An Open Letter to Clowns

This past Wednesday night, two clowns were spotted on Emerson’s campus, loitering near the entrance to Colonial. My feelings when I first heard this were a mixture of disgust and disbelief. If Emerson’s campus isn’t safe from these clowns, where is? Then, I remembered that our campus is in downtown Boston, next to the Common — a location that probably makes Emerson prime clown territory. We never had a chance.

Still, I was a bit disappointed when I learned clowns were  been spotted on-campus and I had missed them. You might think I dodged a bullet, but knowing I was writing this blog post, I really, really wanted to see some clowns. But, I suppose there’s nothing funny about people dressing up to terrify the unsuspecting. We all need to realize that.

Just last week a clown followed a school bus in my hometown. Needless to say, the incident upset the kids involved as well as some parents. It’s incidents akin to that which ruin the potential fun of the Halloween season. 

This past year has been weird, even without the help of people masquerading as menacing knife-wielding clowns. But, for the past few weeks, these clowns have taken the United States by storm, just-in-time for the Halloween season. If you have yet to hear about this strange phenomenon, it basically boils down to this: clowns (or at least non-clowns dressed up as clowns) keep appearing in tons of random places throughout the United States, inspiring mass hysteria. Thanks, America!


The current clown epidemic can trace its beginnings to Greenville, South Carolina. This past August, some of Greenville’s residents began reporting that clowns were lurking in the woods outside of town. Though the story was widely reported, most Americans didn’t think much about it. After all, weird news stories are common. Stories like this usually gain a bit of media attention and then are swiftly forgotten the following week. But, the Greenville clowns haven’t exactly been forgotten. Instead, they seem to have spread.

Over the past few weeks, clown sightings were reported on college campuses across the US. And clown-related threats were made to high schools in many different states, like California and Pennsylvania. Though most of these threats have proven to be nothing more than hoaxes, they have still put Americans on edge.

Who are the clowns, exactly? Well, they can be anyone, as long as they’re capable of donning a clown mask. Though events like these are likely to get horror enthusiasts theorizing, these clowns seem to just be copycatting each other. There’s no wider connection between most cases. Still, I don’t think anyone is sure why these clown sightings started in the first place. What exactly was going on in Greenville? I couldn’t tell you.

Believe it or not, though, this isn’t the first time a wave of creepy clown spottings hit the United States. Did you know that in 1981 our very own city of Boston was plagued by such sightings? In April of 1981, clowns began terrorizing the Boston Public School District. They were spotted around Boston and parents were warned about their presence. In Brookline, children reported that clowns attempted to lure them into vans with candy. Soon, scary clown sightings were being reported in cities across the United States. But, just as quickly as it started, it ended. As to be expected, the public had simply moved on to other news stories, ending the clown hysteria in its tracks. 

Rolling Stone refers to these clown sightings as “Phantom Clowns.” So, why is this happening exactly? Nobody knows, but it does stand to reason that anything slightly spooky can spark mass fear. But, there have been only a handful of ‘clowns’ who have been arrested for their actions while in costume and makeup. Regardless, it’s time for everyone to stop clowning around.

As an open letter to anyone planning to dress up as a clown, on any other day than Halloween: don’t. Just leave the costume at home. Is it really that much fun to terrify the innocent?

Consider saving your clown costume for Halloween night instead.


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