The Clown/MiB Connection.

Fred Andersson
8 min readJan 21, 2024

We all have opinions about clowns, those often colorful drunkards slash tricksters who have roamed and raged on the circus floor since the early 1800s — at least what we perceive as the modern clown. Englishman Joseph Grimaldi is considered to be the creator of this kind of nightmare creature, a pretty horrifying creation that might have been a manifestation of his own inner darkness and turmoil. He passed away in 1837, from a life of depression, alcoholism, and tragedy. “I am grim all day, but I make you laugh at night,” is one quote attributed to him. France had its own pioneer, the sad and white — and almost faceless — Pierrot, played by Jean-Gaspard Deburau, who in 1836 brutally killed a boy with his walking stick after the victim allegedly called him by his character’s name on the street. He was acquitted and lived another ten years before he passed away, and his son, Jean-Charles Deburau, took over the character until his death from tuberculosis in 1873.

Joseph Grimaldi

While clowns have been around for maybe thousands of years, being the truth tellers and cynics of royal houses and other power establishments — later, during medieval times, under the title of a Jester, the fool of the royal court, the job was to remind the monarchs and their cohorts that they’re not that clever, that they’re just ordinary people. Other times as entertainers — but under the threat of mutilation (for example, getting their muscles cut that enabled the mouth to frown) or punished in other ways if they weren’t funny enough. Yikes. Yeah, to quote the great actor Lon Chaney, star of the 1924 He Who Gets Slapped: “There’s nothing funny about a clown in the moonlight.” Edmond de Congourt put his words even harsher in 1876, “The clown’s art is now rather terrifying and full of anxiety and apprehension, their suicidal feats, their monstrous gesticulations, and frenzied mimicry remind one of the courtyard of a lunatic asylum.”

Jean-Gaspard Deburau

There are times in my life when everyone around me had a dislike of clowns, and it’s fully understandable; clowns are horrific! Not saying I’m scared of them, but I just don’t find them funny — maybe they’re too close to home, as the manifestations of death, accidents, and tragedies they really are, a twisted, crooked mirror of our own darkness maybe? Much later, we encountered the ever so popular phantom clowns, a phenomenon alive and well even today in these modern times. In my book “Northern Lights: High Strangeness in Sweden” and the chapter “Stranger with Candy,” about the strange case with a teenager meeting two otherworldly entities in Västervik, 1979, I connect them to fairies — and of course aliens: “Is it connected to the Boston clown panic that started in May 1981? Men dressed as clowns were driving around offering kids candy, clowns with machetes chasing children through forests, half-naked clowns trying to lure the little ones into vans — stories that would hint that they would be kidnapped and subjected to all kinds of horrendous torture if accepting the gifts. None of those stories was proven to be real. Once again, there were lots of witness reports — but not one single piece of evidence. Cryptozoologist Loren Coleman coined the theory of the “Phantom Clown’’ during the same time and found out it was a nationwide phenomenon, spreading throughout the United States. In the end, it was explained as something from the mind of the children. By the way, imagine if the phantom clowns were treated the same way as UFOs and aliens? Would we have clowntactees instead of contactees? Children are less conditioned by what is real or not, and they tend — or claim — to see things that we adults do not. It is very possible that this type of perception of reality works for those of us who have been able — at least in part — to free ourselves from the conditioning of previous experiences and the flow of objective information. Hysteria, dimensional rifts between realities, or spectacular projections of the collective consciousness? Elves offering food to a farmhand, aliens offering pancakes to Joe Simonton, aliens offering chocolate to Lilli-Ann, and clowns offering candy to children — it’s all so damn similar.”

One day I was stuck on a commuter train because of the snow and cold outside. It took hours to get home, and what’s better than to spend that time listening to podcasts. One thing that lures me into listening to a specific episode is the presence of Matthew Hopewell, or AP Strange as he’s more familiar as. AP, a genius in many ways, guested Binnall of America and talked, among other things, about his ritual to close the clown portal in Boston (brilliant idea), armed with a clown nose and a rubber chicken. I mentioned this to my hubby, Grzegorz, who brought up some of his own perceptions of the clown, and it wasn’t a positive one. During our discussion, something struck me, that what I heard from Grzegorz sounded so familiar. I’ve heard it before: from encounters with Men in Black. Now, I won’t go into the MiBs too much — most of you know what they are (and if not, read my speculations about these guys here) — but in short: mysterious men, often in a pair, showing up on the doorsteps of witnesses to UFO events, behaving weird. That’s basically it, and it’s very far from the Hollywood movies with Will Smith. The modern MiB mythology started with the writings of Gray Barker and Albert K. Bender and has since then grown to something truly unique — often mentioned in our beloved world of high strangeness.

Let’s take a look at clowns and MIBs, and the fact that they’re very alike. First, let me generalize a bit.

  • Clowns and MiBs are often males dressed in oddly outdated clothes, sometimes exaggerated and very visible in a crowd — or just a very odd sight when they appear in places of normality and safety.
  • Both clowns and MiBs behave like they are pretending to be humans, like acts — but they do not know how humans behave, and therefore their behavior turns out to be strange and off. The communication is often naive and abstract, sometimes threatening and leaves those who have the encounters in a state of confusion because it’s so bizarre and — to be honest — darkly humorous.
  • There’s countless accounts where the witnesses say that the MiB wear make-up, lipstick etc — to hide their human features. Like clowns, the MiB, seems to have faces that transcend what is normal, but here’s a difference: when clowns wear makeup it’s to enhance their faces and mood, sad or happy or whatever, where MiBs try to be as discreet as possible, trying to imitate the human face — but in both cases, with these fake faces on top of whatever is under, it just turns into uncanny valley. One clown that stands out here is Pierrot, with his pale, soulless face and dressed in a white suit instead of a black one.
  • MiB appears in pairs, a very common thing among clowns.
  • Another trope when it comes to both these entities is cars. The clowns have their colorful vintage clown car, with wacky noises and wobbling tires (or as in the 1981 case in Chicago, anonymous, sinister, vans promising ice cream and candy), and the MiB has a black, old-fashioned car. An important vehicle it seems, maybe a portal or craft transporting them to other dimensions or even up in space? But when the clown car disappears behind the curtains, the MiB car disappears behind a different form of veil, like the MiB encounter Jenny Randles and Derek James bring up in vol. 23, issue 3, 1977, of Flying Saucer Review. It was in 1971 when a man called the police, worried he might be surveilled by two men in a black Jaguar after a UFO encounter: “The patrol car was parked on the main road just away from where the Jaguar was standing. The police officers got out and walked towards the Jaguar and its occupants. They came up to it and were about to knock on the window when the car and its two passengers simply disappeared, as if they had melted away in front of the eyes of the astonished policemen. The area was examined, but there was no way in which the car could have disappeared naturally, and in any event, the police officers were close enough to be quite positive as to what had transpired.”
  • Another interesting detail is what makes them different, but still so alike: when MiBs work, they aim at adults — which makes clowns even more disturbing, as they focus on kids. It’s like the same kind of sneaky entity, dressed up to get closer to different parts of human development.
  • However, the most important part is that they pretend to be someone else, they try to look like someone like you and me — but fail.

Much can be written about these elusive creatures, with or without a red shiny nose. For example, in many ways, both are authority figures, but cloaking themselves with different attributes depending on if they’re planning to contact adults or kids. It’s like they are adapting and evolving from the expectations — and imagination — of the witnesses, but still doesn’t reach all the way. For an adult, the MiB represents the authorities, and a bizarre, twisted version of that shows itself to them — while kids, with their imagination, meet something right out of a coloring book, an exaggerated, “funny” adult. Remember how we, as kids, saw adults? It was like a different species. Clowns basically look right out from the drawing made by a child. The evolution of clowns and MIB also follows the trajectory from being scary, disturbing figures to beloved characters for kids and family, in the MiB case, I, of course, refers to the popular Men in Black franchise — very, very far from the dark beginnings of these mythological authorities of both the UFO stage and the circus stage, two seemingly different environments that are very similar: where the circus clowns perform on a circular shaped stage, the MiBs perform on top of another symbolic, circular shaped symbol: the flying saucer.

That means, when the MiBs arrive to deliver warnings and give advice after a saucer experience, the clowns literally perform their shenanigans on top of one…

Fred Andersson is a Swedish story producer, researcher and writer with over twenty years of experience in commercial television and the author of Northern Lights: High Strangeness in Sweden, out now from Beyond the Fray Publishing. He lives in Märsta, outside Stockholm, with his photographer husband Grzegorz and two overly active cats. Join him on Twitter and Instagram.



Fred Andersson

Author of "Northern Lights: High Strangeness in Sweden", television freelancer, mystery aficionado and cat lover.