Who doesn’t like clowns? Well, apparently most of you don’t. They’re scary, unappealing and downright eerie. When clowns were used to help calm sick kids in Sheffield, England, researcher Dr. Penny Curtis found they had exactly the opposite effect:
“As adults we make assumptions about what works for children.
“We found that clowns are universally disliked by children. Some found them quite frightening and unknowable.”
They’re unknowable because the fuckers are always smiling no matter what they’re thinking or feeling inside, and many imagine that red-lipped painted-on smile hides a nasty set of razor sharp teeth ready to chow down on your face.
Though probably not.
The appearance of a clown in Wasco, California has been inspiring the worst kind of fear stories about manic clowns terrorizing the neighborhood, leading to headlines such as:
Sinister clowns frighten residents in Central California towns
(That’s from TIME magazine, no less…)
Murderous-death clowns stalk southern California
(And that’s from Slate, which really should know better…)
And there’s also:
Hair-raising! Clowns wandering streets at night creep out small town
But the truth behind such lurid headlines, as local news outlet Bakersfield Now points out, is rather different once you take time to find it.
So far there have not been any machete-wielding or gun-toting clowns roaming the dark night streets:
“It would be nice if they would gather their facts regarding their story,” said Bakersfield police Public Information Officer Sgt. Joe Grubbs. “We haven’t had any clowns committing any types of murders, far from it,” said Grubbs.
The same sentiment is echoed by Ray Pruitt, spokesman for the Kern County Sheriff’s Office.
“We have not been able to, in any of the cases, substantiate that anybody has been a victim of a crime,” said Pruitt.
Grubbs and Pruitt said they have been fielding calls from media across the country and doing interviews for national media outlets regarding reports about people dressed as clowns engaged in criminal activity.
The whole thing started as an art project by a husband and wife team taking photos of Bobo the clown at various locations across the county. People started to notice this strange night visitor and soon a non-affiliated Facebook page was started to document people’s sightings. The Wasco Clown FB page explains some of the background to the story:
Do you even know what our clown is doing??? Well, surely you must if you are following his page! Wait, maybe some of you do not know because you’re too busy running your mouths to know what he is doing. So let me enlighten you. He is his wife’s subject for the month of October for a photography project of hers that is a year-long deal. Until one particular new station hunted him down without his permission they probably just thought that this was going to be shared amongst their friends and maybe a few Wasconians. Well then it went viral. Right before the news story first appeared last week I created this page. I was curious about him as well. I created this page for people to be able to report sightings and share pictures. Eventually Bobo and his wife contacted me. I asked if they wanted me to delete the page and they did not they approved of it. Then came about an idea to sell souvenir T-shirts. It was decided that the profit from the shirts would be divided up between autism and pediatric cancer research and the Wasco fireworks fund. Our clown and his wife only go out and take their nightly photo and go home. He does not chase anyone he does not threaten anyone and he does not make public appearances at this time. I don’t know if he ever will. So to come on here and talk crap or threaten anyone is just plain ignorance. Especially if you are a parent. You would want a friend like the Wasco Clown if your baby was to fall ill because he would do whatever he could to raise money to help your baby. If you don’t like him just go away. You won’t be missed.
Sightings of a clown inspired others to get in on the act and only one incident involved the police:
Police did arrest a 14-year-old boy last week on the 800 block of Pacheco Road for dressing as a clown, chasing and scaring kids. The boy did not have any weapons and police say the boy told them he did it to perpetuate the clown hoax he had seen online.
Law enforcement is obligated to check out the reports. “We’re receiving these reports, we believe that they’re pranks, but we can’t assume that they’re pranks,” said Pruitt.
Meanwhile, the Real Wasco Clown posts updates on his Twitter feed, where he describes himself:
I am the creepy, evil-looking clown that is roaming the streets of Wasco, California at night. Come Find Me I will give you a balloon.
Perhaps the words “creepy” and “evil-looking” may not be too helpful in stopping the fear rumors, but the offer of a free balloon does suggest it’s all meant in fun. There’s also an Instagram page where you check out the latest Wasco Clown photographs.
“I just wanted to amuse people. Most people enjoy being a bit freaked out and then they can laugh about it afterwards. It’s like watching a horror movie, when people get scared they usually start laughing. Naturally, some people would have been extremely frightened by what they saw, but I hope many are starting to see it as a bit of harmless fun.”
All good fun…see?
And if you do see Bobo the Wasco Clown, say “Hello” and get a balloon.