If you have coulrophobia, or a fear of clowns, you may not be alone. Clowns have been around since 2,500 BCE in imperial China, but it seems people have actually disliked them for almost just as long.
This may comes as no surprise to those afraid of clowns. Not only are clowns disturbing in their movement and freakishly-cheery demeanor, but our popular culture has become inundated with the trope of a “scary clown” (think It or Saw). The trope has now become larger than life, with some real-life clown criminals -- including a number of infamous clown murderers.
Here are a few of the freakiest clowns throughout history:
1. John Wayne Gracy
John Wayne Gracy was a well-known and respected clown in Springfield, Illinois. In fact, a local Springfield group named in “Man of the Year” in 1964, commending his contributions to the community.
However, operating under the stage name “Pogo”, John Wayne Gracy was a real life “Killer Clown”. Between 1972 and 1978, he killed and sexually assaulted more than 35 young men in the Chicago area. In 1994, he was found guilty of 33 counts of murder.
2. Joseph Grimaldi
Joseph Gimaldi was one of the first real clowns as we know them today. And, while he attracted a wide array of audiences with his unparalleled physical humor, he also had a darker side.
As revealed in his memoirs after his death, Grimaldi had been plagued by misfortune his whole life; his wife died in childbirth, his son was an alcoholic, and his physically demanding clown stunts had left him permanently disabled. This idea -- of a clown masking his dark side with humor -- seems to have actually stuck around.
3. Michael Warren
In 1990, Marlene Warren, a resident of Wellington Florida, opened her front door to a strange sight: a clown holding a bouquet of red and white flowers and two balloons, one with a picture of Snow White. The clown shot her point-blank in the face, then calmly walked back to their car and drove away. Two days later, Marlene died in the hospital.
While the case was unsolved for over two decades, police recently made an arrest of Sheila Keen Warren -- a woman who was having an affair with Marlene’s husband, and married him shortly after Marlene’s death.