The Halloween Countdown: 1 – Pennywise the Dancing Clown from Stephen King’s It

My childhood trauma, the one monster I still cannot watch on tv. I hate it, I love it - the scariest monster ever put on paper!

“But the clown did not disappear along that curve that seemed to define the edge of that old existence. Instead, it leaped with a scary, nimble grace onto a lamppost that stood in the extreme left foreground of the picture. It shinnied up like a monkey on a stick – and suddenly its face was pressed against the tough plastic sheet Will Hanlon had put over each of the pages in his book. Beverly screamed again and this time Eddy joined her, although his scream was faint and blue-breathless. The plastic bulged it – later they would all agree they saw it. Bill saw the bulb of the clown’s red nose flatten, the way your nose will flatten when you press it against a windowpane.” Stephen King, It

There we have it – or It, to be more precise. The absolute number one of the Scary Monsters countdown, the inevitable winner, the ultimate creep, the worst of all fears: Pennywise the Clown, appearing in the book It, by Stephen King. One of his biggest books, it is also one of his most memorable; I don’t think there are many people who have never heard of this terrifying cannibalistic clown. Especially now that another remake has hit the screens. But to me, it’s the original tv miniseries that really does it. I can’t even see a picture of that terrible clown without my heart going in overdrive, breaking into a sweat, and screaming at the person who shows it to me begging them to please get rid of it.

Actually that’s not true, for my history with Pennywise the Dancing Clown started quite a long time ago, when I was twelve years old. We were on holiday in Italy, and I had run out of books to read. My dad said he had a cool book for me to read, namely the Dutch version of It. I eagerly started reading, happy that it was such a big book, for it would probably take me a while to read it. Well it did. I was so very scared of everything that happened (a suicide, a clown taking a bite out of a man’s arm), that I really didn’t want to continue reading. It was only last year when I finally mustered the courage to give it another go – I found out I had only made it to page 38 or so (out of approximately a thousand) – and I finished it. I am happy to report I wasn’t as scared of the book as I was all these years ago, but some scenes really made me snap the book close in fear and sleep with the light on. The one I quoted above, for instance.

There is so much about It that make it so terribly scary. Stephen King’s lively descriptions really work, and the idea of a monster turning into your biggest fear is brilliant. Furthermore, It is so truly, totally, completely evil, that its influence seeps into the ordinary lives of its inhabitants, who are unaware that such a being is living there. Every twenty-seven years, after its hibernation, It gets hungry and starts killing. Only a group of children stand a chance against It, and they try to destroy It when It is on its next killing spree. Even though they’re called the Losers’ Club, I have never rooted for a band of children more. And I am happy to report that they manage to kill It, although the memory of Pennywise has haunted me for well over a decade, and will forever dwell in that part of my brain where all my fears are stored.

Has It given you nightmares too? Is Pennywise the rightful number one? Or should it be a different one? Did I forget any other monsters that should have been included in the list? Please let me know in the comments, so I can write about more monsters in the future!


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