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Did you know creepy killer clowns really were a thing long before 2016? Check out our true crime tale of clownish murder and mayhem.

There were murderous clowns before 2016? Delve into the odd true crime

Ah, 2016, the year that creepy clowns started popping up everywhere. And we thought that was going to be one of the craziest things that happened in our lifetime. Oh, if only we’d known . . .

But it turns out that 2016 wasn’t the first year to see killer clowns. No, we’re not talking about works of fiction like Killer Klowns from Outer Space or Stephen King’s IT. We’re talking real-life, beyond creepy, killer clowns – true crime.

Where did they show up before? More importantly, are we going to sleep soundly knowing the killer clowns are gone? Take a peek into this bizarre true crime story . . . if you dare.

The haunting events of 1855

It all started in July, when the circus came to Toronto. The group, “S.B. Howes’ Star Troupe Menagerie & Circus,” came from the United States, and were a coarse group. They had acrobats, exotic animals, and . . . yup, clowns.

One night, the clowns decided to go out on the town after a long day on the job at a local brothel called Mary Ann Armstrong’s. They had some company: the local volunteer fire brigade, called The Hook & Ladder Firefighting Company. These guys were notoriously violent, and had just rioted in the streets and even picked a fight with some cops a couple weeks before.

That night, a fight started between the clowns & the firefighters. People debated how exactly the fight started: perhaps it was an offensive comment, or the clowns cutting in line. Regardless of how it started, it went on full force.

The fight didn’t turn out favorably for the firemen. At least two of them were critically injured, so the clowns took over the place.

The dispute wasn’t over yet

On Friday the 13th, the day after the altercation, an angry crowd began to swarm the circus troupe. These were “Orangemen,” Irish Protestants whose goal it was to keep the Irish Catholics in town as “second class citizens”. They arrived with the intention of defending their fireman buddies. They pitched their tents on the grass outside. They weren’t going anywhere.

Word traveled quickly of the soon-to-be clown brawl. Unluckily for the clowns, however, the local Chief of Police, Samuel Sherwood, was an Orangeman. He’d been involved in some pretty sketchy stuff, like helping to organize an attack on a liberal Reform Party parade, during which one member was killed.

The people vs. the clowns

Things started to get intense almost immediately. People were crowding the circus and throwing rocks. And then the firemen arrived. They bombarded the circus with giant axes, set fire to the tents, and beat the living hell out of the clowns. Apparently, the angry chants went something like this: “Dirty rotten clowns! Dirty rotten clowns! Dirty rotten clowns!”

Things only started to calm down when the mayor showed up. He stopped a fireman from axing a clown to death and then called in the militia. After that, performers fled the scene, ending this bizarre true crime event.

The aftermath

The police at the scene had hardly done anything. After, they claimed that they hadn’t seen any Orangemen at the scene, which, according to many other witnesses, was a big lie. However, due to police statements, hardly anyone was prosecuted after the true crime event.

However, local politics changed, slowly but surely. In 1858, the city council approved a board that allowed them to overhaul the police department’s structure. A couple months later, the entire police force was fired, and a department similar to the ones we have today was put into place.

In 2019, Toronto’s Lockup Theater announced they were going to stage an adaptation of the 1855 events called The Toronto Circus Riot. A member, Angola, had the idea, and did a great deal of research on the events. “I want circus people to do more theatrical work,” she said. The script writer, Reid Janisse, created several characters, including a main antagonist Orangeman named Fawcett.

“The narrative has developed to develop the characters so that we can get to know them and the story better,” continued Angola.

Yes, 2020 has been pretty crazy so far. But at least we haven’t had killer clown & firemen brawls . . . yet.

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