Renegade clowns with meat cleavers? WTF?
December 11, 2007 5:47 AM   Subscribe

Renegade clowns with meat cleavers in Minnesota! Seriously, did I make this up?

I grew up in St. Paul, MN and for years have had a bizarre memory from elementary school.

I remember around 5th or 6th grade, somewhere between 1991 - 1993, there being reports of a meat cleaver wielding clown running around St. Paul. He didn't actually attack anyone -- just scared children at playgrounds and maybe stared into people's windows. As the memory goes, the clown was spotted at the MLK Center which was directly next door to my school, and outdoor recess was canceled for a week. Apparently it was determined to be a hoax, and everything was back to normal.

Strange memory, huh? Now, I'm not the type to make this sort of thing up and I don't usually have false memories but no one yet has corroborated my memory. The only person I'm still in touch with from grade school has some faint memory, but says it may just be a result of me talking about this in more recent years. Google has failed me, as has Lexis-Nexis.

Am I crazy?
posted by jk252b to Society & Culture (9 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Are you sure you weren't just watching Killer Clowns from Outerspace?
posted by giggleknickers at 6:23 AM on December 11, 2007

June 5th, 1992 Star-Tribune:
Clown says she didn't mean any harm

The case of the meat-cleaver-wielding clown apparently has been cracked.

It was all a misunderstanding, said Jeanne Bromberg, a novice clown and main suspect in one of the alleged clown capers.

Bromberg, 43, said Thursday that the misunderstanding began the night she graduated from clown school at Lakewood Community College in White Bear Lake. After graduation, she drove her silver Corvette to the library in North St. Paul to drop off a few clowning books.

That night, police got a report from a 13-year-old girl who said she was followed by a clown brandishing a meat cleaver.

Bromberg, who lives in Princeton, heard the reports but didn't think she and the alleged crazed clown were one and the same.

But as police got further into their investigation, Bromberg learned she was the main suspect. She called police. They talked. And the case was closed, Bromberg said.

The North St. Paul police investigator handling the case was unavailable last night.

Bromberg said she doesn't recall having seen a girl when she went to the library that night. But if she did see a child, she probably would have stuck her white-gloved hand out the car window and waved, she said. But there was no meat cleaver.

"If the girl saw something that frightened her, I'm glad she reported it," Bromberg said. "But if it was fabricated, that's another thing."

Last month the Ramsey County Sheriff's Department received four complaints of suspicious activity in Shoreview and Vadnais Heights by a person with a white-painted face, bright red hair and a green and white polka-dot costume.

Bromberg's clown costume is a long, blonde, curly wig, stovepipe hat, a bright red jacket and rainbow-colored pants and bow tie.

"I'm sorry this misunderstanding caused so much panic," she said. Some clowns throughout the Twin Cities have said they have been harangued and chided since the clown sightings were made public. At the same time, they're appalled by the reports that one of their own or someone impersonating a clown could be frightening children.

"No clown would ever frighten a child," Bromberg said. "Our code of ethics wouldn't even permit us to squirt water at a child. Children are our passion, our joy and our living. There might be kooks out there who might dress up like clowns, but they're not real clowns."
What a great way to start the day! Thank you for asking this question jk252b!
posted by cashman at 6:38 AM on December 11, 2007

I grew up in Shoreview (one of the suburbs referenced in the story), and I distinctly remember the "crazy clown" scare when I was in middle school. Thanks for bringing back the memory!
posted by elquien at 6:55 AM on December 11, 2007

A day earlier in the Star-Tribune: "The Vadnais Heights clown sightings haven't produced any documented crimes, but they have provided the media with a lighthearted story for a couple of weeks. Radio maverick Turi Ryder has a regular Bozo update, which she introduces with Gary Lewis' '60s song: "Everybody Loves a Clown, So Why Don't You?"

Television news has speculated that the clown(s) were inspired to their mischief by the Stephen King book/movie "It." But Washington County sheriff's deputies have a different theory. They cite a television movie about mass murderer John Wayne Gacy and his clownish antics that aired three weeks ago, about the time of the first sightings.

The latest "sighting" came in Mahtomedi this week. When police checked it out they discovered "the clown" was an undisguised older woman in a car. The tipster saw her from the rear, and from that angle apparently thought her hair looked like a clown's. Maybe her hairdresser should be reported."

That's the only other thing I could find. This is a great story. I keep rereading the articles. Graduating from clown school, a clown driving a silver 'vette, dropping off clowning books at the library - let me read that again.
posted by cashman at 7:02 AM on December 11, 2007

Graduated from clown school, driving a Corvette? This is the best story I've ever read.
posted by look busy at 7:45 AM on December 11, 2007

This blog entry (Rigorous Intuition) does not reference MN but it is a fascinating read about a scary clown 'epidemic' somewhat similar and perhaps related to the Satanic Panic scare of the 80s. But this was in the 80s not the 90s.
posted by lyam at 8:02 AM on December 11, 2007

This is part of a larger phenomenon that dates back to the 1980's. I'm a MN boy, and I didn't realize we'd had our own incident here in the metro area. (I was 14 in the summer of '92)

Phantom Clowns

Encounters with "evil clowns" proliferated quickly westward. Pittsburg children began reporting being pestered by two men dressed as clowns driving a van. Mid-May, frightened Kansas school kids told of a clown who had chased them home and threatened them to get in his van. On the afternoon of May 22, in Kansas City, Missouri, chased a "knife-wielding clown in a yellow van that had been reported at six different elementary schools"


That Spring, scared children in Nebraska, and in Colorado, and elsewhere, spoke of being menaced by knife-wielding clowns who ordered them to get in their vans. No suspect was apprehended, and perhaps most significantly, no child was abducted. Frustrated police departments began backtracking, and discounting the allegations. Besides, most of the witnesses were young children - how much could their word be trusted? As the sightings petered out, and as children were merely terrified and not missing, "group hysteria" was floated as an explaination, and eagerly seized upon by most. But Coleman makes a significant observation that suggests something else was going on:

The story of the phantom clowns went unnoticed on a national scale until I began getting a hint we were in the midst of a major flap of a new phenomenon. Slowly, after contacting fellow researchers by phone and mail, I discovered the phantom clown enigma went beyond Boston, Kansas City, and Omaha. Indeed, the reports filtering into me demonstrated that a far reaching mystery was developing. In the individual cities, the local media were not aware they were living through a series of puzzling events that were occurring nationwide.

posted by ekstasis23 at 8:09 AM on December 11, 2007

Sounds to me like the story of John Wayne Gacy made its way into the Urban Mythology and overactivew imagination of a young St. Pauli girl!
posted by Pollomacho at 11:50 AM on December 11, 2007

Wow! It's fantastic to know I haven't lost my mind. Thanks for finding those articles.
posted by jk252b at 12:40 PM on December 11, 2007

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