Another entry in my month-long celebration of all things Halloween
There’s something about the innocence of childhood that somehow seems to conjure up the most frightening things. My fellow Offender Roger previously blogged about some of the ghostly things he saw as a child and many of the best “real-life” supernatural stories involve things related to children.
My most distinct supernatural childhood experience must have happened when I was three or four years old—I was still living in Korea at the time. We had an attic in our home—one of those old-fashioned ones where you had to pull the ladder down and climb up. My family stored all their old junk here and I loved going up there alone and exploring. I stumbled upon these books that had pictures of old cars in them and, for some reason, they fascinated me like nothing else. I would sit for hours in that dark attic with a flashlight and flip through photos of these classic cars. It was like my kiddie porn.
On one such occasion as I sat; diligently studying my automotive porn, I heard a noise coming from the far corner of the attic. And when I looked up, what I saw was this: some sort of…thing that was all black with pointy ears. Its only distinguishing features were its four red eyes and it was carrying what looked like a club in one hand:
The creature was just sitting there; staring back at me in the glow of my flashlight. I don’t know if I was scared. I just remember being frozen and staring back at it for the longest time. At some point, I calmly climbed back down the stairs and told my grandmother and uncle that something was up in the attic. My uncle went up to investigate and within seconds, he came running down as fast as he could, shut the door to the attic and told me I must never go up there again.
By the following week, I was back in the attic by myself; looking through those photos of the cars which I couldn’t resist, but secretly hoping I would see whatever it was I saw that first time. Even back then my curiosity over-rode any fears. But I never saw anything strange again. To this day, I wonder if it was just some sort of mass hallucination that both my uncle and I witnessed, but whether real or not, the image of that thing staring back at me will be forever burned into my mind’s eye. Later on, I learned that the creature that I saw was probably a dokkaebi which is a sort of Korean demon, but again, who knows if it was real or not.
I’ve never really been afraid of the supernatural. I loved all of that freaky stuff as a kid and couldn’t get enough, but it was more fun than scary to me. I was the one who dragged my friends to the cemetery at midnight to mess with the Ouija board over freshly dug graves. I’ve been in a house with a young girl who was allegedly haunted by poltergeists and witnessed things flying around the room (I still have a small scar from where a flying cup hit me). I’ve gone to bed with a voice-activated tape recorder on my nightstand only to play it back the next morning to hear a very distinct voice calling me by name and promising to kill me. None of these things really fazed me. With the exception of one thing—clowns.
I know a clown is supposed to be this jovial symbol of innocence and childhood, but I don’t think I’m alone in finding them to be scary as hell. I think I was exposed to some things when I was young that forever made clowns terrifying. The first was reading Stephen King’s It. The book told the story of a group of kids who band together to protect themselves from a supernatural clown named Pennywise who killed children. I remember the summer the book came out–someone gave it to me and I read it while I was in bed sick with the flu. It was so scary that it literally made me sicker (I could feel my temperature rising as I read it) and kept me up at night. Here’s a clip from the TV movie adaptation of the book. This is the first scene with the awesome Tim Curry as Pennywise the Clown:
The other thing that made me fearful of clowns was reading news accounts of John Wayne Gacy a.k.a. the “Killer Clown.” In the 1970s, Gacy raped and murdered at least thirty-three boys. Many of them were found buried in his basement. Gacy earned the nickname “Killer Clown” because he would dress up like a clown and entertain children in his role as “Pogo the Clown.” Here he is in full costume:
Something about the image of a serial killer dressed as a clown played havoc with me. I would have these recurring dreams that he was chasing me. I’m not sure why he affected me so much but I think it had something to do with the fact Gacy also fancied himself an artist. He would paint these pictures; many of them these bizarre self-portraits that had a profoundly disturbing effect on me as a child. I remember seeing his work in some magazine and immediately regretting having done so. Here’s an example:
Over the years, my fear of clowns has been reinforced by other stories I’ve heard: In 1981, newspapers reported a wave of sightings of men dressed as clowns trying to abduct children from playgrounds from Boston to Kansas City. A friend told me about someone she had grown up with who had a painting of a clown in their home and no matter how hard they tried to get rid of it, it would always reappear inside the house.
Who knows if these stories were bullshit but they were great fun to hear and scared the bejesus out of me. And if you still don’t think clowns are scary? Well, watch this when you’re alone late at night: