Clowns and clowning around have long been a theme on this blog. Some of my earliest posts on here concerned my fascination with them, in particular the Phantom Clown wave of 1981 written about by Loren Coleman in his Mysterious America. I found early on that by engaging with this material, the unintended consequence of clown synchronicities was very much a thing I would have to contend with. As the years have gone by since those early days of whibbling along the wobbly path of wyrdshit, I’ve come to accept and learn from these effects- and have become much more comfortable with experiencing them. I’ve only gotten sillier over time as well, which has only worked to my benefit.
My long history of association with clown material made me a natural choice as a guest, along with my good friend and fellow kook Stephanie Quick, on the Our Strange Skies Podcast for a chat about Sam, the Sandown Clown and other clowny Forteana. I did warn the listening audience that just by hearing us talk about these subjects, they would experience clown synchronicities of their own. Some themes presented themselves during the discussion in the episode, among them birthdays (Stephanie and the host, Rob Kristoffersen, both had birthdays around the same time as the initial Sandown Clown encounter and the Phantom Clown wave), the trickster nature of clowns and the childlike viewpoint that allows for bizarre encounters, and, inexplicably, lots of jokes about nudity. Naturally, I had to draw a picture for Rob once I began to combine these elements in my head:
In addition to the Sam story and the Phantom Clowns, Stephanie talked about an area we dubbed “The Denny’s Vortex”- where Ted “the PK Man” Owens had once performed his weather magic to bust a drought and conjured a UFO, and where later an anomalous clown appeared. Steph and I had discussed Owens before, on The Eternal Void But with Jazz podcast, which unfortunately no longer is available to hear. Around that time, I acquired an “SI disc”- a sort of talismanic object Owens claimed would help others learn how to perform their own weather manipulation through contact with Space Intelligences- from Tim Schwartz. I’ve had some successes in controlling the weather, although how much of that is down to just plain old coincidence is a matter of conjecture. With all of this stuff- coincidence, synchronicity, mysteries, magic, and weird tales- I’ve adopted a light touch, and chosen to proceed as though it’s all real with my tongue firmly in my cheek. All of it is real, and also none of it. The question is, is it fun?
My statement about clown synchros in the episode was meant to be fun. I did have people’s synchronicities related to clowns reported back to me, and I quite enjoyed them. A few of my own, that I’ll mention here, are examples of the kinds of things one might expect. It’s been a habit later at night to throw on an old episode of Seinfeld when I’m just about ready for bed, and the night I recorded with Rob and Steph the episode “The Little Jerry” was cued up. The plot advances from Jerry having bounced a check at the local bodega, and publicly shamed for it by the shop owner. The design on the checks Jerry used gets pointed out and joked about several times:
A more significant synchro took form in anticipating a wash-out on the day of a town-wide yard sale that my wife had been looking forward to. She has her own business reselling clothing and other things, and was really hoping to stock up in the town of Rutland, Massachusetts- where the town-wide yard sale was scheduled rain or shine. She asked me if I could perform some weather magic to keep the rain at bay. I sighed and said I would try.
The morning of the yard sale the forecast wasn’t looking very good. The radar map showed dark clouds converging on Rutland, but I assured her that there would be no rain until 2:15 p.m. Intermittent sprinkles threatened to make a liar out of me as we started to poke around at some yard sales on the edge of town, and at one of the first we went to the man in charge lured me into a tent to try to sell me a clown.
Finding clown things at yard sales isn’t uncommon, but it struck me as significant that he made it a point to direct me to them. As the day wore on, the weather was cold and raw but no rain fell. We eventually decided we’d follow the posted signs to one last yard sale before quitting for the day and going to get lunch, and when we arrived at the last one there was a clown painting prominently placed out front.
Oddly enough, the name “PAM” – which is my wife’s name- is written in the bottom right corner.
We ate lunch and left the restaurant at 2:05. I said “almost time for rain.” As we drove home, raindrops began to fall…
It occurred to me in the midst of all of this that my own brand of Hilarious Magic might just be the thing to close the portal to the Clown Realm once and for all. So I set about planning a Very Serious expedition to find this portal and perform Clown Magics there to do just that.
On the 42nd anniversary of the original Phantom Clown sightings in the greater Boston area, I set my sights on a specific part of Franklin Park. In reviewing the case for the podcast, and being more familiar with the Boston area than I once was, I came to realize that the park system in that region referred to as The Emerald Necklace seemed to have something to do with the clown sightings.
|Clipping from The Boston Globe, 7 May 1981
The sightings began in Brookline, near Longwood Ave, which is a riverside area adjacent to the parks. Next they were seen in Franklin Park in Roxbury and in Jamaica Plain, both part of the Emerald Necklace system. The reports eventually taper off in Randolph and Canton, and interestingly enough those towns are just to the north of the northernmost tip of the Bridgewater Triangle. If the Triangle were imagined as an arrow head, it would be pointing right at them. The sightings then resumed in Providence, Rhode Island, which is situated to the west of the westernmost tip of the Triangle.
My journey to the Clown Portal began in Cambridge, where Pam got some thrifting in at the Garment District and I obtained some ritual clown things at the Boston Costume Company downstairs. We then got lunch at Mamaleh’s Delicatessen, which appeared to have a giant pickle with a resemblance to Groucho Marx
as a mascot. I took this as a fortuitous omen, and, fortified with brined fish and onions, began the perilous drive from Cambridge to
The route seemed to be the same one the Phantom Clowns might have used; we passed through Brookline in the Longwood Ave neighborhood, and followed the river to our destination. A road we were counting on using was closed due to a festival happening in one of the parks, and a detour cost us some precious time. Another road closure forced us to re-route and I knew at that point that the malicious clown energy was trying to deter us. Still, we pressed on.
We finally arrived at the parking area of White Stadium in Franklin Park, with just a half hour to get some Very Serious Funny Business accomplished before the parking lot closed. I took my new foam clown nose and rubber chicken and set out for the ruins, where I suspect the Clown Realm had emanated its denizens upon the unsuspecting populace 42 years prior.
|Pictured: Very Serious Funny Business
The acquisition of a rubber chicken was a classic Clown Magic reversal of magical norms. Where some traditions would require the sacrifice of a live chicken, the obtaining of a rubber one seemed the best and funniest method of restoring Good Humor and fun magic to the world. The foam clown nose allowed for better comfort and was easier to breathe through than my old one, which was good because I needed my strength in such an undertaking. The Hawaiian shirt I wore was a symbolic gesture and nod to Loren Coleman, who is often seen wearing such shirts. Incidentally, while I was doing this nonsense, he was hosting an in-store signing in Bangor with the comic book writer John Rozum, who had featured a character based on Loren in a recent Scooby-Doo comic. It might be a bit of a stretch, but one of the earliest villains the Mystery, Inc crew faced was… the Ghost Clown.
With the portal to the Clown Realm located, it was a simple matter of solemn recitation of a few knock-knock jokes, a salutation of the sun while chanting “Why did the chicken cross the veil?”, and a bit of undisclosable tomfoolery and jiggery-pokery. Also, my antics inspired laughter from the few passers-by that I encountered, which is only ever a good thing. I count that as a success within itself- and if new rumors start spreading about a clown in the park, all the better.
The irony, it seems, is that in order to defeat the clown, you must become the clown.
I am increasingly more ok with this with every passing year. I hope my efforts have rippling effects and inspire smiles, senses of adventure, and more wonder in the world. Channel your inner clown, and you’ll see for yourself…
Researcher and writer of Weird Stuff, Discordian Flying Saucer Enthusiast, and Certified Kook.