Scared of clowns? Not surprising, given the recent spate of so-called 'killer clown' attacks up and down the country. Maybe it's their rictus grins, crazy hair or unfeasibly large feet, but clowns have always had something of a sinister undertone. Here we look at some of the darkest clowns in history.

Real-life monster

Pogo the Clown

John Wayne Gacy

John Wayne Gacy (PA Photos)

The original ‘killer clown’ was John Wayne Gacy (above), an American children’s entertainer and charity fundraiser who hid behind his jolly alter ego Pogo the Clown. But the apparent do-gooding funster was very far from jolly. He was, in fact, a serial killer and rapist, who sexually assaulted and murdered at least 33 teenage boys and young men in 1970s Illinois.

Gacy would lure his victims to his home, where he would subject them to sexual assaults, then, in most cases, strangle them and hide their bodies in a space under his house. Sometimes Gacy carried out the murders dressed as Pogo.

Rex Features

Rex Features

Gacy (whose artwork appears above) was sentenced to death on 13 March 1980. He was executed by lethal injection 14 years later after spending the intervening years on Death Row.

Fictional frighteners



If you’ve never read Stephen King’s It or watched the 1990 two-part mini-series, there’s a whole new world of scary waiting for you to explore. The horrific Pennywise the Dancing Clown, portrayed brilliantly by Tim Curry, is the stuff of nightmares. First winning the trust of the American neighbourhood of Derry’s more vulnerable kids, he’d then brutally murder them. But is It merely a product of the children’s imagination or an immortal force of evil..?

Happy Slappy

Happy Slappy

In some ways, abusive, alcoholic clown Happy Slappy – the alter ego of down-on-his-luck Norman Snively – injects a welcome touch of grim reality into what could otherwise be a cheese-fest of a kids’ movie. Played by Michael Jeter, he’s the first character to appear in Disney’s 1997 feelgood family comedy Air Bud, and is worth a watch if you can bear to sit through the rest of the schmaltz…

Horny the Clown

Horny the ClownTake a burger joint (with a demonic mascot), a meat cleaver and a bunch of unsuspecting teens and you’ve got the perfect recipe for 2007 slasher movie Drive-Thru. The action takes place at ‘Hella-Burger’ in Orange County as Horny the Clown, played by Van de la Plante, takes out the young friends in a gory bloodbath.

The Joker

Heath Ledger as The Joker

Rex Features

The late Heath Ledger gave arguably the best-ever portrayal of The Joker from DC’s Batman franchise in the 2008 movie The Dark Knight. Wearing clown make-up to disguise the scars from a ‘Glaswegian smile’, Ledger brings the character’s anarchy, chaos and merciless pursuit of sheer evil to life in a chillingly believable way. Not your traditional clown, but spine-tingling nonetheless.


Billy from Saw

The hideously macabre puppet Billy from the Saw movies adds an extra dimension of horror to the unremittingly sadistic scenes. Acting as a sinister vehicle for the physical and psychological ‘tests’ through which main antagonist John Kramer (aka ‘Jigsaw’, played by Tobin Bell) puts his victims, the tricycle-riding ventriloquist’s dummy is a horribly menacing presence.

Sweet dreams…