BACKGROUND: Doncaster Clown: All you need to know about creepy clowns

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The exploits of the Doncaster Clown have gripped the town over the past few days.

The colourful character is supposedly prowling the streets looking for “hugs” - and more than 4,000 people across the town and beyond have become fans of its Facebook page, with many calling for the clown to pay a visit to their street - or threatening it with violence.
Here’s all you need to know about the history and background of creepy clowns...

1. Although clowns are originally comic performers, the image of the evil clown using horror and dark humour has become a staple of popular culture.

2. The modern evil clown has unclear origins; The character appeared infrequently during the 19th century, in such works as Edgar Allan Poe’s Hop-Frog as well as the 1874 work La femme de Tabarin by Catulle Mendès and in Ruggero Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci, with both featuring murderous clowns as central characters.

3. The modern character of the evil clown was popularized by Stephen King’s novel It, published in 1986, which featured an evil clown called Pennywise.

4. John Wayne Gacy, an American serial killer and rapist arrested in 1978, became known as the Killer Clown 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.

5. A study by the University of Sheffield concluded “that clowns are universally disliked by children. Some found them quite frightening and unknowable,” helping to add to the popularity of the evil clown in media.

6. The irrational fear of clowns is known as coulrophobia.

7. One of the best known ‘evil clown’ characters is The Joker, the nemesis of Batman whose key features are chalk-white skin, green hair, red lips and a permanent smile.

8. Poltergeist, the 1982 supernatural movie, features a clown doll in several scenes. During the finale, this doll becomes possessed by a demonic presence and attempts to strangle the character Robby Freeling.

9. In the 1978 film Halloween and its 2007 remake, Michael Myers murders his older sister Judith Myers while dressed as a clown. In Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers, Michael’s niece Jamie Lloyd wears a clown costume when she stabs her foster mother with a pair of scissors.

10. The related urban legend of evil clown sightings in real life is known as “phantom clowns”. These were first reported in 1981 in Brookline, Massachusetts, where children said that men dressed up as clowns had attempted to lure them into a van. The panic spread throughout the US and has resurfaced regularly since.

11. A mysterious and sinister clown was spotted prowling the streets of Northampton in 2013. Nocturnal sightings of the face-painted fiend - widely dubbed The Northampton Clown - led to a string of copycat clowns across the UK.

12. On May 26, 1990, in Wellington, Florida, Marlene Warren opened her front door to a brown-eyed clown bearing flowers and balloons. It shot her in the face, drove off in a white Chrysler LeBaron and was never seen again. Her murder remains unsolved.