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A Pennywise for Your Thoughts?

From comedic relief, to absolutely terrifying, clowns have made their way to the Halloween scene! Were clowns always scary, and if not, then how did they become scary? Let’s take a look at the history of clowns and at some iconic portrayals that helped clowns become famous… or should I say, infamous?

Do you dare to face your fears? Then... let us begin!

According to what I have researched on multiple different websites (sources will be named below), the act of clowning can be traced back to the Zhou Dynasty (1046-256 B.C.) and the Fifth Dynasty of Egypt (roughly 2400-2500 B.C.). Those clowns were significantly different from the modern circus clown (which became popular in the 1800s thanks to Joseph Grimaldi and of course the circus itself).

Starting with The Pickwick Paper by Charles Dickens in 1836, we get our first glimpse at a clown that isn’t all the way funny. Next to this, a clown by the name of Jean- Gaspard Deburau killed a young boy in 1836. You can consider this the changing point in clowning because from here, clowns started being portrayed as beings that were not just comedy for children. This is seen in the 1892 opera, Pagiacci.

Fast forward to 1972 and we find Pogo the clown, also known as John Wayne Gacy, who killed roughly 35 people. Gacy is our first major case of the “Killer Clown.” Then, with the help of Stephen King’s It in 1986, the fear of clowns became vastly prominent.


Popular clowns such as Ronald McDonald, Bozo, or even Loonette and Molly from The Big Comfy Couch were pushed aside in fear and terror of the new “Killer Clown.” It went on to become a TV show in 1990 and a 2-part movie in 2017 and 2019. It’s rumored that the announcement of the It movie is what sparked the ridiculous 2016 “Killer Clown” sightings the world had to suffer through (sorry to remind you of how that was a thing).

So now that we’ve visited the topic of clowns, what do you think? Do you like clowns or do they give you the creeps? Let me know what you think down in the comments! You can also leave us a comment on our Facebook page!

And remember, it is okay to be afraid of things! It is part of what makes us human!

This Blog Posting was approved by Hagar (office cat extraordinaire).


“Clown History.” Clown Bluey,

Clown. (2020, September 22). Retrieved October 09, 2020, from

McRobbie, Linda Rodriguez. “The History and Psychology of Clowns Being Scary.”, Smithsonian Institution, 31 July 2013,

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