USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘clowns’
Folk Beliefs
Holidays
Humor
Stereotypes/Blason Populaire

Practical Jokes on Halloween

Original Script: “Okay…so like this is annoying. Like SO annoying and it happens every damn Halloween, I SWEAR. And I love Halloween! But, okay, so I like scary movies, I just like the adrenaline rush that they give me. I don’t know. But there are some creepy ass movies that really scare me. Like ones with clowns or creepy girls that crawl—something about the crawling just freaks me out. I usually watch them with my stepdad, Chuck. Anyways, there was this movie called Mama, and it was not that scary. EXCEPT, when she crawled upside down in a long dress with her hair covering her face—similar to a crab walk but creepier. IT REALLY FREAKED ME OUT! So during Halloween, Chuck got this GRAND idea, to play a joke on me. I was in my room minding my own business, it was nighttime. THEN, the power went out, and I’m like ‘oh what the hell’ because whose power randomly goes out. I was pissed. So I open my bedroom door to ask Chuck what was wrong. Because I was trying to binge watch on Netflix on all the ‘scary’ movies they had. Mind you, my room is at the end of the hallway, directly across from the stairs. So I get no response, and it is creepy as hell so I take another step out of my room. And hear something creaking up the stairs. I step again, and there is a freaking look a like Mama crawling up the stairs. I screamed SO loud, and kept screaming. But then Chuck—who was dressed as the lady—starting laughing and fell down the stairs. I was so pissed. Now it is funny. But I was literally so pissed. Like good, you should of fallen down the stairs. AND like how the hell did he crawl like that? Did he practice? AND THAT’S NOT ALL. The Halloween before that, I opened my bedroom door and there was a creepy clown standing thing in my room—like a thing you get from the Halloween store! I should have been prepared. This Halloween, I am going to make sure Chuck get’s his just-deserts. I am starting to plan NOW. In freaking MARCH! I can’t wait.”

Background Information about the Piece by the informant: Jenna grew up in Chandler, Arizona with her family. About two years ago, she moved across country with her mother and now lives in Milford, Pennsylvania. Jenna loves stuff about ghosts, and she is always willing to see if the legends are true. She has gone on a many legend quests but have yet to hold them true until this one. She is now a senior in high school and eighteen years old and plans to go to California in the fall. Jenna loves scary movies and is not scared of many things—besides those stated in the above piece of folklore. According to her, she plans on pranking Chuck this year, 2016, around Halloween.

Context of the Performance: Halloween

Thoughts about the piece: I felt that this particular piece of folklore that I collected was rich in the folkloric terms we had learned in our Forms of Folklore class. Foremost, there is the precedent of the practical joke, where there is a victim—Jena—and initiator—Chuck—and a dope—the scaring of another person. There is the obvious separation of groups, the people who think it is funny, like Chuck, those who are on the inside of the joke and those who are the unsuspecting casualties, like Jenna, who are outside of the joke.

However, it is interesting to note the occurrence when this practical joke transpired. In Milford, Pennsylvania, where Jenna lives, contrary to popular belief, it really does not start snowing until the end of November. Thus, there is this transitional period from fall to wintertime. Additionally, while Halloween does mark the end of a season, there is seemingly coherent transition between everyday life as well. For example, the marathon of Halloween movies on ABC Family will start to transition into Christmas time movies, the radio will start singing Christmas carols, and department stores will stop selling their Halloween decoration and start to set out Christmas decorations. (It is probably the perfect time for a practical joke such as this, because one would have to question Chuck’s sanity if he dressed up like a dead woman crab walking up the stairs on a regular basis).

Pop culture happens to play an interesting role in this joke as well. As Jenna had noted, the movie Mama (2013) directed by Andrés Muschietti, personifies woman “creepily.” Especially, in horror films, the ghosts and/or dead creatures are most often portrayed as being female: The Ring (2002) and The Grudge (2004). Furthermore, there is also the portrayal of clowns being scary, even though they were supposed to be a child’s entertainment at parties. In pop culture, these clowns are often portrayed as being murderous: It (1990), Amusement (2008), and Poltergeist (1982). There are even designated costumes at Halloween stores, or aisles, that say “Ghost Woman” or “Murderous Clown.” Hence, while in the past these might of not been scary costumes, and or events, in today’s society, the realm of scary, even the “horror” genre has completely changed.

Finally, it is important to note that this practical joke has almost become a tradition in Jenna’s household. Chuck has played this joke on her for two Halloweens in a row, and Jenna had stated that she plans on a practical joke this coming Halloween, where Chuck is the unsuspecting victim and Jenna is in the know.

general
Legends
Narrative

Contemporary Legend – American

“So my friend was babysitting for this family for the first time.  She called the parents to ask if she could watch TV and they said that after she put the children down for bed, she could watch TV in their bedroom since the TV downstairs did not have cable.  She asked them if she could put a sheet or something over the clown statue in their room because she was afraid of clowns.  The parents then told her to take the kids and get out of the house immediately; they would call the police.  My friend did what they said and as soon as the parents got home, they told her that they did not own a clown statue and that it must have been someone dressed up as a clown.”

My informant heard this urban legend from a friend around the age of twelve or thirteen from a friend of hers in Houston, Texas.  She found this urban legend particularly frightening because she and her friend both babysit.

My informant says this urban legend is mostly told to teenage girls who babysit as a job or who babysit to earn extra money.  It is scary for these girls because many already feel uncomfortable being alone in a strange house with children as their responsibility.

After researching this urban legend on the Internet, there are several websites that tell of the same urban legend.  I do not believe this urban legend actually happened to my informant’s friend; I believe she told it from a first person perspective to make it scarier.  Since she tells the urban legend as something that happened to her, it makes the legend seem more like reality.  It is just like saying “If it happened to me, it could happen to you.”

general
Legends
Narrative

Legend – Beckett, Massachusetts

Legend—USA

“At Camp Greylock, a summer sleep-away camp in Beckett Massachusetts, counselors dressed up as clowns and terrorized boys in the middle of the night.”

David informed me that he first heard this legend when he was a counselor at Camp Greylock during the Summer of 2007.  He decided to build a campfire with his co-counselor and tell the kids in their bunk ghost stories,  Though most of the stories were fictional, his co-counselor did tell one extremely alarming tale, which he swore was true, or at least is believed to be true.  Apparently in the 70s (the camp was founded in 1916), a group of sick and twisted counselors decided that it would be funny to torture children.  They decided that the best way for them to this was to dress up in complete clown costumes; white faces, colored wigs—and scare 11 and 12-year-old boys.  After they put on the costumes, a bunch of them would go into a bunk and sit in the center of the main room, staring into space.  When one or more of the kids would wake up, they would be terrified as they would see a group of frightening clowns, not moving, just sitting on the floor staring off into space, or worse, at the children.

Though we will likely never know if this is a true story or not (the current owners of the camp say it’s false, but the events allegedly happened 2 or 3 owners before them).  Clowns must be a common fear amongst people, because I have heard several legends involving clowns.  The most notable is an urban legend that I heard while here at school in L.A.; apparently a girl is house sitting for her neighbors when she sees a statue of a clown and calls the owners of the house to ask about it.  They say that they don’t have a statue of a clown, and the idea is that some random guy dressed as a clown was terrorizing her.  Whether or not the two are somehow related—one somehow being a variation of the other, or one coming after the other, we will never know for sure.  This is why such urban legends are so fascinating, not only are we unsure as to whether or not it is true, but we also wonder what relationship it has to other legends.

[geolocation]