America’s decades of clown sorrow begin at Lawrence Elementary when children report two clowns driving a black van offering them candy. School principals are warned about the clown threat, leading to a rash of reported sightings across Boston. No clowns are ever found.
A few days after the Brookline incidents begin, police in Kansas City receive multiple reports of a knife-wielding clown in a yellow van. Parents of children attending Our Lady & St. Rose school are informed of the situation via a letter from school administrators reading, in part, “There have been reports of a character called Killer Clown jumping out of bushes and threatening children with a knife.”
Reports of “menacing clowns” begin in Pittsburgh. The Pittsburgh police are the first to draw a connection between the clown sightings—which occurred in black neighborhoods in Pittsburgh and Kansas City—and the Atlanta Child Murders the summer before, which also targeted black children. However, the Boston-area clowns were sighted mostly in white neighborhoods.
Across a three-county area, children suddenly begin calling police with stories of a malevolent clown offering rides in a red pickup truck, and, in one case, pursuing a child on foot. No arrests are made and the pickup truck–driving clown vanishes without a trace.
More than 40 children (and some of their parents) report a clown prowling area backyards and looking through windows. A local bank is robbed by a man in a clown suit, but police dismiss him as “a copycat clown” once he is apprehended. The original clown gets away clean.
As things in Erie get eerie, the Chicago police are also overwhelmed with reports from local schoolchildren of a man dressed as Homey D. Clown from In Living Color,offering them candy to ride in his van. Children variously report the van to be blue, white, or red but agree that it has the words, “Ha-ha” painted on the side. An eighth-grader claims to have punched the clown in the nose. At least one elementary school sends a letter home to parents warning them about the clown epidemic; another schedules more patrols of the school grounds. Several weeks later, in Elgin, an adult reports seeing a clown abduct a girl. By this point, “suspicious clowns” have been reported to police in Evanston and Joliet, too. Total number of clowns behind bars at the end of this clown spree: no clowns.
A wave of clown sightings comes to an end when four teenage boys are arrested for dressing as clowns and terrorizing local children. The boys aren’t charged, as authorities cannot find a law they broke. At the subdivision that is the epicenter of the clown appearances, one resident has put a hand-painted sign reading “Mr. Clown, We Are All Watching You.”
The police and local news outlets are flooded with calls about an evil clown after a small girl reports that a clown attempted to kidnap her. This time, the clown is sighted almost exclusively near schools. Police downplay the veracity of the reports after their investigations lead to the capture of exactly zero clowns.
In the Seventh District, police receive multiple reports of a clown trying to lure children into his van. They decline to investigate. By November, the lack of police attention to this case—as well as the disappearance of a small boy in the neighborhood—is held up by local activists as examples of police ignoring or disbelieving crimes reported by black citizens.
Six clown incidents occur in South Brunswick and Howell in a matter of weeks. Local children report a clown leaping from behind trees outside local housing projects then laughing maniacally. Police step up patrols in the area but claim the sightings are unrelated. In late August, a man who, according to police, did not have “an adult’s mental capacity” is identified as the clown and sent for psychiatric evaluation. The man offers no explanation for his actions.
Exactly 17 years after the Homie D. Clown incidents, Chicago is again visited by a mysterious child-luring clown. The story is ignored by the newspapers, but the local news lets parents know about the police alert warning of a clown driving “a white or brown van.”
A local resident manages to take a picture of a creepy clown that starts appearing around town. The clown does not have a van for once but is holding balloons.
The current wave of clown sightings begins.