Friday, October 7, 2016

A Nation of Hysterics: From a Martian Invasion to Scary Clowns

It goes without saying America is a nation chock full of hysterics. From a Martian invasion carried live on radio, to the promised Y2K meltdown 16 years ago, and the dreaded apocalypse at the end of the Mayan calendar in 2012, it's proven we go nuts when it comes to weird shit. Hey, how else can you explain the presence of Donald J. Trump at the top of the republican presidential ticket?

Other than the aforementioned, Trump, the current great scare is clowns. That's right, clowns. It seems they are everywhere and every last one of them is creepy.

The latest epidemic of craziness began at the end of August in Greenville, South Carolina. A little boy living in an apartment complex told his mother two clowns tried to lure him into nearby woods. It didn't take long for similar reports to surface in the same area, then spread like a wildfire across the face of the continent.

The newest incident was in Chickasha, Oklahoma. Early Monday morning a man told authorities he ventured outside at 3am to smoke a cigarette only to see a menacing clown nearby. He claimed when he used his cell phone to call 911 the clown ran away. Police arrived a little over a minute later and searched the neighborhood. However, just like every other sighting which has haunted people from coast to coast, they couldn't find a trace of the suspect.

Yes, they're not only scary, but, despite those big ass shoes, they are really fast.

It's hard to tell when clowns began to take bad raps. It probably started with a guy named John Wayne Gacy who lived near Chicago. When he wasn't appearing at children's parties and charity events dressed as Pogo the clown he was busy murdering 33 young men. The killings ended in 1978 when he was popped for the disappearance of a local teenager. Within days of his arrest cops began digging up bodies in the crawl space under Gacy's home. The media quickly dubbed him the, "Killer Clown."

In the years immediately following Pogo's arrest and conviction things became ugly for clowns in the Chicago area. So much so columnist, Mike Royko wrote a piece condemning the levels of harassment and violence being perpetrated against them during parades and the like.

Stephen King's novel, "It," arrived at bookstores in 1986. Like much of King's work it was an instant best seller. The supernatural villain, named Pennywise, The Dancing Clown, preyed on children in the fictional Maine town of Derry every three decades, or so. It was made into a TV mini-series in 1990 and a feature film adaptation is due out in September, 2017.

In 1988 the movie, "Killer Clowns From Outer Space," was released and became a cult classic. The plot revolved around a group of fresh faced teenagers who were relentlessly stalked and gruesomely dispatched one after the other by a gaggle of deadly mutant clowns.

And it probably didn't help that in 1989 a couple of guys named Joseph Bruce and Joseph Utsler began rapping while known as, Inner City Posse. They quickly morphed into what is now called, Insane Clown Posse as they shifted their genre to what is known as, "horrorcore."

While their faces are painted in clown make up they pound out lyrics like, "First thing I'll do is kill a couple of hotties. That always gets them monstered up. Decapitated bodies."

So much for all those funny guys unfolding out of a tiny car in the center ring of the Shrine Circus. Thanks to our paranoid hysteria, those innocent days look to be as long gone as letting our kids eat a neighbor's home made popcorn balls and caramel apples on Halloween.

Indeed, we have many boogie men--Martian invaders, incompetent computer programmers, mystical Mayan mathematicians, and now clowns.

Given our nature is it any wonder many of us have made the leap directly from them to Hispanic and Muslim immigrants?

I didn't think so.


1 comment:

  1. I enjoy browsing through the archives of the Daily Oklahoman. Often I go back to the 1940s - 70s era to look for interesting photos. A side benefit, news stories on any given day are interesting for historical value, and it is easy to see that society across the board was, for lack of a better term, gentler, as was the news reporting. We live in very harsh times, and there seems to be no hint of a turnaround to a less turbulent society. Our presidential candidates, and the clowns, only two symptoms of a very troubled 21st century America.