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Fortean Phantom Clowns (Updated Nov. 21)

What do clowns have to do with cryptozoology? The answer may actually surprise you.

First off, we're not talking about clowns at a circus. We're talking about clowns that are even creepier - phantom clowns. (You may think I'm talking about ghosts from the name, but ghosts have nothing to do with it.)

So what are phantom clowns?

Phantom clowns may be "normal" people dressed up like creepy clowns - or they may not be. Whatever the case, they are sinister, and like to try to lure children into vans and such.

The year 1981 saw some phantom clown encounters that have been written about on cryptozoology sites and which Loren Coleman documented in his book Mysterious America. That May, police in Boston, Massachusetts, began getting reports of men dressed in bright clown costumes and riding in a black van. The clowns had tried to lure several elementary school students into said van, using toys and candy. Another very creepy factor was the fact that one of the clowns was only dressed from the waist up.
Author Loren Coleman has a whole
chapter about phantom clowns in
this book

Other creepy clowns were seen in Brookline at the same time as the others in Boston. These clowns drove an old black van with ladders on its sides, a broken tail light, and missing hubcaps. They were commonly seen around elementary schools.

More reports of phantom clowns popped up, and soon they were being reported all over New England and the Midwest. On May 15, 1981, in Kansas City, a clown with a yellow van and a black shirt with a devil on it, as well as black pants with candy canes on the sides, threatened two girls with a knife. Their mother didn't see the clown, but saw them go to the van, and then come back screaming. By noon that day, the clown had been reported twelve times, lurking around half-a-dozen elementary schools. The clown was reported until 5 PM, after which reports stopped.
Phantom clowns in Fortean Times

Reports of phantom clowns didn't stop in the 1980s. In fact, they have continued to this day.

In October, 2014, Wasco, California, was terrorized by phantom clowns. They appeared at night, and carried around horns and balloons. But that was not all - they also carried weapons like knives, baseball bats, mallets, axes, and machetes. The police received about 20 reports per week, including a sighting of one of the clowns sitting on a mechanized unicorn, and a boy's claim that an axe-weilding clown chased him.

During the Wasco sightings, a Twitter account appeared called "Wasco the Clown." One time they said:

"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."

The police did arrest one 14-year-old boy who was dressed as a clown, but he admitted that he was only copying the other clown(s) to have a little fun.

What are phantom clowns? Are they just people in costumes? Or are they something more? Loren Coleman suggested that the clowns are "demonic tricksters," that change form and appear to intimidate or scare people. John Keel also proposed this idea in his book The Mothman Prophecies. Some think the "demonic trickster" theory can also explain things like Men in Black, mothman, flying humanoids, black eyed children, etc.

Most people are creeped out by clowns, even if they're just at a circus (I'm one of those people.) But, these phantom clowns give people some really good reasons not to like them.

Scooby Doo wasn't too far off the mark….

UPDATE: Nov. 21, 2015

Some weird synchronicity - the day I posted this, Nov. 20, Loren Coleman had a post about phantom clowns on his Twilight Language blog (see that here.) And, today, Nov. 21, I saw the episode of Scooby Doo! Where Are You? with the ghost clown pictured above on TV!

UPDATE: October 4, 2016

Reports of phantom clowns similar to those from the 1980s and 2014 have been occurring since August 2016, all across the United States. See more here.

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