When I worked in a daycare, one of our “special guests” for the preschool-age children was a volunteer clown who often visited children’s hospitals to cheer up sick kids. I have no idea why there’s this whole sick kids and clowns thing. The majority of children are scared shitless of clowns, because children have a natural and understandable aversion to the grotesque. This woman’s/clown’s act had a very clever component, though. She actually arrived with no make-up, and talked to the children as she applied it, explaining that clowns are actual people underneath the wigs, and face paint, and rubber noses. Clowns are human, too!
All well and good, but I feel like we could have cut out that step entirely by banning clowns outright. Most adults are creeped out by clowns, so why should we attempt to eradicate the healthy fear of them residing in childish minds?
To some, however, clowns are symbols of joy and levity, which is why Grampa Jerry’s Clown Museum is such a labor of love for its curator. The roadside attraction, located in small-town Arriba, Colorado off the side of a desolate highway, is literally a pink shack filled with an estimated 5,000 pieces of clown iconography, and you couldn’t pay me enough to go in there alone. But while the idea of a damn clown mausoleum chills me to my bones, the story behind it warms my heart.
“Grampa” Jerry began started his collection in 1978, and just kept on going, right up until his death in 2010. His wife, Dale Ann, now runs the museum and continues adding to their collection, cheerfully archiving clown after clown. You can hear the genuine love in her voice as she reflects on her husband’s eccentric opus below. While she’s gone on record saying she understands the uncanny nature of clowns leave some folks a little shaken, for her the museum is a connection to a man she clearly loved very deeply.
Still though. Neither bribes nor threats nor liquid courage could get me into that accursed building. One of the clowns is made from a cow’s hairball! You cannot convince that doesn’t have some kind of dark voodoo power. Nope. No damn way. Not enough tequila in the world.