Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

About those creepy clowns October 14, 2016



POKING AROUND MS. MAC’S ANTIQUES in Janesville on a recent Friday afternoon, I came across clowns nestled in a basket. There was nothing frightening about them. They’re just dolls crafted from fabric—some homemade, others manufactured.

But seeing them on display got me thinking about the clown sightings around the country. Last Saturday evening a clown costumed 15-year-old boy was arrested in Crookston, Minnesota, for allegedly scaring people with a butcher knife. All across the U.S., creepy clowns are showing up in communities, creating fear and sometimes chaos.

Even McDonalds has been impacted. The fast food chain is limiting appearances by Ronald McDonald, apparently thinking he best keep a low profile until this whole clown thing blows over.




In my southern Minnesota community, police are being proactive, issuing this statement last week on the Faribault Police Department Facebook page:

We have now gotten a couple of calls about clowns around town. These are actually young people dressed as scary / crazy / kooky clowns. We have no information to indicate they pose a threat to anyone locally, other than being creepy.

The clown craze is the latest attempt at social media influenced hysteria. There have been several arrests around the country in recent days for making terroristic threats and disrupting public school functions.

If you see, or are concerned about, clowns hanging around, please call us and we will gladly check them out.


Clown masks can be scary or fun, depending.

I photographed this clown Halloween mask last October at Antiques of the Midwest in Albert Lea. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2015.


In neighboring Kenyon, noted Police Chief Lee Sjolander isn’t taking things quite as seriously. If you follow his department’s Facebook page, you know that Sjolander thinks, writes and acts outside the box. Here’s the Chief’s take on the clown issue:

I was asked by a parent for my opinion on their young child dressing up as a clown this Halloween. I was told this has been planned for a while and I also know our Kenyon Park & Rec. are planning a clown theme for their Halloween event as well.

Here is my opinion. Dress as a clown if you like, and here is why…

We live in a small town, we know almost everyone, and I’m not one to fall into conspiracy theories, rumormongering, fear, or hoaxes. We have had no “clown sightings” and if we do, we will follow up on them just like we would any other call.

I’m also a huge supporter of common sense. Now a young child dressed as a clown walking with their parents or friends holding a bag of candy is way different than an adult dressed as a clown carrying a weapon and scaring people. That’s like someone dressing as a deer and walking through the woods during deer season… Not the best thought out plan and that can lead to someone getting hurt.

When you say “clown” in Kenyon, most people think of Frank and Bob, who are two of the most loved and respected shriner clowns you could ever meet, and they are local residents.

So there you have it. My opinion. I think I’ll dress as a small town cop again this year, like I do every year…

Please use good judgment, common sense, and if you have any questions or concerns this Halloween, please feel free to contact us.


Ron, proprietor at Ms. Mac's Antiques, showed me this clown tucked into a storage room. It's a 1940s balloon machine.

Ron, proprietor at Ms. Mac’s Antiques, showed me this clown tucked into a storage room. It’s a 1940s balloon machine.


I don’t understand this whole clown thing. I don’t understand why anyone considers it a good idea to dress as a clown for the purpose of scaring, threatening and/or harming people. There’s nothing funny about this. Nothing at all.

Clowns are supposed to make us smile, make us laugh, bring us joy. They are not meant to terrorize.

Legitimate clowns are, as Chief Sjolander writes, to be loved and respected.


© Copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


33 Responses to “About those creepy clowns”

  1. Littlesundog Says:

    I’m with you… I do not understand scaring people with a morbid twist of humor. We have had trouble here with teens and twenty-something kids terrorizing little ones with these sick costumes. I have to wonder at the mentality of many people these days. What happened to common sense?

    • I am sorry to hear about the youth who are terrorizing kids in your area with clown costumes. How is your community handling this?

      Common sense would be good. It seems to have vanished as people hide behind masks and social media and seeming anonymity.

  2. Colleen Gengler Says:

    Good idea to quote from the Kenyon police chief’s common sense take on the clown concerns.

  3. Valerie Says:

    My mother collected clowns. She passed away in 2009. This craze would make her sad. Clowns always remind me of her and I have saved a couple of her clowns.

  4. Bryn Marlow Says:

    Here’s to common sense and not letting the latest sensation warp our hold on what is real, on what we know to be so.

    I’ve moonlighted as a professional clown for years and have found Hallowe’en to be the one time of year I go about in anything but clown.

    There’s a magic in masking and the clown/fool has a long tradition of offering social commentary, crazy wisdom, kindness, unconditional acceptance and more. Subverting what is sacred—something clowns often do—can be effected with reason and purpose that helps to nudge society towards positive transformation.

    But like the common knife in your kitchen drawer, the subversion of something useful and ordinary and magical can also be used to frighten and threaten. Turning a sacred figure into a scary monster works because of it’s so unexpected, so wrong.

    Back in my college days I saw a Tales from the Crypt film about a psycho clown. I thought then it was a travesty to profane so sacred a symbol. I still do.

    • I appreciate your thoughtful and insightful perspective on the current creepy clown situation. You offer a viewpoint that we need to hear. Let’s hope this madness soon ends. Thank you for all of the positivity you’ve brought to the art of clowning.

  5. Clowns have never been the same for me after watching the movie It based off the book by Stephen King. Plus a lot of the movies based off King’s book have you sleeping with the lights on for days after watching. I do not understand the reason of dressing up as a clown to terrorize people, especially going after children. I think of the Scream mask and the Purge masks (those Purge movies make no sense to me either). Do we really need clown hysteria along with everything else going on in this world – NO! I will go along with my day envisioning happy, laughing, joyful clowns with little cars and flowers that squirt water 🙂 Happy Weekend – Enjoy!

    • Your vision shall be mine.

      Thanks for adding the Stephen King bit to the discussion.

    • You cannot have a creepy clown discussion without reference to Stephen King.

      Vision Windy in your last photo – One Happy Clown 🙂 I wonder what color of car he prefers and if his flower squirts water or silly string.

      • I’d go with water and a red car.

        The only Stephen King book I’ve read is On Writing, A Memoir of the Craft, probably the best book I’ve ever read on the craft of writing. I suppose it would only make sense then that I read one of his horror books to learn more about the craft of writing. But it’s not a genre I like or read.

  6. pkpm519 Says:

    Audrey, I don’t comment early enough about your blogs! I read it every day and love most of them. The only creepy picture you had in this one was the clown mask…but I think any empty mask, where eyes and mouth are not visible, is creepy. Keep up the great messages. I especially like the farm pictures and the “about town” ones, as I grew up in Dundas and Northfield and lived and worked in Faribault for quite some time. I now live in St Paul, which I describe like a small town, only bigger! Thanks again for your time to do these ech day.
    Emily McNeill

  7. Jackie Says:

    Oh this dumb clown deal is ridiculous if you ask me. I think the Kenyon police chief is going about it in a realistic way, dont make a big deal out of it because that’s what these people want! Hopefully people just wont be stupid on Halloween, I would be a little more cautious on that night if I had small children.

  8. Aaron Says:

    I secretly find it kind of funny that kids can scare people so easily, but I keep stern face on when the subjects brought up. I think that police chief you quoted has it right though.

  9. I had no idea about any of this – how odd it all is.. c

  10. Almost Iowa Says:

    I’m also a huge supporter of common sense.

    Please…. let’s have more of that.

  11. Marilyn Says:

    The clowns are here in Australia, too. The second one sighted was actually in our little village. It is hard to think of the appropriate way to describe this bizarre turn of affairs. It is sickening.

  12. ——Apparently, people are bored w/ their own lives, so they buy a clown outfit to scare the daylights out of people. These same people probably throw rocks at cars, key vans, and terrorize animals.
    About the clowns: they have ALWAYS frightened me. I mean, it’s like they’re trying to hide behind the nose, makeup, red hair…like that Gacy dude.
    PS. hope you are well, Audrey.

  13. Clearly some people have no common sense or anything better to do with their time.

  14. Sue Ready Says:

    wow there are a lot of thought provoking comments on clowns on this posting. Its almost like we have now been sucked into mass hysteria on several levels which is too bad since there are clown people who are sincere in their efforts just to entertain..

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