In Newport Beach, California, a young girl was babysitting two small children for the first time. The children’s parents had gone out for the evening and had left her with a number that she could reach them on at any time. They told her that the children had been having nightmares recently so they would prefer if she would stay upstairs with them so that she could go to them quickly if they needed her. She was told she could watch TV in the parent’s bedroom, which was near the children’s room.
The girl agreed to this and after she put the children to bed, she went into the parent’s bedroom to watch TV. As she entered the room, she noticed a large statue of a clown in the corner of the room, which had been placed in a sitting position on a chair, facing the bed. The babysitter thought this strange but ignored it and started watching TV.
As the night went on and the house grew darker, the girl couldn’t help but feel like the statue was looking at her, sometimes thinking she saw it move a little in the corner of her eye. Feeling unnerved by it, she eventually called the children’s father and told him that the children were asleep and fine, but asked if they would mind her watching TV downstairs as the clown statue in their room was making her uneasy.
The phone went silent for a few seconds before the father told her to get the kids, get out of the house immediately, and wait for the police. Confused, the babysitter asked him what was wrong. The father told her that they don’t have a clown statue in their room.
The babysitter panicked and went to get the children, taking them outside and across the street while they waited for the police to arrive. Terrified, the babysitter stared at the house, worried that whatever was in that room might follow them outside. As she stared, she saw movement in the window of the parent’s room. The curtains were slowly parted by unseen hands to reveal the pale face of the clown as it got closer to the window, before retreating back into the darkness of the room, the curtains closing after it.
When the police arrived they entered and searched the house. After some time, the babysitter saw them escorting a handcuffed man dressed as a clown out of the house.
Being one of the most popular and retold urban legends out there, many different versions of the Clown Statue story exist. Variations include:
- Police finding a knife concealed on the clown
- The clown turns out to be a convicted killer escaped from prison
- The clown is a mentally disturbed dwarf and convicted serial killer that had stalked the family for months, living in the attic during the day and sneaking around the house at night
- The children said the statue would watch them sleep on a night, but the parents dismissed it as nightmares
- The babysitter had to watch TV in the parent’s room because downstairs didn’t have cable
- She was told to take them to the neighbours, where the parents would meet them
- The clown was found in the children’s room, rather than parent’s
- The clown turns out to be a sex offender
- The clown tries to run but is captured by police
- The parents had collected clown statues and dedicated a room to the statues where the clown was discovered while the children had been playing in the room
- The family had been stalked by a mentally ill man that had previously tried to harm or kidnap the children
- The clown was their neighbour who had tried to harm or kidnap the children before
- The children had gotten out of bed to play with the clown when the babysitter found them and then noticed the clown statue
A chain letter version of the story in which both the babysitter and children were killed by the clown circulated around 2006 with the warning “If you don’t repost to 10 peeps within 5 minutes the clown will be standing next 2 your bed at 3:00am with a knife in his hand.”.
Though there isn’t any actual evidence or case studies involving clowns in this way, many people do believe this story to be true. These beliefs may be based on the Killer Clown, John Wayne Gacy, a serial killer and rapist who was active between 1972 and 1978 and claimed at least 33 victims. Though he didn’t kill while dressed as a clown, he gained the title of Killer Clown from his character Pogo the clown, whom he would dress up as during fund-raisers, parades, and children’s parties.
The fear of clowns, in general, is one of the most common fears, though many people cannot explain why it is that they find clowns so scary. There isn’t a large record of clowns being particularly violent or criminal, though the fear of clowns has been sensationalized through media and legends. People often say it’s the inability to recognise the expression in a clown’s face or their disproportionate features. Sometimes a traumatic experience with a clown in a person’s childhood could be the cause, though a lot of the time there isn’t a solid basis for the fear. Clowns are just creepy and unfunny to a lot of people.
In 2016, clowns were the subject of mass hysteria during a ‘killer clown epidemic’ in which many people were seen dressed up as clowns and were roaming the streets. Threats were made both from the clowns and against them, with several arrests and assaults occurring during the craze. Though many of the activities were exaggerated beyond what they actually turned out to be, a few serious incidents did occur, including a man and his family in Florida being attacked by a group of around 20 people in clown masks.
The general fear of clowns that many people have will have easily fueled a story like the Clown Statue, contributing to it being one of the most popular and well known urban legends today. The concept of a babysitter being attacked while alone with the children she’s looking after is a popular setup for a lot of scary stories too, as it allows a plausible scenario in which a vulnerable young woman would be left defenceless, and easy prey for a killer. The idea of a killer hiding in plain sight in the same room that you have been in all night without you even noticing is also extremely unnerving. These elements come together to form a simple plot that’s easy to retell, but one that is extremely effective at playing on people’s fears, unsettling them and making them question the safety of their own surroundings.