I’ve never been fond of clowns, not when I saw them in circuses or anywhere else.
I don’t have a phobia about them. I don’t carry that much emotional baggage.
I’ve just never found them amusing, funny or entertaining.
Maybe it’s a cultural thing. Clowns have evolved from the fools and court jesters that date at least to medieval times, some say. Maybe their acts just don’t translate well into the 21st century. No offense if you’re a modern clown.
In the last few years, though, clown phobia, which I had never heard of, has become a common topic, and in our catharsis-craving times, more and more people are admitting that clowns terrify them.
So what happens when people start opening up about their fear of clowns?
Clowns proliferate. They start coming out of the woodwork.
In cities around the U.S. in the past few months there have been plenty of stories about weird-looking clowns hanging in woods, lurking in dark corners, waiting to scare people.
In the last few days, the clowns have come to Fort Wayne. Someone reported to police Saturday that one was wandering down an alley on the south side.
A clown approached a group of kids waiting for the school bus a few days ago and scared them. The bus driver called the police.
There was a report of a clown knocking on doors at 2 a.m.
Then, Monday morning, a woman on the south side reported two clowns knocking on her door. They had been knocking for 10 minutes. One left, but the other kept knocking. One had white makeup and a huge red nose.
It’s scary, the woman said, and she’s pregnant. She doesn’t need to have a panic attack. She’s on bed rest, she said.
The girl’s mother said a similar clown was milling around on the corner a couple of days before as she was leaving for work.
It’s not illegal to hang around as a clown as long as you don’t threaten anyone, police said, though the police will definitely be called if you walk into a bank or liquor store or some other business disguised as a malevolent Bozo.
As with any fad, people will react by saying that these clowns better be careful or one of them is going to get shot knocking on the wrong door in the middle of the night.
That doesn’t have to happen for it to make the news, though. Last week a website posted a story that said a man dressed as a clown was shot in Fort Wayne. It attributed the story to WANE-TV, and even quoted Michael Joyner of the Fort Wayne Police Department. Other news organizations picked it up.
A further posting said a man dressed as a clown was shot to death on Plaza Drive. That was attributed to WANE, also.
Problem is, no clowns have been shot. WANE has written no such stories, and Joyner has never been interviewed about a clown shooting because there hasn’t been one.
It angers the people at WANE. "They’re posing as us, using our logo," said Joe Carroll, digital director for WANE. He’d like to find who posted it and hold them accountable.
Joyner would only say, "Social media."
Frank Gray reflects on his and others’ experiences in columns published Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. He can be reached by phone at 461-8376, fax at 461-8893, or email at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also follow him on Twitter @FrankGrayJG.