My informant first told me this story when we were on a retreat together in the mountains. She told it at night when our cabin-mates were sharing scary stories. I met with her again at a cafe, and we shared more scary stories over coffee. I recorded this interview during that meeting.
Informant: Once upon a time, there was a girl. She was babysitting some children, and… so the parents were out and the kids wanted to watch T.V. in their parents’ room, but they were afraid of the clown statue. So they asked her… they asked the babysitter if she could cover it up with something, like a towel, or a sheet. And so she decided, being the good citizen she is, to call the parents and ask if it would be okay to cover the clown statue. And she did, she called them, and she talked to the father on the phone. And she said, “Can I cover up that clown statue? It’s kind of, you know, creeping out the kids. I just want to cover it with like a towel.” And he said, “What? Clown statue? We don’t have a clown statue in our room. Get the kids! Get out of the house! Save yourselves!” But by the time they got home, the babysitter was gone, the kids were gone, and they were never found. Because the clown statue was actually a serial killer. The end.
Me: I like it. So… where did you first hear that story?
Informant: I think I read it somewhere… I think I read it in some kind of magazine, and it was a bunch of urban legends, and that was one of them.
Me: I see… Um, what settings do you usually tell that story in?
Informant: Um, if it’s late at night, oh my gosh… If I’m working on art in the studio and it’s late at night and people are still working I’ll tell it. Like, ‘hey guys, let’s tell scary stories.’ Or like, if like someone is like sleeping over, or like when I was little and like camped in my back yard and invited friends over to camp. I haven’t camped in like two years though.
Me: That is a good story to tell while camping.
Informant: Yeah. I think, um, also some thematic information. It’s not really information, but it’s funny that there’s a lot of, um, like scary stories about babysitters specifically.
Informant: Maybe something to examine. There’s actually a lot of scary stories about teenagers specifically. Or like, teenage girls. Anyway, something I noticed.
Me: That’s interesting. I can understand the babysitters, because like, you know how it’s kind of a fear of leaving your children alone with somebody that you’re not familiar with.
Informant: Hmm… Or like, being a babysitter and like being in someone else’s home. Or like, needing to like be an adult and taking care of someone else’s kids, but you’re in an unfamiliar location.
The horror of this story is derived from the listener’s fears concerning clowns, murderers, and the unknown. Clowns are a popular symbol in horror stories, despite their purpose being to make people happy. Serial killers are also commonly used as horror story villains. Batman’s rival the Joker, who appears in the 2008 film The Dark Knight is a popular example of a villain who embodies these characteristics.