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Psychologists: Why some people pretend to be horror clowns


"Not the anger that kills laughter," said Nietzsche. The perpetrators disguise themselves as clowns, chase children or even attack bystanders with knives and chainsaws. Why do the criminals put on the masks of clowns?

Evil clowns
Circus clowns and puppets delight children. But your joke is not always harmless. In Stephen King's novel ES, a clown with red hair, fangs, and claws terrorized a city in America. Where is the evil in the clown?

The unknown behind the mask
Infants are afraid of people who put on a mask, even if they know this person. Modern clowns apply make-up. Historically, such masquerades have rarely served peaceful purposes.

Pogo the clown
John Wayne Gacy (March 17, 1942 - May 10, 1994) was an American serial killer. He raped and killed at least 33 boys and young men. Gacy was considered to be fond of children and appeared at children's parties as “Pogo, the clown”. He received 21 life sentences and 12 death sentences for his crimes and was executed in 1994.

Role model for horror clowns
"Pogo, the clown" spread as a costume at Halloween parties in the United States. Precisely because teachers and parents were horrified, the attraction for young people to dress up as this murdering clown grew.

Fun becomes serious
The line between macabre humor and criminal behavior is difficult to draw. For decades, Halloween has not only seen people at parties in horror clown costumes, but few do not want to distinguish fiction from reality, dark jokes from crime.

Pathetic cowards
The perpetrators, who disguise themselves as horror clowns, hunt, threaten or physically injure strangers, mostly have something in common: they have little perspective in normal life, are “poor sausages” who feel powerful at the expense of the weaker. The mask gives them anonymity.

Laughter tears off the mask
Psychologist Isabella Heuser says: “Spreading fear and terror is almost the most important thing for the perpetrators. That's why they have lost when a supposed victim just laughs at them and doesn't take them seriously. ”

Laughter is not always happy
Laughing at such grimaces has little to do with joy, because people laugh when they have a car accident and they laugh when their house is on fire. They laugh in madness and madness and the deepest phases of despair.

Uninhibited laughter
Paramedics tell jokes about corpses and laugh. Laughter is not just an expression of happiness. It disinhibits, loosens the muscles, relieves tension, makes dangerous situations bearable.

Laughter in delusion
Crazy laughter is also a hallmark of mental illnesses, for example bipolar disorder in the manic phase and schizophrenia.

Laughter as aggression
Mocking laughter, demonic grins and mocking giggles make others ridiculous. If you laugh badly, you also disengage. He no longer holds back his lust, he gives free rein to his aggressiveness.

Two kinds of laughter
A gentle smile with a closed mouth and an open look is appealing. A grin with bared teeth promises disaster and can be understood as a threat of violence. If it combines with excitement, we get goose bumps - our fur resists and we bare our teeth, not unlike chimpanzees.

The artist as a clown
The artist Jonathan Meese provokes with the Hitler salute and is regarded by critics as a case for psychiatry. Journalists describe his art as a “packed boys room” and as a “horror cabinet between Charles Bronson and Slayer”. Meese herself propagates the "dictatorship of art."

The terrible clown
He takes on the role of the terrible clown, the enfant terrible, in the art world. The terrible child does not want and cannot offer a perspective on how society should be better organized. Provocative characters can sometimes appear unintentionally funny. To Meese, critics asked whether the one who seriously deals with the works of the art dictator is not ridiculous himself.

The child and the horror
What connects the child to the fool and the clown to the horror? The child is underage, so he cannot be responsible for his actions. For this reason, on the one hand it tells the truth without making up, which adults refrain from, on the other hand it acts cruelly without being aware of it.

Deadly joke
Why should jokes be fatal? Laughing at someone who suffers runs through the history of human cruelty.
Klaus Theweleit speaks of the "laugh of the torturer". Soldiers in war enjoy shaming their enemies' corpses. They laugh when they drag their mutilated bodies through the streets. Those who are exposed to evil laughter lose their rights.

The theater of terror
Historians speak of the Theater of Terror. Labeling torture as inexplicable or irrational and pathological means not wanting to explain it, says Theweleit. In "The 120 Days of Sodom", Marqis de Sade, not a sadist but an enlightener, showed how the powerful enjoy the suffering of the helpless.
To ridicule someone means to have power over them or not to recognize their power.

Devalue jokes
Sigmund Freud recognized that a joke defines social belonging. Jokes defame minorities. Anyone who tells jokes about "Negroes" begins with violence against them. The line between fun and seriousness blurs. It is only a small step from the Judenwitz to the pogrom. (Dr. Utz Anhalt)

Author and source information


Video: The Skill of Humor. Andrew Tarvin. TEDxTAMU (September 2021).