Creepily-dressed clowns appearing unexpectedly in public just can’t catch a break anymore.

The Atlantic Wire Online on September 15th reports:

The poor residents of Northampton, England are living in a nightmare scenario straight out of a Stephen King novel right now. Someone dressed as a clown keeps popping up around town and spooking grown adults and small children alike.  The clown isn’t doing anything violent, mind you, so it’s not exactly like a Stephen King novel. But it’s close! Because clowns are terrifying, and they scare people.

OK. Fair enough. I realize that some people are terrified of clowns. REALLY TERRIFIED. I’m sorry. Phobias stink. I for one would not like it if a man standing at the bus stop next to me suddenly poured a bucket of spiders over my head as part of some “artsy/conceptual project.” I get it.

However, I can’t help but notice the negative tone in the Atlantic’s article. So then does that mean MOST people are afraid of clowns? I would think that most or at least many people might take a sort of morbid and whimsical delight in the fact that a secret, non-threatening clown is just standing around various parts of the city in the days and weeks leading up to Halloween. (He started on Friday the 13th apparently. Brilliant!) It is true that on The Northampton Clown’s own Facebook page, many people are making violent threats to do bodily harm to Mr. (or Ms.) Clown should they actually see him/her. Does the Northampton Clown really deserve the hate and negativity? He/She says on the same Facebook page, “I don’t terrorize people. I just want to be spotted.”

Now I’ve never been to Northampton (unless you count the one in Massachusetts), but people who have describe it as a somewhat gloomy place. Hasn’t the clown given people something to talk about? Didn’t the clown turn a boring day into an interesting one? Isn’t that one of the functions of the artist and performer?


Send in the (creepy) clowns

I had my own clown-sighting a few months ago here in Rome. We were having our annual Student Media Show at the university where I teach. As the excited audience of students, faculty, family members, friends, and strangers got settled in, suddenly a young female clown appeared in a wedding dress. She had a British accent and began walking up and down the aisles asking if anyone had seen her husband. Some audience members were at first confused, then uneasy. Many people saw the fun in this unexpected twist to their evening. After about ten or fifteen minutes people were taking photos with the clown and shaking her hand. Had she not brightened up the entire evening? For those who hate clowns, didn’t she at least give them a good story to tell their friends?

She in fact, was one of our talented Film and Digital Media students who was making a documentary about overcoming her insecurities by interviewing Rome’s street performers and ultimately learning from them and becoming a performer herself. Her appearance as a clown that evening was part of her research to get inside the skin of an actual performer. She wanted to know what it would feel like to put oneself out there in front of the public and to try and brighten someone’s day.

Northampton’s Clown brightened my day and this is why I support him or her. Clown, people all over the world are talking about you (for better or worse) and I thank you for the little happy distraction you have added to my day as I wonder where you will be spotted next. Be careful though. Some people see weirdness and quirkiness as a threat. I hope no one harms you and turns this fun story into a tragic one. There’s already enough bad news out there.