Creepy Clown Craze Hits Illinois

Oct 7, 2016

You've probably noticed by now, there's a bit of hysteria that's circulating about creepy clowns. Apparently, much to the chagrin of people like, uhm, me ... it's not dying down. Media reports say there have been multiple people in the scary costumes acting out in violent ways, and copy-cats seem to be fueled by social media. For an in-depth roundup of such reports and what is likely behind them - check out this story from NPR.

Apparently Illinois is not immune to the clown hype. Earlier this month the Jacksonville Journal-Courier reported there may have been someone there lurking the streets in a frightening clown get-up, and that similar sightings have happened in places like Beardstown and Granite City. But Josh Hansen says there are perfectly good, non-horrifying, explanations for the influx of people people in clown suits. He should know - he's the Creative Director for Dallas & Co., a costume store in Champaign that boasts 2,000 square feet of retail space, containing 100,000 products meant to help you change your appearance for the holiday season, or just for fun. Including, you guessed it - clown costumes. 

"A lot of people who are buying the clown-related products around the Champaign-Urbana area are taking advantage of the whole clown thing that's been happening and using it for promotional purposes for local haunted houses and things like that," says Hansen. He says there's no denying that the store has seen an uptick in people buying clown-related items. Hansen chalks it up to the fact pop culture is an ever-evolving beast. One year stores are selling out of Elsa and Olaf costumes, characters from the Disney movie Frozen, and another year... well, you know.

Meanwhile - if you want to know this arts & culture reporter's conspiracy theory about the craze, it sure seems convenient that reports of scary clowns luring children into the woods are coming out months before the release of the remake of the movie/mini-series It. The original features Tim Curry as the deranged clown known as Pennywise, who lures children to their deaths, the following being arguably one of the most iconic, bizarre and unforgettable horror scenes ever filmed:

Apparently the production crew of the remake, set to hit theaters next year, swears they are not behind any of the clown sightings, however. And creator of the 1986 story, horror royalty Stephen King, is urging people to tone down the mass clown hysteria. Convenient to say, coming from the guy who shaped the way America thinks of clowns, for the much scarier.