Pondering the "Clown Haunt"

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They are soooooo scary, right?
Well, to some they are. Certainly to a lot of children, their first encounter with a clown can be disturbing with the bright colors and garish behavior. That fear might carry on into adulthood.

The thing is, as our own AZ Haunter Jud (an actual clown) has observed, there is no need for the "crazed clown" masks resembling the characters from Kiler Klowns from Outer Space. When a true coulrophobe encounters a perfectly normal, happy clown, they see the terror on their own.

It seems that just about every haunted attraction that has at least 3 haunts has a clown haunt. I'm not sure 33% of the population finds clowns scary. I also have my doubts whether a person who truly fears clowns would actually go into one of these. At least, not without the "help" of their "friends". If someone is not afraid of clowns, it seems like just another haunt to me.

Anyway, the over-the-top paint jobs of the 3-D haunts lend themselves to a circus theme, so a lot of those are out there. The "carn-evil" theme is another really common one.

Merriam-Webster defines a circus, in part, as "a large arena enclosed by tiers of seats on three or all four sides and used especially for sports or spectacles (such as athletic contests, exhibitions of horsemanship, or in ancient times chariot racing)" in addition to "an arena often covered by a tent and used for variety shows usually including feats of physical skill, wild animal acts, and performances by clowns". Why not make the primary focus these other acts more often? Certainly there is a lot of room there, and not just for sideshow freaks.

While pondering the clown haunt, two things bother me. First, the apparent lack of interesting or intriguing names. It's almost always "Carn-Evil". Oh, sure, there is the occasional "Cirque Macabre". In the spirit of helping those bent on doing a clown haint, I turned to everyone's favorite(?) cheese eating surrender monkeys for some more "exotic" names. Circus in Francais is, of course, "cirque". Carnival is "carnaval", so carnaval could be used wherever you see cirque:
cirque lunatique
cirque psychotique
cirque malifique
cirque tordu
cirque fou
cirque sombre
cirque de nuit
cirque noir
cirque loup-garou
cirque vampire
cirque freak
cirque alien
cirque de cauchemar
cirque de minuit
cirque des sorcires
monstre cirque
cirque de la maladie
cirque de mauvais rives
cirque de deformation
cirque de terreur
cirque d'horreur
cirque magique noir
le cirque du feu
cirque mysterieux
cirque des morts-vivants
cirque de sang

Like the sound of one? There you go.

You might have noticed some familiar terms in there. Loup-garou, alien, vampire... This brings me to the second thing that typically bothers me about clown haunts. They tend to be pretty straightforward. Hey! This place is filled with evil clowns! It's an evil circus!

Well, OK. Many home haunts actually have a lot of other characters too, like maybe a man in a dress - AKA bearded lady - a fortune teller, maybe a ringmaster. However, in addition to the MANY different characters that are not clown related, most haunts seem to be missing a "twist". Killer Klowns got that right, even if they gave it away in the title. They are aliens. What if the circus was actually run and populated by vampires? I might not go with "Cirque Vampire", but Cirque de Sang or Cirque de Minuit might be just fine. Perhaps aliens could be Cirque Xenophile. Witches would be Cirque des Sorcires, perhaps. Something that sounds mysterious but does not necessarily give away the twist.

Maybe the vampires don't merely run the circus. Maybe they don't just use it as a way to get fresh blood in every town. Maybe they also capture people to take with them as food and entertainment. Which suggests, to me, the clowns.

What if the scary, scary clowns are not the antagonists, but the victims? Think about the things that happen to a typical clown. They are usually forced to do painful and humiliating things. They do a lot of pratfalls. They get smacked by other performers and other clowns. They get stuffed into small spaces.

Just go with me one minute more. What if, as a person goes through this haunt populated by an evil ringleader, contortionists, various human oddities and monsters, the clowns play the part of the prisoner needing help? You know, like so many haunts have a girl in a torture chair or on a table, begging people to save her or to get out for their own sake. Make it a clown; a pathetic, unwilling clown. Maybe even a living marionette dressed like a clown and forced to dance for your amusement.

Anyone afraid of clowns will still experience their dread at the sight of the makeup and the outfit. Maybe you can add a little cognitive dissonance as well by playing against type. Do you later find one of these clowns does turn against them? Maybe. Work a little Stockholm syndrome in there? Get their sympathy, then turn on them. You might even manage to create a new fear in addition to reinforcing an old one.

The last thing I would mention is the music. I know the calliope almost has to be there, but no reason to stop there!
Consider Carnival Arcane by Midnight Syndicate, or perhaps Carnival of Lost Souls and other music by Nox Arcana. French for that is "Carnaval des Ames Perdues", by the way.

Circus Contraption is an actual circus that does its own odd music pieces. There are other dark ambient artists out there doing carnival and circus themes too, of course. Some more traditional than others.
Roustabout by Beats Anitque
Dans ma Bulle by Syrano
'The Carny' by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds

I Want Out Of The Circus by Cracker
Michael Penn & Patrick Warren - the big top (theme from "boogie nights")
To The Shock Of Miss Louise - By Thomas Newman
The Residents "Freak Show"

How interesting it might be to start completely normal, all fun and bright, and descend into ever darker music or even, ultimately, chaotic, discordant, or evil alien sounds by the end.

Anyway, these are the things rolling around inside my skull as I ponder the clown haunt.
Let me know what you think. What did I miss? How am I wrong, so very wrong?

Happy haunting!
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Updated 02-05-2020 at 04:27 PM by JustJimAZ