Professional clowns receive threats of reprisals after campus scares

Recent UW-Eau Claire ‘clown’ sightings impact local businesses, incite fear

More stories from Sadie Sedlmayr


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Jester professionals are having a hard time finding work after they’re threatened with physical harm if they make an appearance out in public

Since August, college campuses have had a trend of creepy clown sightings, some of whom have threatened students on social media, which prompted students to take actions into their own hands by threatening physical harm to any jesters they cross paths with.

Almost three weeks ago the trend reached Eau Claire, with law enforcement receiving a handful of calls from scared residents, but no contact with the people dressed up as these clowns.

Following the upheaval and outflow of negative reactions such as death threats from former students, it has been hard for clown entertainers, who fear for their life, to find jobs.

This growing epidemic of jobless clown jesters has already hit Eau Claire, as evidence of an individual dressed as a clown on campus surfaced on social networks.

According to the Leader Telegram, for professional jesters like Illinois native Diane Knight, who has been clowning for three decades, such was the case.

“I love what I do; I don’t want to stop,” she said. “They say there’s a shortage of clowns. I hope this doesn’t scare people away.”

Knight has a point and a justifiable reason to worry about her job being put on the line because of the harmful intimidation tactics used by college students at large. It’s a shame to say the least that the threats of reprisals are large enough to scare away someone, whose job is literally bringing smiles to others by twisting balloons into animals, telling stories, painting whimsical faces and performing magic tricks.

If you ask me, the students are in the wrong just as much as the clowns are. Knight nor any clown entertainer in the industry should have to stop doing the thing they love the most because of terrorizations from students. Just like no student should feel the need to defend themselves after being threatened by an internet troll.

How it came to this beats me. I don’t condone any sort of harassment and there seems to be some coming from both parties involved. No one should ever have to go through what Knight and other mimes are enduring right now in regard to their safety, and same can be said about the students being innocently scared by clowns.

Debbie George, who goes by “Lily the Clown” in costume,  said the overreaction to clowns is no laughing matter and I agree with her.

“I am really concerned. I’m a bit afraid to be out in public in clown costume,” George said. “It is kind of scary. You just don’t know how people are going to react.”

I get it, clowns are scary. They’re like every nightmare and horror story come true. I have been utterly petrified of them since Stephen King’s 1989 film “It” which featured a maniatic, child-killing clown on the warpath, but the fact that George and Knight are afraid for their well-being infuriates me. Why should they have to suffer for just doing their jobs? They’re humans too, and have rights just like everyone else.

At the end of the day, it’s just a costume and the person behind it shouldn’t be endangered because of the profession they choose.

The DuPage County sheriff’s office raised a community alert after the clown sightings which George said was frightening.

“I don’t want to get stopped by police driving up to a library or church,” she said. “This is something we’ve never really dealt with before.”

Clowns already have it rough as it is with their day job, however they should never get stopped for being who they are. It’s discrimination no matter how you look at it and I’m not having it.

John “Jay-Jay the Clown” Joseph, said he isn’t surprised by the surge of clown appearances globally.

“Every year about this time, we get the same reaction,” Joseph said. “Clowns are no different than any other profession. Someone could dress up like a scary firefighter and carry an ax. It’s just unfortunate that the profession they chose is clowns.”

Joseph is right when he says clowns are no different than any other profession, which is why I can’t fathom the resistance forming against them. Infringing on somebody else’s turf is never okay and we, as people, need to do better by fixing this mentality.

Though the resolution for our campus to ban clown costumes was not passed, recently Student Senate members said they plan to link up with campus police to promote student awareness of the resources available to them in light of recent events at the university.