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Now That We’re ‘It’-Obsessed, Explore the Origin of Scary Clowns (Video)

It turns out, Stephen King is not to blame

In a new episode of “The Origin of Everything” from PBS, host Danielle Bainbridge breaks down just why clowns are so terrifying. And, no, Stephen King isn’t to blame.

In the video above, you can watch Bainbridge explain that before the 1800s, clowns weren’t even meant for children. “The larger reason clowns have been scary,” Bainbridge explains, “is because in Western history, they have a tradition of challenging the social order.”

Bainbridge explains that clowns started way back in feudal England with jesters in the king’s court, who were the only citizens with any real freedom of speech. The tradition continued as it morphed into the Harlequin, which was a more mysterious version of a jester. These court characters were often seen as having no clear moral standard, adding to their mystery and creep factor.

Check out the full video above.