We are living in strange times. From politics to even the types of media they consume, people can’t seem to agree on anything. There is one gigantic exception: most people find clowns terrifying.
While that idea started gaining traction because of John Wayne Gacy — also known as Pogo the clown — and shows like Seinfeld — Kramer was terrified of clowns. Thanks to books and movies like It and weird clowns trying to lure kids into woods, people are more afraid of clowns than ever. Clown unions are attempting to fight back against that trend. So, let’s take a look at 10 real life clowns that are more terrifying than Pennywise…
10. Cold Case Clown
In May of 1990, back when clowns weren’t considered to be the nightmare child of a fever dream and bad acid, a resident of Wellington, Florida named Marlene Warren was murdered by a clown at her front door.
That individual was rocking a full clown get-up, including a red bulb nose and even a bouquet of red and white flowers and balloons. He also flashed a pistol. The clown rang her doorbell and when she answered, shot her point blank in the face. Warren survived for two whole days before succumbing to her wound.
Her teenage son witnessed the entire horror. He reported to police that after the shooting the clown ran to a white Chrysler LeBaron and drove away from the scene of the crime. Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Department spokesman Bob Ferrell told the press at the time that it was the “strangest thing [he’d] seen in all [his] 19 years in law enforcement.”
Because of a gigantic life insurance policy and the fact that he was carrying out an affair, Warren’s widower Michael was a prime suspect. The police even searched his office. While they did find evidence that he tampered with the odometer on his car, they didn’t find any evidence.
The woman the husband was having an affair with, though, lived nearby the spot where the flowers were purchased. She was even identified by employees of a shop, where she apparently purchased a clown costume the day of the shooting.
Yet, due to the circumstantial nature of that evidence, neither were charged and the murder remains unsolved to this day.
9. The Wasco/Bakersfield Clown(s)
In the Fall of 2014, multiple clowns armed with weapons held the towns of Bakersfield and Wasco, California, hostage by randomly showing up and creeping everyone out. A couple managed to take a picture of one of the clowns. That picture went viral.
This was the start of the whole “creepy clown” meme that dominated social media and created countless copycats.
Bakersfield police watch commander lieutenant Jason Matson spoke to the press at the time and said, “we’ve been having sightings all over the city, they range anywhere from a guy carrying a gun to a guy carrying a knife running up to houses.”
The scariest part of this entire ordeal is that besides one teen that was arrested for “chasing a minor” while dressed as a clown, the rest were never apprehended. Were they part of a group? A group of copycats? What did they want? No one knows.
Social media ate this entire situation up and multiple Twitter and Instagram accounts were created to support the clowns, with pictures of them doing their thing. They’ve all mostly been deactivated at this point, although one persists until this day. Because of those fan accounts, the creepy clown phenomenon went global.
The town of Northampton, England had to deal with the same situation. A clown that looked a lot like Stephen King’s Pennywise stalked the streets. He was also never caught. He did give an interview though. “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 afterward.”
8. How Do You Say Clown in French?
France has had its fair share of clown-related horror, so much so that this entire list could be all about French clowns and the terrifying mischief they’ve been concocting this decade. The problem got so out of hand that the French government ended up banning clown costumes back in November of 2014.
In a statement explaining that decision, the government blamed the number 9 entry on this list, saying that both social media and the clowns in Wasco and Bakersfield created the situation in France. “Since mid-October, a rumor inspired by videos… has created the presence of threatening and aggressive clowns in France,” they said.
A YouTube channel created by a couple of Italians ended up getting a viral video for a “prank” they pulled. The “Killer Clown Scare Prank” was posted in 2014.
It showed the duo scaring people while dressed in full clown regalia. It wasn’t just jump scares, though. The “pranksters” actually chased unsuspecting people with weapons like mallets and even chainsaws. Despite the fact that chasing people with chainsaws is illegal, their videos did draw over 500 million views.
Considering YouTube pays $2,000 for each million, a decent chunk of that money was used to bail out one of them, arrested for dressing up as a clown. “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,” he told a judge. “I didn’t intend to hurt anyone.”
7. More French Horror
French clowns have committed actual horrific acts as well. Perhaps the best-known of those incidents involved an 18-year-old man from Montpellier, who disguised himself as an “aggressive clown” and ended up beating a 35-year-old French man with an iron bar on the back and neck over 30 times.
That clown was given 12-months in prison for the attack. It was part of the reason why France outlawed clown costumes.
“I found myself in front of three individuals, one wearing a clown mask and brandishing an iron bar,” the victim said. “He chased me, shouting, ‘give me everything, your phone, your money, your satchel!’ I feared for my life. I do not sleep anymore and I have nightmares.”
Can you blame him? The aggressor admitted to the court that he was drunk and decided to “frighten passersby” by dressing up as a clown. He blamed social media for that decision.
Elsewhere in France, in the city of Herault, six complaints were filed with the police for attacks by “clowns who spread terror.” And in Marseilles, a young man was injured and a car was damaged by another clown, who, when caught, claimed he was copying the incidents in Wasco and Baskerfield, California.
6. France, Again?!?!?
If you think that a clown brandishing an iron pipe is scary just wait until you hear about the clown that attacked someone with an axe. In the city of Besançon, a 22-year-old student was wounded by an axe-wielding clown.
According to the man, he was returning home on a Saturday night around 2 a.m. when a car pulled up alongside him. Three clowns stepped out of the car with “green and bright red hair.” One carried a baseball bat and the other a large axe. How the man didn’t just spontaneously combust from fear is a miracle.
He was so terrified he couldn’t recall to the police exactly how he was wounded. He had a decent cut across his right hand and fingers. He ran for his life while the three clowns must have hilariously piled back into their car. Some questioned whether or not the attack happened.
The victim’s mother came to his defense, saying that her son put his hand on the blade of the axe himself, in an act of “self-defense.” A group of teenagers also reported seeing four clowns in Besançon. They were also in a car and one of the clowns used a replica firearm to shoot plastic pellets at the teens.
5. Parenting Fail Meets Neighboring Fail
In Ohio, Vernon Barrett Junior, 25, had the brilliant idea of dressing up as a clown to scare his daughter. His wife had recently been arrested for child abuse after beating their daughter, who according to him has some behavioral issues.
Because he didn’t also want to go to jail, he decided that the best way to get his daughter to straighten up was to don a creepy clown mask and chase his her. His plan backfired when his neighbor, Dion Santiago, shot him to protect the girl. The girl was terrified and ran from the clown. She ended up in a stranger’s car.
Her dressed up dad approached the car and pulled the girl from it as the driver called 911. The girl then fled from her father again and ran to Santiago’s apartment. Santiago, seeing how terrified the girl was, turned all the lights off in his apartment and looked out the window.
He saw the clown creeping outside the building. Santiago then pulled out his firearm and fired a warning shot into the air. Because he was drunk, Santiago was charged with using a weapon while intoxicated. Meanwhile, Barrett Jr. — who survived — was also arrested for child endangerment and for causing a panic.
4. 2016- The Year of the Clown in Ohio
While Bakersfield and Wasco, California, were blamed for many clown-related attacks in France, there is perhaps no state more associated with the creepy phenomenon than Ohio. In 2016 alone, there were nearly 20 reports of either clown-related attacks or clowns attempting to lure children into the woods.
Perhaps the best example is the threat that forced multiple Ohio schools to close in September 2016. There seemed to be a large network of creepy clowns across Ohio. After a minor was arrested for an online clown-related threat, schools were still cancelling classes that week. More threats were made after the culprit’s arrest.
A woman who was smoking on her porch around 4 a.m. claimed that a man dressed in a red-wig, striped clown outfit and mask grabbed her by the throat and said, “I should just kill you now” and “some students and teachers would wish they were never born at the junior and senior high school’s today.”
The woman, who was recovering from neck surgery had to go to the hospital. Another student was arrested in Colerain Township and charged with terroristic threats and inducing panic.
3. The Dark Knight Rises Massacre
The Joker is easily one of the most well known villains in cinema and pop-culture and that status was both solidified and elevated in 2008’s The Dark Knight. Dressed up as the Joker, James Holmes went on a killing spree in Colorado during a screening of the sequel, The Dark Knight Rises.
They were only 15 minutes into the movie when Holmes entered while wearing a kevlar suit and with his hair died bright red. Like the Joker, he began his rampage by hurling tear gas into the packed theater. People thought he was somehow part of a publicity stunt or at worst a prank.
People quickly realized that it wasn’t a stunt, though, as the gas started choking many.Using an AR15 assault rifle, a Remington shotgun and two hand guns, Holmes shot over 70 people during that screening, killing 12. After his rampage Holmes calmly surrendered to police without a struggle.
“The whole place erupted in total chaos. There was this one guy crawling on all fours and there was this girl spitting up blood,” witness Donovan Tate said. “People had bullet holes in their backs, some in their arms. There was one guy who was stripped down to just his boxers. It looked like he was shot in the back or something. It was crazy.”
The police believe Holmes was acting out a scene from the comic book The Dark Knight Returns, where a deranged gunman named Arnold Crimp enters a pornographic theater and opens fire while listening to “Stairway to Heaven” by Led Zeppelin.
2. Klutzo the Definition of the Worst Type of Human Possible/Clown
If not for John Wayne Gacy, A. Paul Carlock Junior — who performed as Klutzo the Clown for over a decade — would easily take the top spot on this list. Really the only difference between the two is that Carlock Jr. didn’t murder his victims. Instead, he killed the innocence of many children.
Carlock Junior was a retired police officer and minister who performed as a “Christian clown.” He was beloved in his community of Springfield, Illinois and considered a great man because of his background and work with children. The only reason he was caught was because of US Custom officials.
He was returning from an orphanage in the Philippines back in October of 2007. Because that orphanage — the House of Joy where he visited to perform as Klutzo — was in an area notorious for child sex-tourism, officials asked to take a look at his digital camera.
The camera was filled with images of naked children. Carlock Junior was arrested for possession of child pornography and traveling to engage in sexual conduct with a minor. According to the official affidavit, the pictures were of young boys “showering, playing and sitting clothed but with their genitals visible.”
Klutzo claimed he planned on editing the images and then display them to his flock as a way to show the poverty that children in the Philippines live in. While he maintained his innocence the entire time, three boys from the House of Joy told investigators that they awoke to find Klutzo “fondling” them.
On top of that, when police searched his home they found at least 21 child porn videos. His employment history always revolved around children. He had worked at an all-boys school and the Illinois Department of Public Health’s Child Health Division.
During his time there, he was a certified juvenile officer and volunteered with Big Brothers Big Sisters as the police department’s “youth division detective.” His trial was set to begin in November 2017 but Klutzo died after almost 40 days of chronic health issues and consistent confrontations with prison guards.
1. Pogo aka John Wayne Gacy
The most famous “evil” clown is Pogo. John Wayne Gacy dressed up as at multiple children’s parties back in the 1960’s and late 70’s. Not unlike Klutzo, Pogo was beloved in the community he lived in — Springfield, Illinois. He was so respected there that he was named “Man of the Year” in 1964.
It was his contracting business that made him so well known around Springfield and provided him with a constant stream of young men to torture, sodomize and murder. He was first arrested for sodomy in the late 60’s. The father of a 15-year-old boy he had hired to do odd jobs around his house went to the police after the boy told him Gacy forced him to perform oral sex on him.
He was given a 10-year sentence but was released after 2 years for good behavior. He was married before the sodomy charge and his first wife filed for divorce while he was in prison. He left Springfield when he was released and ended up in Des Plaines, Illinois, where he married his second wife — his high school sweetheart.
He opened a second contracting business there. He then created the Pogo the Clown character and became well-known as the go-to clown for birthday parties and events at the Children’s Hospital. When he admitted to his second wife that he was attracted to young men, she field for divorce in 1975.
After that essentially went “all out” and started sodomizing and murdering young men at a rate never matched by any other serial killer in the US. He relied on his stature in the community to lure young men to his home.
Because the men trusted him they would handcuff themselves after he told them that it was part of his “act” as Pogo. Once handcuffed, Gacy would taunt, torture and murder them. Afterwards, Gacy buried the bodies in the crawl space in his home.
Police failed to find the bodies when they first searched the home. The stench of death emanating from the vents in the bathroom gave him away though. In all, 33 bodies were pulled from his crawl space. Gacy was put on trial and convicted for the murder of 12 of them.
While in prison, awaiting execution, Gacy would paint pictures of himself as Pogo the clown. After his execution his lawyer auctioned off those paintings, most of which were purchased by the family members of the victims, who burned them in a bonfire.