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Coulrophobia, or the fear of clowns, is a real condition, one emboldened by movies, trends and serial killers. However, one mysterious retiree called ‘Wrinkles’ has monetised this fear.
While the fear of clowns has long been part of the zeitgeist, one could make the argument that we’re living in the times of peak clown-based hysteria. While Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker is à la mode for basement-dwelling incels, the true pinnacle arrived a handful of years back, when members of the general populace dressed up as clowns and ambush the unsuspecting for reasons unknown.
The dodgy clown trope is not new, it suffers a permanent cycle of renewal. Stephen King’s IT was recently rebooted, reminding everyone how much nope we had in reserve for masked people with nefarious intent. King cited Norweigan fairytale The Three Billygoats Gruff as the inspiration, but it’s hard to look past John Wayne Gacy aka “The Killer Clown” aka “Pogo the Clown” who murdered 33 boys between 1972 and 1978 whilst moonlighting as a clown-for-hire as a reason for the novel’s success. Gacy was sentenced to life in 1981, IT arrived in 1986.
King has stated that his goal with It was to blend all of the scariest monsters together. “But then I thought to myself, ‘There ought to be one binding, horrible, nasty, gross, creature kind of thing that you don’t want to see, it makes you scream just to see it,’” he explained. “So I thought to myself, ‘What scares children more than anything else in the world?’ And the answer was ‘clowns.'”
However, the tiny car of doom has been idling far longer than the middle eighties, as Andrew Stott, an English professor who specialises in clowning culture says that they’ve always had a tenuous grip on life and society. “The medieval fool was continually reminding us of our mortality, our animal nature, of how unreasonable and ridiculous and petty we can be,” he said in a conversation with the UK’s Telegraph.
This continued through to the 16th century, where Shakespearean jesters were often linked to death and dark truths. “King Lear’s fool wanders around reminding everyone that they’re not as clever as think they are while talking in contorted double speak to undermine our sense of what we think is going on,” says Stott.
“Clowns have always been associated with danger and fear, because they push logic up to its breaking point,” he adds. “They push our understanding to the limits of reason and they do this through joking but also through ridicule.”
Clearly, fear is established and lives. Which makes the story of Wrinkles particularly galling. Initially beginning as an internet urban legend, Floridians have attested to spotting this ‘real-life Pennywise’ in the wild, beliving that this clown will come and terrorise and/or murder your children, you know, as they’ve actually done before.
According to The Mirror, “(Wrinkles) can typically be seen wearing a red and white polka dot suit with black gloves and a white mask with black eye holes and receding white hair.”
So far, so fatuous. However, this is where it takes an odd turn, as fiction has shuffled Wrinkles into reality, and he can be hired for a nominal fee to traumatise your children.
In an interview with the Washington Post, Wrinkles recalled the time he was hired to terrify a mother’s 12-year-old son.
“He was scared of clowns and I showed up across the street from him at the bus stop and he just started crying in front of his friends and ran home.”
While he has given numerous interviews, Wrinkles has remained in character, refusing to give any personal details.
The only things we do know is that he’s a divorcee and former veteran to moved to Florida and scares kids to fill his retirement.