Stories of clowns used as a guise by pranksters for frightening small neighborhoods and communities tend to crop up every few years. On such occasions, their similarity to themes found in books and films like Stephen King's It remains obvious, and in a few cases, has led to further insinuations about possible connections to "phantom clown" sightings.
Here at Mysterious Universe, I recently reported on a rash of supposed phantom clown incidents occurring in parts of North and South Carolina (for more on this, and the usage of the term "phantom clown", see the original article here).
With the wave of recent reports in the southeast, author Stephen King was contacted by the Bangor Daily News to get his take on things, which he suggested may be “low-level hysteria, noting that, “the clown furor will pass, as these things do, but it will come back, because under the right circumstances, clowns really can be terrifying."
With specific attention toward his own famous Phantom Clown creation, King said the following:
“I chose Pennywise the Clown as the face which the monster originally shows the kiddies because kids love clowns, but they also fear them. Clowns with their white faces and red lips are so different and so grotesque compared to ‘normal’ people. Take a little kid to the circus and show him a clown, he’s more apt to scream with fear than laugh.”
King's statements arrived only days after insinuations that the clown sightings might be connected to viral marketing for the upcoming remake of the film It, which is presently scheduled for release next September.
However, King's creations aren't the only ones to which people have been making tenuous connections. Director Rob Zombie's new film 31, which features a freaky looking clown in its various promotional media, has also been suggested a a possible source of the clown conspiracy.
Responding to the allegations, WFFF News 4 contacted Saban Films, the company Zombie has employed as the distributors for the film. The company issued a statement which read, “The company and the film 31 are not associated in any way with the creepy clowns and costumed characters found roaming the South.”
In an age where the menace of creepy clowns appears to be a recurring trend, of equal interest is the use of viral marketing campaigns that employ questionable material in order to garner public intrigue and fuel speculation about upcoming film releases. Among the most famous instances have been various films associated with director and producer J.J. Abrams, who used a series of odd websites featuring the fictional brand "Slusho" in the months leading up to the release of his 2008 monster film Cloverfield.
In advance of the film found-footage film Apollo 18, a similar stunt involving a Reddit "Ask Me Anything" with UFOlogist Stanton Friedman took place, which the marketing team had arranged with Friedman to assist with promotion of the event.
Hence, there is some precedent for bizarre things that pop up from time to time being associated with marketing stunts for films. However, in the case of the creepy clowns of the Carolinas, the more frightening likelihood--that these are just sketchy-acting fools in masks--seems far more likely.