Curator's Corner Blog

Monthly Archives: October 2013

The HMFM Slender Clown

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Slender Clown here to welcome you to the Historical Museum at Fort Missoula

With Halloween just around the corner, the creep factor here at the museum is rising! Many times at the museum, we have received questions about whether or not we have haunted buildings on the grounds or any interesting ghost stories. Sadly, none have surfaced, but do not fear, for the Curious Curators are here! A few of us interns decided that we should simply create our own haunt here at the museum. So, this week we spotlight on some of the more haunting items in our collection. Seen here are a clown mask from the 1950s and a clown costume once used at parties in the 1920s to entertain residents at Orchard Homes Community Hall. We put these items together on our lovely mannequin with a beaver skin hat and we would now like to introduce you to Slender Clown. On some nights he can be seen around the grounds, creeping behind buildings and windows, or pop his head up (quite literally) in the curators desk. Traditionally, clowns are one of the icons associated with the circus or children’s birthday parties, though one can’t deny there’s something to be said about the mysterious, sinister notion of what lies behind the mask and the ultimate result of coulrophobia, the fear of clowns.

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Recently covered on Smithsonianmag.com, this relationship is examined in an attempt to shed light on this notorious fear. Clowns as we normally think of them today come from a blend of the classic entertainer being more common from the mid 1800s onward as well as the costumed monsters of cinematic media. Titles such as Stephen King’s “It” or “Killer Klowns from Outer Space” often come to mind along with other icons such as Ronald McDonald. It truly is an odd mix! In reality, clowns have even been known to exist since imperial China and as early as 2500 BCE in Egypt (McRobbie, 2013). In more recent centuries, names such as Grimaldi and Gacy only add further to the strange dichotomy. Grimaldi, being a famous entertainer in the early 1800s, had a life that was not quite that of his persona. A life of alcoholism and a series of depressing events was a sharp contrast to his stage portrayal. An even darker tale can be told of John Wayne Gacy, who was found guilty of several murders in the 1970s and also donned the face of a clown in his working hours.

Perhaps it is that disarming effect of something that should be lighthearted and funny with a more sinister intent that creates that sense of vulnerability as invoked in the media as well as those real stories which can prove all the more haunting. There is no doubt that entertainment mediums will continue to dwell on the sense of adrenaline ignited by fear and slapstick humor. Hence the reason the clown is perhaps the perfect example of that ‘trick-or-treat’ catchphrase associated with the culture of this spooky holiday.

Happy Halloween!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABe safe trick-or-treating

And be sure to stop by to see if you can spot Slender Clown………before he spots you!