If you try to read this with even a mild case of coulrophobia, then you’re utterly screwed. However, this collection doesn’t just contain a bunch of creepy killer clowns, and don’t expect anything so straightforwardly horrific as that. Instead, these stories are rather dreamlike, nightmarish and strange, with their own confused sense of right, wrong and what reality really is .
I haven’t read anything like Attic Clowns in a long while, and it flipped switches in my mind that I didn’t know were there. Not in a murdering spree sort of way, honest. As I said, these stories aren’t the typical scary killer genre. Attic Clowns is about an entirely different sort of dread. The action is cobwebbed with crazy description, surreal and disjointed and often very hard to make sense of, in the best sort of way.
These ease-jangling stories have been crafted by a brilliantly twisted brain. Each one delivers the reader into the flapping gateway of quivering madness. It’s worth persevering with the perversity as, after all, they’re only clowns and they don’t know any better. Sometime they might even help with that trauma you were dealing with. Just try not to piss off Giggles this time, ok?
I’ve briefly outlined each story below and summarized them up to a point, although I’ve tried to dodge the spoilers. These are well worth exploring for yourself:
Spider Clowns from Planet X
An astronaut loses his mind as he’s continually upstaged by the ‘hero’, and uses an unusual method of payback, in an unusual take on the ‘space travellers go me mental’ trope. Bit like an madder version of a space story from Bradbury’s ‘Illustrated Man’.
Everyone in her life has shrunk and performs in a miniature circus in her attic. Or something. But it’s ok, it’s cathertic. I think. Or she’s nuts. What happened? She also hates herself. Most unhealthy.
One of the shortest stories. This guy has serious relationship issues, and deals with them badly, up to and including a a mutilation to make sane men’s eyes water. An astonishing flow of rotten thought.
A crazy couch ride deals with dead mothers, an inappropriately gropy clown, and full on nightmare logic. What Nolan’s ‘Inception’ would resemble if they just wanted to make the rich guy lose his mind instead of change it. Also, there’s a healing catharsis. Of a sort.
A clown in an attic appears in a transparent panel in the protagonist’s forehead. It’s a metaphor, naturally. Imagery is great though. Reminds me a bit of the zero-budget horror movie ‘Dangerous Worry Dolls’, which was not quite as weird as this.
A teenager mourns the horrific death of his brother, wearing his brother’s out-sized ‘clown’ trainers day and night. Inner torment oozes from subsequent blisters, and the clowns in his attic are out to get him – into trouble! I also learned that, when in highly stressed emotional doubt, watch old Monty Python flicks.
A Quivering Gray Fog
Is this attic Heaven, Hell or both? It’s certainly a bit nearer to the hot place than anywhere else, but all our narrator wants is their camera back, and a minor epiphany. Also introducing the fantastic mini-demon, Globcow the Footeater’ in his first appearance. The polite interactions with this well-meaning abomination are priceless.
The Ascension of Globcow the Foot Eater
Globcow goes up in the world, and is an absolute sweetheart. Is he holy material, though? An experienced guardian angel is assigned to give him a shot at redemption, but it might be a tougher job to rehabilitate the little imp than he originally believes. This is truly brilliant, like a highly warped ‘Screwtape Letters’. One of my top three stories in this collection.
Another of my favourite stories here. A ghost haunts another ghost, but which is truly crazy? The Sixth Sense was never like this, and a sadistic monster gets what’s coming to them.
A very dark attic here, full of self-loathing and populated by helpless, tortured little soap men. Confusing, but makes total sense. I think.
The Glass Box
I took this as a bit of a dystopian future, where clowning is a standard way of life. But the alternative to clowning is so much worse. Don’t get taken to that glass box. Gulp.
An office worker longs to escape with the hobo clown, but does he have the courage to jump? A shorty but a goody.
My favourite ‘Attic Clowns story. When your girlfriend reveals the real reason behind all her practical jokes, it must be just another prank, right? But damn, that clown looks realistic. And why is she filming what she does to you? Whatever you do, don’t run out of custard pies or knock-knock jokes. You’d better keep ol’ Giggles smiling. Oh yes.
While probably not to everyone’s palette, Attic Clowns is an intensely strange experience which I loved once I got into the flow, and had figured out not to take any points of view at face value. Jeremy C. Shipp keeps plenty of madness and creepy clowns in his attic, but if you look really hard, there might be a bit of redemption in there too. Perhaps it’s in there somewhere under the corpses, cobwebs and clown costumes. It’ll keep you smiling.