Alamo Drafthouse locations across the country are hosting all-clown screenings of It this weekend in an ill-advised attempt to turn the public’s innate and rational fear of clowns into some sort of “fun” marketing stunt. To reiterate: there’s a solid chance you’re going to see gangs of clowns roaming the streets.
To be fair, the vast majority of the clowns you might bump into this weekend are merely going to be overenthusiastic Stephen King fans who gleefully responded to the Alamo Drafthouse’s sick call to arms. But, as is always the case when there are more clowns wandering the streets than normal, it is important to remember that some clowns aren’t just people in awful Party City makeup. Some clowns aren’t people at all—they’re murderous, bloodthirsty monsters who’d like nothing more than sink their filthy teeth into your unsuspecting flesh.
We here at io9 take clown safety very seriously, so we wanted to familiarize everyone with a) how to differentiate between harmless human clowns and their (much more) murderous cousins; and b) how to confront a clown should the situation call for it. Remember, people, clowns are much less afraid of you than you are of them, so it’d behoove you to have a game plan at the ready unless you’re trying to get got.
The most unsettling, dangerous thing about clowns is that it can at times be difficult to identify what type of harlequin you’re dealing with. There are regular clowns, gangster crime lord clowns, deranged serial killer clowns, and then all manners of primordial, supernatural evil simply masquerading as clowns.
You should always try to determine whether the clown in question is, in fact, a regular human, given that they’re the least likely to actually try and kill you. Thankfully, these clowns are often the easiest to pick out in a crowd because of the noticeably “normal” things they tend to do.
Is the clown using a cellphone? Does the clown’s costume and makeup look rather shoddily put together? Is the clown interacting (amicably) with a visibly human person? If the answer to any of these questions is “yes,” then you’re probably in luck. This clown’s just trying to mind its own business unless it’s a gangster clown or a serial killer clown. These clowns, despite technically being human, are known for their violent tendencies and should not be approached under any circumstances.
In either case if you feel threatened, run, call the police and/or a local animal-themed vigilante, and you should be fine.
If you’re the only person that can see the clown, things are a wee bit more complicated because it means that the being you’re dealing with is supernatural. The great thing about human clowns (killer or not) is that with enough willpower and adrenaline, you can put some distance between yourself and them. Supernatural clowns are a little bit trickier because no matter how far you run from them, chances are that they’ll catch up using one of their inexplicable abilities.
(Note: in some instances, regular human clowns sometime become supernatural clowns, especially after mysterious resurrections. If you see a normal clown die and then get back up, assume that you’re facing with a different breed of trouble.)
By the time you see a supernatural clown, you’ve got to assume that it’s already seen you more than once and is only choosing to make itself visible to you now because it’s planning your imminent death. This might at first sound terrifying, but the most important thing to bear in mind about is that fear is the clown’s greatest weapon. The more level headed you are in dealing with these things, the better chance you’ve got at properly fending it off.
If you believe you’ve witnessed a supernatural clown, the first thing you need to do is think to yourself: “have I seen and/or heard anything about this clown lately?” This could include local urban myths about clowns, news reports about mysterious clown sightings, or even something as innocuous as a random passage in a book about clowns.
As scary as supernatural clowns are, they almost always have a weakness that you can exploit with a little know-how. The key is figuring it out quickly enough to save your life.
While you should have already called the local authorities to inform them of the clown menace prowling their streets, supernatural clowns are notorious for their ability to confound and evade people they aren’t immediately targeting. What’s more, there’s no guarantee that the police will believe you if you try to explain that an undead/demonic/otherwise-magical clown is trying to kill you. You’re more or less on your own here. Still, though, don’t panic.
Your best bet it to flee to the nearest botanica. If you don’t know what a botanica is, Google it, get directions and head there. If it has a phone number, call and try to speak with the shop owner. The owner of a botanica is exponentially better equipped to assist you with a supernatural clown than the police. If you can make it to the botanica, that’s excellent. There will be a variety of goods and products there designed to ward off different kinds of malevolent beings. Again, speak with the proprietors about your clown problem (they’ll understand) and take whatever advice they can give you.
Visiting the botanica isn’t a guarantee that you’ll have what you need to dispatch your murder clown, but it should get you in the proper creative headspace. Whether it’s burning it with Florida water molotov cocktails or saying the clown’s true name backwards, whatever method you ultimately use to kill a clown that’s trying to kill you is going to take a bit of improvisation. The more ideas you can come up with on the fly to throw at the thing, the more likely you are to walk away unscathed.
If you take one piece of information away from this post, let it be this: regardless of what sort of clown situation you find yourself in, you’re almost always going to be winging it. If everyone knew what to do when a horrifying vision of carnivals past showed up, we wouldn’t all be scared shitless of them. But again, that’s ok. All you need to do is keep calm, run, and think before you scream.