In an episode of “The Simpsons” from the early ‘90s, Bart Simpson visits the set of his favorite TV show, “Krusty the Clown.” He’s disenchanted not only by the poor studio conditions, but also by the show’s star, upon whose teachings Bart claims to have based his life.
“No way is that Krusty,” Bart says to his sister Lisa, as the show begins. “Krusty is a real clown.”
We know how Bart feels.
Over the last month, there have been a rash of disturbing clown sightings in several states. According to these reports, these creepy clowns have been luring children into the woods, appearing at people’s home windows and committing various crimes.
One of the worst clown-related reports came from Reading, Pennsylvania, on Sept. 25, when a 10th-grade boy with a clown-like mask pushed up onto his head was fatally stabbed. According to the Associated Press, the mask was like one featured in the “Purge” horror movies and was the basis of some sort of neighborhood controversy that led to the stabbing.
Locally, no clown-related crimes have been reported, but there have been several creepy clowns spotted. New Castle police reported a clown sighting on East Washington Street Thursday night, around the same time Ellwood City police received a call from a resident who saw a clown on Lawrence Avenue. Ellwood City police Lt. David Kingston said the first report of a clown came in around 1:30 a.m. Thursday, when someone noticed a clown on Fifth Street near Summit Avenue.
Of course, these clowns aren’t real ones, as several local women who work as clowns attested to in a Saturday article in The News.
Nor is this recent clown spree anything new.
According to Frank T. McAndrew, professor of psychology at Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois, reoccurring clown sightings can be traced back to a similar event in the Boston area in the 1980s.
Citing public records, Slate blogger Matthew Dessen echoed that sentiment on Monday, writing that those Boston-area clown sightings were followed by ones in Kansas City, Missouri and in Pittsburgh. The clowns resurfaced, Dessen said, in Erie in the early 1990s, spreading to Chicago, South Carolina and Texas. Dessen reports that there were no arrests of clowns following any of these sightings.
These repeated epidemics of clown sightings can be attributed to mass hysteria, as people’s fears fed on one another, and also to people’s need to feel connected to a national news event, the New York Times reported. Today, social media posts only seem to fan the flames of those fears.
We don’t deny that people can suffer from coulrophobia, the irrational fear of clowns. Indeed, many people are unsettled by the ambiguity that clowns create for their audiences through their unpredictable actions, as well as through their exaggerated makeup and disguises.
But clowns or other similar characters — like court jesters — have been around for a long time, providing an outlet for satire, entertainment and freedom of expression. And their audiences, enchanted by their skilled performances, have been able to look past the masks and laugh.
We urge our readers to do the same.
Instead of getting caught up in the creepy clown frenzy, look past the harmless hoaxes and ignore those jumping on board the trend in order to seek attention — either by donning a mask themselves or perpetuating rumors on social media. By choosing to disregard these bogus accounts, you will ensure that the real clowns can continue their work bringing laughter and joy.
“If we keep telling people clowns are bad, evil or scary, then it will be accepted as truth,” JoyeDell Beers, a New Castle resident who works as Sunshine the Clown, wrote in an email to The News. “But clowns are silly and fun-loving, at least that’s what they’re supposed to be.”
We couldn’t agree more.