There’s a scene in Stephen King’s It—the book—where the Losers’ Club creates a “smoke hole,” a method by which Native Americans were said to have visions. In doing so, two of the characters witness an age-old Derry and the arrival of something overwhelming and indescribable: an evil from Outside Of Everything that awaits the arrival of Man. It’s the closest thing to an origin story we ever get for It, and the scene’s opaqueness has long captivated readers who love the idea of It being ancient in a Lovecraftian kind of way.
We didn’t get that scene in the 1990 miniseries, nor did we get it in this year’s big-screen adaptation. To do so would only muddy an already complicated narrative—there’s a reason the book’s longer than 1,000 pages—so it’s probably a good thing overall, but there is an ineffability to the whole thing that’s always given the beast behind Pennywise some added oomph.
It’s this kind of foggy elusiveness in horror that Karsten Runquist argues for in his latest video essay, which aims to explore just why Pennywise is such a great monster. While he doesn’t touch on the clown’s primordial origins, he does touch on how every version of the story has embraced the monster’s mystery, which only serves to inflame the breadth of its horror.
In doing so, he also offers up a logical answer for just why exactly we find clowns so scary (though, granted, there are multiple answers to that one). You have to admit: There is something a touch untrustworthy about anyone who would put on a costume to make themselves seem happier. That said, our sympathies still lie with the good clowns out there. You know who you are, and we know you don’t live in sewers.