A clown ran for public office – and no, that’s not the beginning of a joke.
On Sept. 15, 1864, America’s most famous circus clown, Dan Rice, accepted the Democratic nomination for the Pennsylvania State Senate.
And it was just his first foray into politics: Even while continuing his career as a clown, a state convention later considered him as a candidate for Congress, and, in 1867, he made a brief but legitimate run for president.
While the idea of a clown running for office sounds like a gimmick, in the 1860s it was taken seriously — because circus itself was taken seriously, as adult fare.
Long before it was relegated to children’s entertainment, early circus in this country combined what appealed to grown-up tastes: sex, violence, political commentary and, in a horse-based culture, top-notch horsemanship.
George Washington attended the first circus in 1793 in Philadelphia not for family-friendly amusement — a notion that didn’t emerge until the 1880s — but as a horseman keen to see animals and humans working together at a peak level.
Sex and violence enhanced the appeal. Like later burlesque comedians, talking clowns told dirty jokes in a titillating whirl of the scantily clad: Circus acrobats and riders showed more skin — or flesh-colored fabric that seemed to be skin — than could be seen anywhere else in public life.
The frightening Clownville series, created by photographer Eolo Perfido in collaboration with the make-up artist Valeria Orlando, featuring strange and disturbing clowns straight out of a horror movie or a Stephen King book.
Perfect to add some fuel to your darkest nightmares!
It’s no secret that clowns make people uncomfortable.
Believe it or not, that’s the point: Clowns were created to test social conventions and speak truth to power, wagging their gloved fingers at institutional tomfoolery. When they’re right, we cheer them on—and when they’re wrong, usually in the most familiar, human way possible, they get their comeuppance in the form of painful or embarrassing pratfalls.
To top it all it all off, clowns put many people on edge with their suspiciously cheerful costumes, exaggerated facial features, and seeming lack of impulse control.
“In many cultures, clowns would do things that were considered forbidden.”
You would think that, as the New York Daily News erroneously assumed, since clowns are more reviled than ever, no one in their right mind would want the job, and the tradition would be dying out in the United States and Canada.
But the truth is North America still has more clowns than it knows what do to with.
In the same article in which the Daily News asserted a shortage, it also reported that 531 clowns applied to the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus last year, and “The Greatest Show on Earth” only hired 11.
That’s 520 out-of-work clowns—quite the opposite of a shortage.
While Nevada’s Clown Motel may seem like the product of a horror writer’s fevered imagination with its army of glassy-eyed clown dolls and convenient proximity to a Wild West cemetery that holds the (possibly unquiet) remains of local miners, but the dusty little lodging is just a fan of merriment.
Catering to bikers, truckers, and other long haul travelers that find themselves off the beaten path, the Clown Motel is the final port of call before the yet another stretch of unbroken Nevada desert.
It must be this location’s oasis-like location that has kept the establishment in business for so long, as the ever-watchful eyes of the ubiquitous clown figurines seem to serve more as a warning than a draw.
From the moment travelers enter the adjoining offices they are greeted by a life-size clown figure sitting in a chair, cradling smaller figurines like familiars.
In fact the entire office is covered in shelves and bookcases full of clown dolls, statues, and accoutrement of every stripe.
Stuffed animals, porcelain statues, wall hangings, and more make up the mirthful menagerie, staring down at guests from every angle.
Leaving the office with key in hand, visitors might also notice an arch just feet away heralding the “Tonopah Cemetery.”
Just beyond the gate is a century-old miner’s graveyard made up of a gaggle of wood and stone markers. The very Platonic ideal of a haunted cemetery.
Remarkably, there do not seem to be many extant stories, horror or otherwise, surrounding the Clown Motel.
Its possible that this paucity of history is because it simply arose, fully-formed from the dark parts of the American subconscious, or it could also be because no one has made it out alive.