(See below for regularly updated scary clown pictures)
Joseph Grimaldi was the first person to bring clowns into the mainstream in the early 1800’s. He was also responsible for the initial “whiteface” makeup design clowns use still today. Apart from the makeup, clowns can be spotted by their colorful and strange clothes, outrageous wigs and exaggerated footwear. Even though they are typically associated with the circus, there are different types and all of them have their own distinctive style. Where and how the word “clown” came to life is still a mystery, but it can be traced back to the 1560’s.
The Whiteface Clown
Grimaldi’s design of the whiteface clown consisted of painting a white base over the face, neck and chest. This is followed with big red lips that represent a mischievous grin and red triangles on the cheeks. The eyebrows are also enlarged with black paint. Depending on the country and culture different variations of this design is used.
The Auguste Clown
This type of clown is considered as the anarchist of the bunch and adopts the reputation as a lower level clown compared to the whiteface. They are also referred to as the jokers or fools and they have to obey the orders given by the whiteface. Obviously the auguste fails miserably at handling the tasks given by the whiteface and this forms part of the whole act. Their makeup is a mixture between pink, tan or red and a thick, white outline is painted around the mouth and eyes. In terms of clothes they usually wear well-fitted garb or costumes that will either be too big or small. Suspenders are also a trademark of their attire.
The Contra-Auguste Clown
They serve as the mediators between the whitefaces and auguste clowns. When the auguste clown does something incorrectly then the whiteface will instruct the contra-auguste to help the auguste. When they are not mediating they work towards being like the whiteface clowns, mimicking their actions in search of approval.
Instead of using a heavily painted face and distinctive clown clothes, character clowns make use of different, everyday personas. These can vary between butchers, housewives, hobos, just as long as the character is eccentric enough. Their makeup color consists of flesh tones and they incorporate a number of different facial accessories like glasses, moustaches and warts.
From these main classifications numerous other ideas have spawned into an array of different characters and it’s a practice that is seen all across the globe. However, they weren’t always referred to as clowns. Back in the day they were also called jesters, harlequins and jokers.
Transition into Horror
Unlike what many people would assume, clowns didn’t become scary simply because of Hollywood or a modern horror novel. It seems that as Geraldi introduced the mainstream clown to the world he also introduced a sinister side to the legendary writer Charles Dickens. Geraldi was a famous clown that performed in theater and it was only logical that people like Dickens associated the character he created with the person behind the persona. Geraldi was in fact a troubled man. His father was abusive and according to Geraldi’s memoirs, he was a tyrant. Geraldi also suffered from depression. He lost his first wife while she gave birth and his son, who followed in his father’s footsteps as a clown, drank himself to death at age 31. Geraldi’s body was battered and bruised from the daring tricks he did, leaving him in constant pain and ultimately disabled. He went to his grave an alcoholic and broke. For Dickens this was a focus point. One can almost say that he sparked the idea of looking at a clown from a different perspective. Instead of just seeing the happy face and the daring acts, people started asking what was hiding behind the makeup and the fake smile.
It was a slow process, but a process nonetheless. Keep in mind that clowns weren’t primarily used for comic relief or excluded to infant entertainment as we see in modern times. In the 1800’s clowns also partook in serious roles, but thanks to the seed planted by Dickens their reputation became darker. In an Italian opera called “Clowns” (Pagliacci) the main character (a clown) murders his cheating wife. When did this opera have its first showing? In 1892, a little more than 50 years after Geraldi died. In 1876 a French literary critic by the name of Edmond de Goncourt described the work of clowns as “terrifying and full of anxiety”, comparing it to the likes of lunatic asylum. Even after the circus and clowns reached the shores of America in the 19th century the “dark” side of clowns remained while the shows went through significant changes.
Clowns were exploited to the full extent when writers and filmmakers saw the transformation their influence took. Instead of focusing on an adult audience, clowns kept evolving into entertainment targeted at children. The assumption of innocence paved the way for writers like Stephen King, who created the most popular scary clown during the 80’s and 90’s, namely “It”. The 1982 movie entitled “Poltergeist” helped to create a phobia for clowns when a boy’s clown doll drags him underneath the bed. Several movies and books followed the new vision and perspective that captured the darker side of clowns. A simple picture can depict a clown as the creepiest figure alive. There is nothing wrong with the wig or makeup, but it’s the sadistic smile and the cruel intentions within their eyes that create the fear.
Scary clown pictures updated regularly!