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The evil clown is a subversion of the traditional comic clown character, in which the playful trope is instead depicted in a more disturbing nature through the use of horror elements and dark humor. The modern archetype of the evil clown was popularized by DC Comics character the Joker starting in 1940 and again by Pennywise in Stephen King's 1986 novel It. The character can be seen as playing on the sense of unease felt by sufferers of coulrophobia, the fear of clowns. Origins The modern archetype of the evil clown has unclear origins, the stock character appeared infrequently during the 19th century, in such works as Edgar Allan Poe's 'Hop-Frog', which is believed by Jack Morgan, of the University of Missouri-Rolla, to draw upon an earlier incident 'at a masquerade ball', in the 14th century, during which 'the King and his frivolous party, costumedin highly flammable materialsas simian creatures, were ignited by a flambeau and incinerated, the King narrowly escaping in the actual case. ' Evil clowns also occupied a small niche in drama, appearing in the 1874 work La femme de Tabarin by Catulle Mends and in Ruggero Leoncavallo's Pagliacci (accused of being a plagiarism of Mends' piece), both works featuring murderous clowns as central characters. During the 1970s the National Lampoon published a series of mock comic books in the pages of the magazine, entitled 'Evil Clown', which featured a malevolent character named Frenchy the Clown. During that decade, American serial killer and rapist John Wayne Gacy became known as the Killer Clown when arrested in 1978, after it was discovered he had performed as Pogo the Clown at children's parties and other events, however, Gacy did not actually commit his crimes while wearing his clown costume. Evil clown themes were occasionally found in popular music. Zal Cleminson, guitarist with the English Sensational Alex Harvey Band, wore black and white clown-style makeup and colorful clothes while on stage during the band's 1970s heyday, while his 'happy-sad-happy' demeanor helped give their performances an edge of menace. The modern stock character of the evil clown was popularized by Stephen King's novel It, published in 1986, which introduced the fear of an evil clown to a modern audience. In the novel, the eponymous character is a pan-dimensional monster which feeds mainly on children by luring them in the form of Pennywise the Dancing Clown and then assuming the shape of whatever the victim fears the most. The evil clown archetype plays strongly off the sense of dislike it caused to inherent elements of coulrophobia, however, it has been suggested by Joseph Durwin that the concept of evil clowns has an independent position in popular culture, arguing that 'the concept of evil clowns and the widespread hostility it induces is a cultural phenomenon which transcends just the phobia alone'. A study by the University of Sheffield concluded 'that clowns are universally disliked by children.
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