Meet Wrinkles: the Internet-famous scary clown who claims to have a roster of celebrity clients, and a steady business traumatizing badly behaved kids for money.
For the last two months, local news stations have also been flooded with eerie stories of unidentified clowns hanging out around parking lots, trying to lure children into woods with candy, money, and lasers. Mostly the reports have come from South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida, but that hasn't stopped the rest of the county from going into panic mode, and police as far North as New Jersey have now issued warnings telling parents to be on high alert for suspicious characters in white face paint and novelty shoes.
So should you be worried?
Although the level of media coverage would lead you to believe we're on the verge of a full-scale Purge breaking out, if there has been an increased number of clown sightings in the last month, it probably has more to do with people copying what they're seeing on the news than a tri-state collective of sociopathic murder clowns. The only arrests police have made so far have been for hoaxes, and pretty much all the video "clown sighting"—like the one below, which now has close to 10 million views—have turned out to be pranks.
The "creepy clown" phenomenon isn't even that new. Two years ago (right before Halloween again—what a coincidence) local news was awash with scare stories about clowns loitering outside houses fitted with home security systems. And if you live in Southwest Florida, you're probably already familiar with Wrinkles: a 65-year-old Rhode Island transplant in a beat-up white mask and red polkadot onesie, who charges $150 an hour to show up to parties and scare badly behaving kids.
Wrinkles, who declined to give his non-clown name, describes himself as "just an old guy with too much time on his hands." He's been working the scary clown circuit for four years, but his business really took off in 2015 when the fliers he uses to drum up clients started appearing on Instagram and Twitter.
This led to a Google+ page that tracks his whereabouts. (Yes, apparently, Google+ is actually a ghost town.) Followed by dozens of local news stories, and even a mentions on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon and The Late Show with James Corden. Now, Wrinkles—whose menu includes the usual birthday parties and bar mitzvahs, and also literally showing your misbehaving kid's school to "scare the shit" out of them—claims he's booked up for months, and he even says he has a roster of celebrity clients.
We reached out to Wrinkles to get his take on the current "epidemic" of clown sightings, and to hear more about what it's like to scare unwitting children for a living.
GQ: Are you aware of the scary clown sightings? What do you think?
Wrinkles: Honestly, I think it's comical. As long as nobody is getting hurt, what's wrong with some kids dressing up and scaring their friends? Also how much of it is really true? They are busting people left and right with false sightings. Everyone needs to relax, for Christ's sake. The only clowns anyone needs to worry about right now are the two running for office.
Have you seen an increase in business as a result?
It's hard to know because of the hundreds of prank calls I have to weed through every day. I wouldn't say it's bringing more business, but it keeps the calls steady. I am booked through December, so I would say business is pretty good at the moment.
The only clowns anyone needs to worry about right now are the two running for office.
What do you think is causing it?
They probably see things in the news. Here's the thing though: there's a difference between scary and violent. You can be scary without being violent, but I don't think these kids nowadays are able to grasp that. Once you start threatening to kill people at school, you've taken it to a different level, clown costume or not.
How much do you charge for what you do?
I'm $150 an hour for parties. Children's behavioral stuff varies, since it's more involved. I'm cash only and mostly do gigs within a couple of hours of where I stay in Florida. [I've] been thinking about taking the show on the road, but we'll see what happens with that.
When a parent hires you to scare their kids, how do you make sure you’re not causing damage to the children? Is that ever a concern?
I'm more concerned about my safety than theirs, to be honest. [If a neighbor] happens to look outside and see me creeping around, he doesn't know mom and dad just paid me cash to scare the shit out of their kids. In Florida, they shoot first, ask questions later. That's way more frightening than anything I'm doing.
Who's your average client?
It's a mixed bag. I've had famous people (their agents or management) contact me for parties. I've had regular Joes that just want to prank their wife or friend. I get fed up single mothers tired of the kid's shit. You name it, they're calling me.
Do you only show up at events you’re invited to, or do you sometimes just wander around as Wrinkles?
I don't wear that thing any more than I have to. It's hot down here. Add rubber gloves, a polyester clown suit and a mask, and things get sweaty and uncomfortable real quick. I wear it to gigs and the minute I'm able to, I take it off and get back into regular clothes.
Is there anything you won’t do for a client?
Yeah, there's a long list of things I won't do. Also, it's 21+ to hire the Wrinkles, so all you kids that keep calling me to show up at your school during recess, it's not going to happen.
What inspired Wrinkles?
No matter where you are from, there is some story about "that guy" that will get you if you're being bad. When I was a kid, I was scared to death of the Sandman. My father told me that if I stayed out past the time the street lights came on, the Sandman would get me and I'd never see the light of day again. That scared me until I was old enough to start chasing pussy.
I get calls all day of kids saying, "we saw your number on Facebook, you're ugly and should kill yourself." If that's what fame is, then, yeah, I guess you could say I'm famous.
I know someone started a Kickstarter for a documentary about you. Can you tell us if that’s still happening?
A couple of guys approached me about a documentary, but nothing really came of it. Recently I've been talking with another production company in LA, and they seem to be much more put-together and motivated about doing a picture. We'll see how that goes.
Did you hope to become an Internet celebrity when you first started?
I get calls all day of kids saying, "We saw your number on Facebook, you're ugly and should kill yourself." If that's what fame is, then, yeah, I guess you could say I'm famous. I'm not that great at the Internet, and can barely use my phone, so I take no responsibility for any Internet fame.
Will you be very busy on Halloween?
Halloween is always a busy time. Not just the day of, but the whole month leading up to it. Last two years I was down a some fancy schmancy neighborhood in Naples, but this year I have a private party I'm doing for some big wig in town.
Last question, can you send us a photo of yourself?
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.