It’s dark. A man dressed as a clown, holding a cone of cotton candy, stands on the side of the street in front of a candy machine. A young man and a woman appear from around the corner. The clown’s red hair shines in the street light as he stares at them.
“Do you want my cotton candy?” the clown asks.
The man and woman are too stupefied to reply.
“Why don’t you want my cotton candy?” the clown screams in rage.
The clown kicks the cone and grabs a chainsaw from under the candy machine and pulls on the engine.
The woman screams as the clown runs after the couple holding the chainsaw high in the air, the gesture resembling an act from the ’70s flick The Texas Chain Saw Massacre.
The incident is a scene from a YouTube video of killer clown pranks, a craze that started in the U.S. a couple of months ago. Now the craze has arrived in Finland, too. In the past few days, there have been several reports of people dressed as clowns scaring younger children. Most recently on last Friday in Helsinki’s Laajasalo district, a boy around 15 years of age wearing a clown’s mask had threatened nine and ten-year-old boys with a baseball bat.
But the first sightings of scary clowns in Finland were reported already in early August. According to Turun Sanomat, a man who was jogging near the Lauste disc golf course in Turku on a Thursday evening had heard a laughter that he later described to the police as “psychotic.” After the scary laughter, a clown rose from a ditch. The clown, wearing a black coat, started strolling towards the jogger. The clown ran towards the jogger while digging his pockets. At that point, the jogger decided to split the scene. The police never caught the man wearing the clown mask.
The second sightings of scary clowns are from October 11th. Two men wearing clown masks were, according to a witness, scaring passer-bys at Turku’s Länsiniitty area near a ball court at eight in the evening.
The third observations are from northern Finland in the city of Rovaniemi on October 15th, where two boys dressed as clowns scared a young 14-year-old boy Viljami, who was riding a bike in an underpass at ten in the evening. After bumping into the clowns, Viljami started pedaling fast, and when he looked back, he saw that the other clown was holding a baseball bat. “Viljami told that they had screamed after him and threatened him. There was nothing funny in the situation,” said Viljami’s mother, Teresa. Viljami’s mother advised her son and her 15-year-old daughter to call the emergency number if a similar situation would happen again.
[alert type=red ]After bumping into the clowns, Viljami started pedaling fast, and when he looked back, he saw that the other clown was holding a baseball bat.[/alert]
Back in the south in Luvia, western Finland, a clown was seen standing in the dark in the middle of a zebra crossing. “We were driving to Pori in the dark when suddenly there was a figure like that standing in the headlights,” said the man who was driving the car with a friend in the passenger’s seat. “The figure was standing in a threatening pose without moving when we drove past him. The face was painted black and white. The situation was so weird that we realized what had just happened only a moment later.”
In some cases, in the U.S. and even in the Nordic countries, the clowns have been linked to cases of violence. On October 13th, a clown stabbed a young man in the municipality of Varberg in south Sweden.
A creepy clown running around scaring people isn’t exactly a new thing. However, while clown attacks have been reported happening every few years in the U.S., it’s only this year the stunt caught momentum. The phenomenon is based on web’s prank culture on the rise. The more offensive the prank, the more shares it’s likely to receive. A collection of clown pranks published on October 13th has over 4.4 million views on YouTube. Violence attracts viewers, too. In one video, the victim’s friends hurry to defend their buddy from the clown in frenzy. The clown is quickly submitted to the ground and the clown has no choice but to scream: “Stop! It’s a prank!”
But why are we afraid of clowns, who, after all, should make us laugh? The scientific term for clown fear is coulrophobia, a word derived from the Greek word “Kolon,” which means stilt or stilt walker, referring to the pillars commonly used by clowns as a funny walking aid. Scientists and doctors agree that coulrophobia is linked to not knowing who lies behind the excessive makeup, red nose and hair color.
Films and media have a role in provoking the fear, too. The Stephen King classic from the ’90s, It, is probably the most well-known film and book (1986) to spark a fear of clowns. Many remember the jigsaw teeth of Pennywise, the clown, who harasses and eats children.
On October 18th in Tuusula southern Finland, a gray van had driven to the school yard of Vaunukankaa school where children were playing at seven in the evening. Ten persons wearing clown masks and gray overalls had stepped out of the vehicle. The kids started running and after reaching an underpass, a clown in overalls had waited for the children with a chainsaw.
[alert type=red ]The kids started running and after reaching an underpass, a clown in overalls had waited for the children with a chainsaw.[/alert]
Two hours later during the same evening in Tuusula’s Lahela district, adult-sized people dressed as pigs and clowns had scared children. Two people clad in white overalls and wearing a pig’s and a clown’s mask had run after the children and scared teenagers, too, while holding baseball bats. The suspects had, according to the police, traveled with a green, wagon sized Volvo with possible fake license plates. At the same day, there were also clown sightings reported to the police from Järvenpää, a city located only from 10 kilometers of Tuusula.
Principal Janne Mellin from Vaunukankaa and Nahkela school is worried about the possible traumas the clowns can cause in the youngest children. “If we think about children, their traumas can last for a long time. There is certainly going to be fear of dark and fear of walking alone, and when the feeling of safety disappears, one is likely to not get it back easily,” he said.
The Finnish police hope that the clowns will not take their pranks too far. “It certainly is not fun when they are scaring people but as long as nobody is experiencing danger to one’s life or health, the action is not classified as criminal,” said Juha Ahonen, a Chief Inspector from the Lapland Police Department. However, threatening someone, for example, with a baseball bat is something Ahonen calls “tasteless.” “Hopefully the thing is kept under control so that police don’t have to start hunting clowns,” he said.
It’s interesting to note that the killer clown craze has also stalled the sales of clown costumes for the Halloween. According to Teija Salminen, a sales person at a costume store called Butterick’s at the Forum shopping center, “the sales of clown products hit a wall after the news started spreading.” “This has been very bad publicity,” she said in an interview for Helsingin Sanomat.
Helsinki Police Department has raised the alert level for the clown sightings. “We take the incidents seriously, and we try to send a patrol at the scene as fast as possibly when we receive a notification of similar incidents,” said Jari Nikonen, the investigator in charge, to Helsingin Sanomat.
Last Thursday, on October 20th, the police caught two 15-year-old boys who had dressed as clowns in Espoo’s Tapiola district. The duo received a fine for violating the Public Order Act and their parents were notified. The capture is the first in Finland that is related to the clown craze. And it looks like the law enforcement is just getting started.
Sources: Aamulehti, MTV, HS, Police, Healthopia.net, YouTube