weirddarkness.tiny.us/7byrxnmv
“John Wayne Gacy: Killer Clown” by Katie Serena for All That’s Interesting: https://weirddarkness.tiny.us/yc7465z8
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My friends kid goes to Hamilton Middle School in Denver and he and some buddies of his were hanging out in Tamarac Square by the old dollar movie theater. There’s a large storm drainage system underneath the parking lot that lets out into a small creek area, where you can enter the storm sewer, which is exactly what they were doing that evening. It’s a pretty popular activity, as there’s not much else for young adults to do in the area.
At any rate, there’s the main passage, with concrete tunnels snaking their through the shopping center, creating a virtual maze of putrid standing water, not to mention the occasional dead rat or dirty needle. There’s a ton of graffiti everywhere and allegedly, they were down there taking pictures of the graffiti when they noticed a dark red, almost black substance smeared across the wall. Realizing that something was “off,” they began making their way back out of the labyrinth.
Here’s where things get creepy… They thought they could hear a faint “clinking” sound, as when metal meets metal.
“Come on, man” one of the boys said, “we need to get out of here, NOW!”
The problem was, every turn they took seemed to take them deeper into the maze and away from the entrance to the storm system. At one point they started panicking and running down the cramped quarters. My friends’ son tripped and fell, and from the ground he saw something truly horrific. A man in a clown costume was barreling down the tunnel at them from behind. He leapt to his feet and caught up to the rest of the group who had apparently left him behind.
They could finally see the light at the entrance to the tunnel, and he shouted at them to run. Stumbling out into the dry creek bed, they turned around just in time to see the clown man standing in the tunnel entrance glowering. He said the man had steak knives attached to his hands somehow, and he was clinking them against each other in a menacing fashion. They ran out of the ditch and called their parents, who called the police, who said they’d check it out, but didn’t seem to take their claims very seriously, and even threatened to charge them all with trespassing.
Well, kids will be kids, and of course, the boys told their classmates, who told their friends, and word quickly got around that there was a killer clown in the tunnels down under Tamarac Square, which spurred on a wave of kids going down there trying to see the clown. Imagine “Blair Witch Project” but, on steroids. Several other children claimed to have seen the clown after that, one boy said he saw it dragging it’s dagger like fingers down the side of the tunnel; another one said they saw it crawling out at them. And then, no killer clown hysteria would be complete without the old clown trying to lure small children in with magic doves and sleight of hand tricks.
No mention of any red balloons yet, but I’d imagine it’s only a matter of time…..
Welcome, Weirdos – (I’m Darren Marlar and) this is Weird Darkness. Here you’ll find stories of the paranormal, supernatural, legends, lore, the strange and bizarre, crime, conspiracy, mysterious, macabre, unsolved and unexplained.
Coming up in this episode…
When author Stephen King was writing the novel IT, on which the films are based, he knew he wanted to create a long book with all the monsters. He hit upon the clown by tapping into our fear of them. He said in a talk in November 2013, “I thought to myself, ‘There [ought] to be one binding, horrible, nasty, gross, creature kind of thing that you don’t want to see, [and] it makes you scream just to see it.” So I thought to myself, ‘What scares children more than anything else in the world?’ And the answer was ‘clowns.’” But why do clowns creep us out? We’ll look at some of the reasons. We’ll review real creepy clown sightings – it happens a lot more than you might think! Plus, we’ll also look at some true cases of clowns committing crimes… and sometimes killing.
If you’re new here, welcome to the show! While you’re listening, be sure to check out WeirdDarkness.com for merchandise, to visit sponsors you hear about during the show, sign up for my newsletter, enter contests, connect with me on social media, plus, you can visit the Hope in the Darkness page if you’re struggling with depression or dark thoughts. You can find all of that and more at WeirdDarkness.com.
Now.. bolt your doors, lock your windows, turn off your lights, and come with me into the Weird Darkness!
STORY: WHY SO SERIOUS ABOUT CLOWNS=====
If you’re afraid of clowns, you aren’t alone. In fact, the fear of clowns is a real phobia, called coulrophobia. But why exactly are clowns seen as scary? And do some people like to be afraid of them?
How did a mainstay of children’s birthday parties start to become an embodiment of pure evil?
A 2008 study conducted in England revealed that very few children actually like clowns. It also concluded that the common practice of decorating children’s wards in hospitals with pictures of clowns may create the exact opposite of a nurturing environment. It’s no wonder so many people hate Ronald McDonald.
According to a 2016 Vox poll, a whopping 42 percent of people said they were at least somewhat afraid of clowns. Among people ages 18 to 29, there were even more who feared clowns – 62% of respondents. These respondents said clowns were scarier than a lot of other common fears, like heights and needles; clowns were the number two fear among those who took the poll – second only to corrupt government, and just above terrorist attacks. Whether the clown is smiling or looking menacing, clowns scare plenty of people.
Clown-like characters have been around for thousands of years. Historically, jesters and clowns have been a vehicle for satire and for poking fun at powerful people. They provided a safety valve for letting off steam and they were granted unique freedom of expression – as long as their value as entertainers outweighed the discomfort they caused the higher-ups.
Jesters and others persons of ridicule go back at least to ancient Egypt, and the English word “clown” first appeared sometime in the 1500s, when Shakespeare used the term to describe foolish characters in several of his plays. The now familiar circus clown – with its painted face, wig and oversized clothing – arose in the 19th century and has changed only slightly over the past 150 years.
Nor is the trope of the evil clown anything new. In 2016, writer Benjamin Radford published his book “Bad Clowns,” in which he traces the historical evolution of clowns into unpredictable, menacing creatures. I’ll place a link to the book in the show notes.
The persona of the creepy clown really came into its own after serial killer John Wayne Gacy was captured. In the 1970s, Gacy appeared at children’s birthday parties as “Pogo the Clown” and also regularly painted pictures of clowns. When the authorities discovered that he had killed at least 33 people, burying most of them in the crawl space of his suburban Chicago home, the connection between clowns and dangerous psychopathic behavior became forever fixed in the collective unconscious of Americans. We’ll cover John Wayne Gacy more indepth later.
Then, for several months in 2016, creepy clowns terrorized America.
Reports emerged from at least 10 different states. In Florida, fiendish clowns were spotted lurking by the side of the road. In South Carolina, clowns were reportedly trying to lure women and children into the woods.
It isn’t clear which of these incidents were tales of clowning around and which were truly menacing abduction attempts. Nonetheless, the perpetrators seem to be tapping into the primal dread that so many children – and more than a few adults – experience in the presence of clowns.
Frank T. McAndrew is a Cornelia H. Dudley Professor of Psychology at Knox College, and he wanted to get down to the cause for creepiness. So… he did a study on it. According to his article at The Conversation:
***My research was the first empirical study of creepiness, and I had a hunch that feeling creeped out might have something to do with ambiguity – about not really being sure how to react to a person or situation. We recruited 1,341 volunteers ranging in age from 18 to 77 to fill out an online survey. In the first section of the survey, our participants rated the likelihood that a hypothetical “creepy person” would exhibit 44 different behaviors, such as unusual patterns of eye contact or physical characteristics like visible tattoos. In the second section of the survey, participants rated the creepiness of 21 different occupations, and in the third section they simply listed two hobbies that they thought were creepy. In the final section, participants noted how much they agreed with 15 statements about the nature of creepy people. The results indicated that people we perceive as creepy are much more likely to be males than females, that unpredictability is an important component of creepiness and that unusual patterns of eye contact and other nonverbal behaviors set off our creepiness detectors big time. Unusual or strange physical characteristics such as bulging eyes, a peculiar smile or inordinately long fingers did not, in and of themselves, cause us to perceive someone as creepy. But the presence of weird physical traits can amplify any other creepy tendencies that the person might be exhibiting, such as persistently steering conversations toward peculiar sexual topics or failing to understand the policy about bringing reptiles into the office. When we asked people to rate the creepiness of different occupations, the one that rose to the top of the creep list was – you guessed it – clowns. The results were consistent with my theory that getting “creeped out” is a response to the ambiguity of threat and that it is only when we are confronted with uncertainty about threat that we get the chills. For example, it would be considered rude and strange to run away in the middle of a conversation with someone who is sending out a creepy vibe but is actually harmless; at the same time, it could be perilous to ignore your intuition and engage with that individual if he is, in fact, a threat. The ambivalence leaves you frozen in place, wallowing in discomfort. This reaction could be adaptive, something humans have evolved to feel, with being “creeped out” a way to maintain vigilance during a situation that could be dangerous. In light of our study’s results, it is not at all surprising that we find them to be creepy.***
Psychologist Rami Nader, director of the North Shore Stress and Anxiety Clinic in North Vancouver, B.C., told NBC that the mystery element of clowns, because they’re wearing masks, can help amp up fear of them. “You can’t really tell who they are. You can’t really see their face. You don’t really know what that all means behind the mask,” said Nader.
While actual coulrophobia is rare (for it to be an actual phobia, you have to experience physical and mental symptoms like nausea, panic and anxiety), clearly, clowns hit a nerve, and pop culture has played up the image of the scary clown to great effect with movies like IT and Killer Klowns from Outer Space.
We know that lots of people are scared of clowns, but scary clowns are enduringly popular in horror movies and on Halloween. How come? Well, for those who don’t have an official phobia, they might like being afraid—up to a point. While it may indeed be scary if you hear about real clown incidents – which we will do later in this episode – in the realm of fiction, many people like the be scared because they know, deep down, that the clown isn’t real, that there’s actually a human being under the clown mask.
Christopher Dwyer, Ph.D., explored some of the reasons people like being scared while doing something like watching a horror movie, as opposed to actually having something terrifying happen to you, in Psychology Today. Dwyer wrote, “[W]hen we get scared, our bodies will go into fight, flight, or freeze mode; but, even though we are cognitively lazy…our brains are good at what they do — so, if we are in a setting where we get a ‘safe’ fright (e.g. watching a horror film, visiting a haunted house, or playing a scary video game) our brains will quickly evaluate the situation and tell us that we’re free from risk. Our bodies calm and many of us subsequently enjoy the experience. Thus, many of us are actually seeking ‘controlled’ fear and suspense, because we know we are safe.”
Other reasons Dwyer gave for people liking to be scared included the rush of endorphins and dopamine, the satisfaction of getting through your fear, feeling close to others who are also afraid, and simple curiosity. All of those factors might explain why even though a large number of people say they’re afraid of clowns, scary and evil clowns are still a huge source of fascination. For some people, it’s likely possible to be scared of clowns and like being scared by those clowns at the same time. Obviously, it depends on what kind of fear clowns instill in you.
Even if you do have a deep-seated fear of clowns, it’s possible to get over it with time and exposure. Psychologist Nader told NBC, that to get over a phobia such as a clown phobia, “What we need to do is gradually come into contact with that thing – whether it’s spiders or heights, whatever you’re afraid of – and learn to cope with the anxiety, learn to recognize that what you’re afraid of won’t actually harm you. You won’t lose control, you won’t panic, you won’t embarrass yourself with other people.” That being said, if you are extremely afraid of clowns, you shouldn’t feel like you have to go out of your way to come in contact with them.
However, if you fall into the liking to be scared (or liking to scare people) category, you just might want to spend your time preparing for next Halloween perfecting your killer clown look. For many people, part of the joy of Halloween is being scared, just like the feeling you get when you watch horror movies. That tingling down your spine is both scary and a little exciting, the perfect combination. That’s why haunted houses are so popular; people seek out these scary attractions to chase that feeling in a safe environment. If you want to get an early start on your creepy clown costume, you can grab one anytime at SpiritHalloween.com. #NotSponsored – it’s just a really cool and addictive website.
There are certainly other types of people who creep us out; taxidermists and undertakers made a good showing on the creepy occupation spectrum. But they have their work cut out for them if they aspire to the level of creepiness that we automatically attribute to clowns.
In other words, they have big shoes to fill.
When Weird Darkness returns… the clowns were being spotted everywhere in 2016, it became a kind of “creepy clown craze” of sightings. And while there have been a few pinprick sightings since then, it wasn’t 2016 that the sightings truly began – they’ve been going on much much longer!
Plus, we’ll look at a few criminals who committed their deeds in the guise of a clown – which just makes clowns that much more creepy. These stories are coming up!
STORY: CREEPY CLOWN SIGHTINGS=====
The year is 2016. There’s a chill in the air, Halloween is approaching, and America finds itself besieged on all sides by reports of evil clowns. The clowns first appeared in August in South Carolina, when children started telling police that a group of clowns had offered them money to accompany them to their home deep in the forest. Over the course of September 2016, clown sightings sprung up in multiple states, leading to arrests, dubious official warnings, and a flurry of media reports crying hoax or mass hysteria. Most of these reports treated the wave of evil clown sightings as a new development, spread by social media–crazy millennials.
Then it got dangerous. On October 8, 2016, at around 9:30 pm, two 12-year-old girls in Adelaide were with a parent buying ice cream when they were attacked by a creepy clown. While attacking the girls, the clown tried to steal one girl’s phone. And there were similar violent incidents all around the world, some attacks by clowns, other attacks on clowns. In Germany on October 25, a 16-year-old masked as a clown was stabbed with a knife by a 14-year-old in Berlin. The 16-year-old had to undergo surgery.
A date started to circulate for the great Clown Purge, the night they would all attack at once… October 31st, Halloween.
Halloween 2016 came and Halloween 2016 went… and there was no Clown Purge. Slowly the strange sightings petered out and we all decided to just pretend that we didn’t spend three months of that year in a global clown panic and never mentioned it again.
But a careful look at the public record reveals a startling truth: There’s nothing new about America’s love affair with terrifying clowns trying to lure our children away. Consider just a few of the clown encounters reported over the past 35 years, which I just looked up today while researching this article and are definitely not written out by hand in a notebook labeled “CLOWN INFESTATION: THE SECRET HISTORY” at the bottom of my desk drawer, so I don’t know where you even got that idea:
May 1981, Brookline, Massachusetts: America’s decades of clown sorrow begin at Lawrence Elementary when children report two clowns driving a black van offering them candy. School principals are warned about the clown threat, leading to a rash of reported sightings across Boston. No clowns are ever found.
May 1981, Kansas City, Missouri: A few days after the Brookline incidents begin, police in Kansas City receive multiple reports of a knife-wielding clown in a yellow van. Parents of children attending Our Lady & St. Rose school are informed of the situation via a letter from school administrators reading, in part, “There have been reports of a character called Killer Clown jumping out of bushes and threatening children with a knife.”
June 1981: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania: Reports of “menacing clowns” begin in Pittsburgh. The Pittsburgh police are the first to draw a connection between the clown sightings—which occurred in black neighborhoods in Pittsburgh and Kansas City—and the Atlanta Child Murders the summer before, which also targeted black children. However, the Boston-area clowns were sighted mostly in white neighborhoods.
March 1988, Louisville, Kentucky: Across a three-county area, children suddenly begin calling police with stories of a malevolent clown offering rides in a red pickup truck, and, in one case, pursuing a child on foot. No arrests are made and the pickup truck–driving clown vanishes without a trace.
Oct. 1991, Erie, Pennsylvania: More than 40 children (and some of their parents) report a clown prowling area backyards and looking through windows. A local bank is robbed by a man in a clown suit, but police dismiss him as “a copycat clown” once he is apprehended. The original clown gets away clean.
Oct. 1991, Chicago: As things in Erie get eerie, the Chicago police are also overwhelmed with reports from local schoolchildren of a man dressed as Homey D. Clown from In Living Color,offering them candy to ride in his van. Children variously report the van to be blue, white, or red but agree that it has the words, “Ha-ha” painted on the side. An eighth-grader claims to have punched the clown in the nose. At least one elementary school sends a letter home to parents warning them about the clown epidemic; another schedules more patrols of the school grounds. Several weeks later, in Elgin, an adult reports seeing a clown abduct a girl. By this point, “suspicious clowns” have been reported to police in Evanston and Joliet, too. Total number of clowns behind bars at the end of this clown spree: no clowns.
Sept. 1992, Rock Hill, South Carolina: A wave of clown sightings comes to an end when four teenage boys are arrested for dressing as clowns and terrorizing local children. The boys aren’t charged, as authorities cannot find a law they broke. At the subdivision that is the epicenter of the clown appearances, one resident has put a hand-painted sign reading “Mr. Clown, We Are All Watching You.”
Oct. 1992, Galveston, Texas: The police and local news outlets are flooded with calls about an evil clown after a small girl reports that a clown attempted to kidnap her. This time, the clown is sighted almost exclusively near schools. Police downplay the veracity of the reports after their investigations lead to the capture of exactly zero clowns.
June 1994, Washington, D.C.: In the Seventh District, police receive multiple reports of a clown trying to lure children into his van. They decline to investigate. By November, the lack of police attention to this case—as well as the disappearance of a small boy in the neighborhood—is held up by local activists as examples of police ignoring or disbelieving crimes reported by black citizens.
Aug. 1997, South Brunswick, New Jersey: Six clown incidents occur in South Brunswick and Howell in a matter of weeks. Local children report a clown leaping from behind trees outside local housing projects then laughing maniacally. Police step up patrols in the area but claim the sightings are unrelated. In late August, a man who, according to police, did not have “an adult’s mental capacity” is identified as the clown and sent for psychiatric evaluation. The man offers no explanation for his actions.
Oct. 2008, Chicago: Exactly 17 years after the Homie D. Clown incidents, Chicago is again visited by a mysterious child-luring clown. The story is ignored by the newspapers, but the local news lets parents know about the police alert warning of a clown driving “a white or brown van.”
Oct. 2014, Fishers, Indiana: A local resident manages to take a picture of a creepy clown that starts appearing around town. The clown does not have a van for once but is holding balloons.
And then we reach 2016 – the year of Crazy Creepy Clown sightings all over America.
And those are only the incidents that made the papers! So perhaps this year could start the terror all over again… not that I’m endorsing such a thing.
STORY: CLOWNS OF CRIME=====
Sightings of clowns apparently are not a new thing. But in most all of those cases there were only sightings and nothing more. But sometimes the monster in makeup takes a more menacing… and even murderous… role.
***On May 26, 1990, at 10:45 a.m., in Wellington, Florida, Marlene Warren opened her door to a find a bulb-nosed clown holding a bouquet of red and white flowers and two balloons, one emblazoned with a picture of Snow White. The clown shot her point-blank in the face, and she died at the hospital two days later. Warren’s teenage son saw the clown run to a white Chrysler LeBaron and escape, never to be found. “This is the strangest thing I’ve seen in all my 19 years in law enforcement,” Palm Beach County sheriff’s spokesman Bob Ferrell told the Sun-Sentinel. Warren’s husband, Michael Warren, was a prime suspect in the crime. Police searched his office at a West Palm Beach car dealership and found evidence that he’d tampered with odometers, but nothing to connect him to his wife’s murder. However, a suspected affair and five-figure life insurance policy looked suspicious. Michael Warren was allegedly romantically involved with a female employee. The flowers and balloons delivered before Marlene Warren’s murder were purchased at stores near the employee’s apartment, and costume shop employees tentatively identified her as the woman who had purchased a clown costume the same day as the killing. Neither was charged in the murder, and the case remains unsolved.
***On Oct. 18, 2013, Francisco Rafael Arellano Félix was in Los Cabos, Baja California Sur, Mexico, celebrating his 64th birthday. In the middle of his party, someone dressed in a clown outfit walked up and shot Félix in the head and chest, killing him. The clown then fled the scene in an SUV. Félix was a drug lord in Mexico and could have had any number of enemies, which makes it really hard to identify a suspect for his murder. Many people are suspected, but no one has been convicted.
***In October 2014, armed clowns terrified residents in Wasco and Bakersfield, California. The sightings began after a Wasco couple posted photos of themselves in creepy clown costumes as part of a year-long art project, but the photos went viral, and copycats followed suit. “We’ve been having sightings all over the city,” Bakersfield police watch commander Lt. Jason Matson told Reuters at the time. “They range anywhere from a guy carrying a gun to a guy carrying a knife running up to houses.” One teen was arrested for chasing a minor while dressed as a clown, but no other pranksters were caught. Various Twitter and Instagram accounts from the time, including a Facebook fan page, posted images claiming to be the creepy clowns. They’ve all since been deactivated, except for one. In 2013, Northampton, England, had a similarly creepy experience when a clown similar to Stephen King’s Pennywise stalked the town’s streets. That character gave an anonymous interview to the Chronicle & Echo in September 2013. “Most people enjoy being a bit freaked out,” the man, later revealed to be an aspiring filmmaker, said. “And then they can laugh about it afterwards.”
***In October 2007, a former cop and minister who performed as a “Christian clown” was arrested and charged with possessing child pornography and traveling to engage in sexual conduct with a minor. A. Paul Carlock Jr., who had performed as “Klutzo the Clown” for a decade-plus, had traveled to perform at the House of Joy orphanage in the Philippines. When he returned, customs officers at the San Francisco Airport asked to look at his digital camera, since he’d been with children in a country marked as high-risk for sex tourism. Authorities found images of naked boys “playing, showering, and sitting clothed but with their genitals visible,” according to the official affidavit. Carlock told investigators he planned to edit the images to show his church that the boys were so poor, they couldn’t even afford clothes, and that they were photographed that way because “that’s how they live.” Three boys at House of Joy told investigators that they woke up to find Carlock fondling them. When Carlock’s Springfield, Illinois, home was searched, at least 21 child porn videos were found. Carlock’s employment history had always revolved around children, from working at a boys’ school and the Illinois Department of Public Health’s Child Health Division, time as a certified juvenile officer, volunteering with Big Brothers Big Sisters, and acting as a police department “youth division detective.” Carlock denied any wrongdoing, even as he was sent to prison. He died there awaiting trial in November 2007, after 39 days of ongoing health complications and confrontations with guards.
***Jose Guadalupe Jimenez, a professional clown, was been sentenced to 10 years in prison after DNA evidence tied him to the rape of a 12-year-old girl he abducted in 2002 while in full clown costume. Dressed as his clown character “El Tin Marin,” Jimenez approached the girl at a Taco Bell. He dragged her into his car, drove away and then raped her in the vehicle.
***France has also seen its fair share of clown horror. In October 2014, Police in Adge, a Mediterranean port in the South of France, arrested 14 armed pranksters disguised as clowns who were chasing locals and “laughing manically.” The teenagers were carrying pistols, knives and baseball bats. The same month, a person dressed as a clown was arrested in Montpellier after beating a 35-year-old pedestrian with an iron bar. A student in Besançon sliced his hand trying to defend himself from an ax-wielding clown. In Liévin, four fake clowns terrified school students with a chainsaw. The disturbing sightings became so common that a town in southern France went as far as banning clown costumes in November 2014. French police blamed social media for the Wasco and Northampton copycats sparking the bout of terror. “Since mid-October, a rumor inspired by videos … has created the presence of threatening and aggressive clowns in France,” a French national police spokesman said at the time. The videos are from DM Pranks, a YouTube channel created by an Italian duo that went viral for their “Killer Clown Scare Prank” in 2014. In the videos, the pair dress up as clowns and terrify unsuspecting passers-by — including chasing pedestrians with giant mallets and chainsaws. Their videos have over 527 million combined views. “At first it was a joke, to scare my friends by dressing up as a clown and shouting boo with a stick like on Facebook,” a 19-year-old told a judge after he was arrested for dressing as a clown and terrorizing people in Béthune. “I didn’t intend to hurt anyone.”
***In the early 1900’s, Fredrick “Zozzaby” Zozzabe was a Czechoslovakian clown who moved to Liverpool. He tragically committed suicide, but his ghost remained behind to haunt unsuspecting children. According to reports, in December of 2002, 13 year old Thomas and his 10 year old brother were sleeping in the very same room where Zozzaby had killed himself. Awoken by devilish laughter, the boys eyes fixated towards the corner of their room and caught sight of a ghostly apparition wearing a cone-shaped hat, maroon suit accessorized with a large red painted nose and white make-up on his face. He was described with dark sockets for eyes like that of a skull and was surrounded by a green aura. The ghost was laughing hysterically with one hand on his belly and the other pointing at the horrified kids. The room, filled with a stench of embalming fluid, ejected the boys from their room and ran to call their parents. The adults went to inspect but found nothing. However, according to the children’s parents, they could smell the essence of embalming fluid.
Then there is the worst of all. John Wayne Gacy… both a beloved children’s clown, and a raping, murderous psychopath. We’ll go into detail about this Killer Clown up next.
STORY: JOHN WAYNE GACY – KILLER CLOWN=====
On January 2, 1972, 16-year-old Timothy McCoy got up early to make his host breakfast. He had met John Wayne Gacy at the Chicago bus terminal the night before, and Gacy let him stay over while he made his way home to Iowa after spending Christmas in Michigan.
McCoy got out eggs and bacon and set the table for two. Then, he walked up the stairs to wake Gacy, not realizing he hadn’t put down the knife he’d been using.
What happened next would set the scene for the rest of John Wayne Gacy’s life.
Not realizing the boy had intended no harm, Gacy stabbed him in the chest, killing him. He then buried his body in the crawlspace beneath his home and covered the grave with concrete.
Killing McCoy reportedly gave Gacy a “mind-numbing orgasm.” The murder had allegedly been a mistake, but it instilled in Gacy “the ultimate thrill” that he would crave for the rest of his life.
Over the next six years, dozens more bodies would join Timothy McCoy’s. And all the while, Gacy pretended to be an upstanding member of his community. He performed at parties and hospitals as “Pogo the Clown,” but his penchant for murder was no joke. By the time he was caught, Gacy the “Killer Clown” had amassed at least 33 victims.
Those who knew John Wayne Gacy would never have expected him to turn out as he had. Almost everyone who met him described him as a mild-mannered and likable man. For most of his life, he worked in customer service, first managing three of his father-in-law’s KFC franchises, then starting his own construction business.
His customers remembered him as kind, generous, and willing to help people out. He employed local teenagers in need of jobs and contributed heavily to his local Junior Chamber of Commerce. He even took time out of his weekends to dress up as a clown for kids’ birthday parties.
However, as authorities would learn, something seriously disturbing had been inside him all along.
John Wayne Gacy was born in Chicago on March 17, 1942. His father had always despised him, called him a “sissy,” and abused him from age four. He often berated the boy and whipped him with a belt. When Gacy was seven years old and a family friend molested him, he didn’t tell anyone for fear of being beaten.
Early on, Gacy realized that he was gay. But during the 1950s, homosexuality was still taboo, so he pretended to be straight his entire life.
Gacy had a congenital heart condition that limited his physical activity and plagued him with lifelong obesity. He spent much of his youth in the hospital. When he was 11, doctors discovered that he had a blood clot in his brain. They were able to treat it, but even that didn’t spare Gacy from his father’s wrath.
Eventually, Gacy had enough of the abuse, and he picked up and moved out West. While working as a mortuary assistant in Las Vegas, Gacy slept on a cot behind the embalming room. One night, after observing the morticians embalming dead bodies, he crawled into a coffin with one. He laid in the coffin for a time, embracing and caressing the body, a teenage boy.
The event shocked him so much that he returned home and enrolled in business school, after just a few months in Vegas. He never told anyone about his night with the body in the morgue.
After graduating from Northwestern Business College, John Wayne Gacy met Marlynn Myers, a coworker at a shoe company in Springfield, Illinois. The couple married in 1964 and Gacy took over the management of his father-in-law’s Kentucky Fried Chicken franchises in Waterloo, Iowa, where they lived with Myers’ parents.
He and Myers had two children and what was seemingly a perfect life.
But in the meantime, Gacy tried to covertly satisfy his depravity. He joined the Waterloo Jaycees, a group of businessmen who participated in wife swapping, prostitution, pornography, and drug abuse. He even opened a “club” in his own basement targeted at teenagers, where they could drink and play pool without getting in trouble.
He often would build up trust with his victims, so they wouldn’t need to be on guard,” Detective Sgt. Jason Moran of the Cook County sheriff’s office said years later. “He was their employer, their friend. He may have been someone who provided them with alcohol and drugs and maybe a place to sleep at night. That’s an easy way to kill someone.”
Then, Gacy began to force some of these young men, including those he employed at KFC, to perform sexual acts with him. This would be his first downfall.
It started in August 1967, when Gacy hired a 15-year-old Donald Voorhees — the son of a fellow member of the Jaycees — to do some housework for him. Gacy lured him into his basement, plied him with alcohol, and forced him to perform oral sex.
Voorhees kept quiet about the incident until March 1968, when he told his father and spurred a criminal investigation into Gacy that destroyed the facade of a normal life he’d crafted.
A few months later, he paid a KFC employee $300 to beat up Voorhees, hoping to scare him from testifying in court. But Voorhees escaped and reported the attempted beating, and the case against Gacy only escalated.
In December 1967, John Wayne Gacy pled guilty to oral sodomy. At that time, sexual relations between two people of the same sex was illegal in Iowa. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison and was promptly served divorce papers from his wife, whom he would never see again.
But less than two years after his sentencing, John Wayne Gacy was granted parole for being a model prisoner.
During the short time he was incarcerated, Gacy managed to secure a raise for prison mess hall workers, increased membership of the prison Jaycees by 600, worked to improve conditions for prisoners, and oversaw the installation of a miniature golf course in the recreation yard.
He also pretended he was straight and that he hated “queers” in order to protect himself from the wrath of his fellow inmates.
He was given 12 months probation under the conditions that he moved back to Chicago to live with his mother and maintained a 10 p.m. curfew. He agreed and declared, “I’ll never go back to jail.”
Months after his release, when he and his mother were living in Des Plaines, Illinois, John Wayne Gacy lured a teenage boy into his house and tried to rape him. Gacy was charged with sexual assault, but the charges were dropped when the boy failed to show up to court.
Gacy had technically violated his parole, but somehow his parole officer was never aware of the episode. By 1971, Gacy had settled into a new home in Norwood Park, a neighborhood in northwestern Chicago. His yellow brick ranch house there, at 8213 West Summerdale Avenue, would eventually become a graveyard for 29 young men and boys.
It was where all of his gruesome murders would be committed — and also where he would gain local fame as “Pogo the Clown.”
While in prison, John Wayne Gacy had become something of an artist and repeatedly sketched the image of Pogo the Clown. After his release, he joined the local “Jolly Joker” club, a clown club that would perform at birthday parties and hospitals.
He taught himself how to apply clown makeup and turned himself into Pogo the Clown as he had imagined him in his drawings. He performed as Pogo the Clown at all sorts of local parties, including Democratic Party functions and charitable events.
Residents of Norwood Park also remember him showing up to his favorite bar, the “Good Luck Lounge,” dressed as Pogo the Clown.
“[The public] would feel much more comfortable if Gacy was this type of creepy, sequestered ghoul that was unkempt and heinous,” Moran said. “But instead, he dressed as a clown and bounced kids on his knee. He would knock at your door and say vote for my candidate.”
But Pogo the Clown didn’t fool everybody. Carol Hoff, his high school sweetheart and second wife who he married in 1972, questioned his sexuality. When Gacy told her he was bisexual in 1975, Hoff divorced him and left him alone in their house.
Though she denied knowledge of what was to come, Hoff later admitted to authorities that she had seen him bringing teenage boys into their garage before.
The same year Gacy married Hoff, he committed his first murder, that of Timothy McCoy. He stashed the body under his crawlspace. Gacy reportedly managed to kill a second victim while still married to his wife, in 1974.
That victim is still unidentified, but Gacy claims to have strangled a young man and hidden him in his closet. When the body began to leak, he moved it to the crawlspace as well.
But after his divorce, the “Killer Clown” had the freedom to bring more victims into his home. Save for his final four victims, who he dumped into a river, all of his victims were killed in and stored under his house.
Gacy’s victims were all young men and boys. He preyed on still-unidentified teenagers, some who were drifters from out of town, and some who were local boys who worked for him.
He lured some into his car by impersonating an officer, or to his house with the offer of a job, a place to party, or even money. Once he had his victim in his space, Gacy coaxed them with drugs or alcohol or a sick magic trick, during which he’d handcuff them and dangle the key in front of their face.
Then, he would torture, rape, and murder them. One of Gacy’s favorite acts of torture was to sit on his victim with all of his weight — which was substantial — and force the victim to fellate him. He strangled and revived his victims, sometimes even partially drowning them in his bathtub.
Gacy would then have the gall to participate in the search parties for some of these boys, as he was friendly with their parents and was considered an upstanding member of the community.
He had set himself up to kill unfettered and unsuspected, but his 33rd murder wouldn’t go quite as planned.
At about 9 PM on December 11, 1978, Elizabeth Piest drove to pick up her son, a high school sophomore and honor roll student named Robert, from his job at a pharmacy in Des Plaines.
Robert Piest went outside and told her to wait a few minutes; he wanted to talk to a customer about a summer contracting job that would pay him twice what he was currently making.
That was the last time Elizabeth saw her son. Before midnight, she went to the police station to file a missing persons report.
Police figured out that man who Robert Piest was going to talk to was John Wayne Gacy, whose company PDM Contractors had recently remodeled Piest’s pharmacy. They called him into the station for questioning, and Gacy obliged — after taking Piest’s body and dumping it into the Des Plaines River.
Within hours, authorities searched Gacy’s home. They didn’t find any bodies, but they did find evidence that Piest had been there: a receipt that belonged to a friend of his.
It wasn’t until December 22, 1978 — almost exactly 10 years after his first sodomy conviction — that Gacy the “Killer Clown” confessed to murdering dozens of young men and boys. Investigators swarmed his house and uncovered 29 bodies in the crawlspace. Many had decomposed beyond recognition, and dental experts were brought in to identify John Wayne Gacy’s victims by their teeth.
Three years later, the “Killer Clown” used an insanity plea during his trial, hoping for a not guilty verdict.
The jury didn’t buy it. Gacy was sentenced to death and dropped the friendly facade he had maintained for all those years. He didn’t seem to have any remorse for his victims.
“He looked at his victims like he was taking out the trash. He had no feelings about them,” said Gacy’s lawyer, Sam Amirante. “He could talk about a child who’s dying of cancer and cry like a baby about this child he didn’t even know or never met and feel authentically sad about this child. Then he’d talk about another child that he murdered and have no feelings whatsoever.”
He would spend 14 years in prison awaiting his execution. The night before he was put to death, he returned to his roots and ordered a bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken as his last meal.
According to reports, the “Killer Clown’s” last words before his execution were “kiss my ass.”
Though John Wayne Gacy is long gone — and his house has since been demolished — his legacy lives on. Most of John Wayne Gacy’s victims that were retrieved from his crawlspace were identified and released to their families for burial. However, all these years after his death, authorities are still trying to identify the rest.
In July 2017, one of the last remaining bodies was finally identified, but his grieving family had already died.
Six of John Wayne Gacy’s victims remain anonymous.
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And a final thought… “I remain just one thing, and one thing only – and that is a clown. It places me on a far higher plane than any politician.” – Charlie Chaplin
I’m Darren Marlar. Thanks for joining me in the Weird Darkness.