Oi Polloi


Published: Thu Oct 31 2013

Wacko the Clown

It started about three years ago. We’d just moved in to our new shop on Thomas Street and were looking forward to spreading out into our new premises. But even on the first day in the shop, some of us had noticed something was slightly odd — not scary or anything, but just a bit weird. Someone would swear they’d heard a strange laugh echoing through the corridors, or one of the lads in the stockroom would be unexplainably ambushed by a barrage of rogue custard pies.

For a while, we just shrugged all this off, but when we noticed that all the shoes in the stockroom had been replaced by extra-long novelty clown shoes, we thought we’d better investigate. After a few weeks of trying to dig up anything we could on clowns, we admitted defeat.
Deflated, we headed to The Millstone to wash away our troubles with a pint of smooth. Somehow, we always manage to attract the attention of the grizzled sorts who sit by themselves at the end of the bar, and this night was no different.

“Well now, circuses you say?” We hadn’t said anything about circuses, but we let the man continue.

“Now let me see, I’ve been to a few circuses in my time, but there’s one that really stands out — one I can’t forget. It was 1963 and even though summer was over, there was a sort of excitement in the air. Every year, just after the clocks went back for autumn, Wacko’s Travelling Circus — a band of clowns, acrobats, and assorted oddities would pitch up near here, right on the edge of town, and every year, I’d pester my older brother to take me to see them. Anyone with their finger on the pulse of the clowning world knew that Wacko was special. He had fire. He had spark. He had a massive red nose that honked when he grabbed it.

“Now this particular night was the final night of the circus, and on the final night all the performers would up the stakes — the bearded lady was extra bearded, the acrobats were more acrobatic and Wacko was wackier. The main event was the miniature car act, and this night it was even smaller than normal. I was only four at the time but I remember thinking that there was no way I could have fit in there. It was the size of a shoebox, but somehow Wacko got right in, just like he was stepping in a taxi. The thing was, he couldn’t get out, and under all our cheering and shouting as he wheeled around the ring, he was actually shouting for help. The poor fool died that day, all because we wanted to see a large man in a small car. The circus never came back, and I’ve heard a men’s clothes shop has been built over the exact spot it used to pitch up, so I don’t suppose it ever will.”

And with that, the man at the bar finished his pint and wandered out into the night. At first we were put off by this story, and didn’t really want to head back to work — back to the site of Wacko’s tragic death — but we’ve since gotten to know him, and it turns out that as far as crazed clown poltergeists go, he’s actually a bloody nice bloke. He even volunteered to model for us. Cheers Wacko.