Why are creepy clowns popping up everywhere? Why are they here? What do they want? Why is everyone calling them creepy clowns, as if there’s any other kind?

The short answer is: nobody knows. But that’s kind of a boring answer, so let’s speculate wildly with no actual supporting evidence or anything. You know, like the internet gods intended.

The easiest explanation is that's it's all down to a viral marketing campaign gone wrong. The most obvious culprit would be the upcoming remake of Stephen King’s IT, with its own creepy clown monster beast thing in the starring role. Tim Curry played Pennywise the Dancing Clown in the horrible 1990 made-for-tv movie and was pretty much the only good part of the thing, unless maybe you were a big John Boy fan. (Note to younger readers: John Boy was a character on The Waltons, which was a show from the '70s and '80s you’ve probably never heard about because it’s not on Netflix.)

The new Pennywise is played by Bill Skarsgård, who looks he’s 12 years old, but puts a circle over one of the As in his name, so you know he means business. He's probably pretty scary. I have no idea. One of the kids from Stranger Things is in it, too. So there’s that.

The theory goes that a few clown sightings were started as part of a viral marketing campaign for the movie that random people just started picking up and running with until the whole thing took on a life of its own. If this is true, then we’ll probably never know about it, because whoever was behind the original campaign is probably burning all of his notes, memos, and clown-related paraphernalia (including, but not limited to, whimsical red noses, oversized shoes, and several disturbing variations of puffy red wigs) before anyone finds out what he did.

Another theory that isn’t really a theory since I just made it up because that’s how the internet works suggests there’s an underground cult of clowns who’ve been living among us for years, unseen and undetected, gathering their numbers until they were ready to emerge and enslave all humanity under threat of their water-spitting flower pins and obnoxious squeeze horn thingies.

I, for one, welcome our new clown overlords. Then again, I’ve probably just been conditioned to accept them through years of Chicken McNugget and McMuffin propaganda.

Then there’s the Smiley Face Gang. If you don’t know what that is, I’m sorry. I’m probably about to ruin you forever.

Basically, a couple of retired New York City detectives suspect there’s a hidden gang of serial killers networked across multiple states who pick up college-aged dudes in bars and then go murder them. They’re called the Smiley Face Gang because of creepy smiley faces found graffitied near the crime scenes where the bodies are discovered.

The detectives trace the first case back to the late ‘90s, and believe there have been at least 45 victims so far. Check out this terrifying mockumentary about the murders below:

Mockumentary is just a clever way of saying Totally Fake Documentary, by the way. So nothing in that video is at all real. Please don't freak out. Most professional investigators and other detectives think the Smiley Face Murder theory is crazyballs anyway, so I wouldn’t worry about it.

There’s also a pretty big difference between a smiley face spray-painted on a rock and a shambling horde of terrifying clowns stalking the nation, so I'm pretty sure the two aren't connected.

The truth is that there’s probably nothing more to this whole clown thing than people just being goofy. Kids and college students do wacky stuff, and if there’s a bandwagon to climb aboard, people will always hop on and go for a ride. If you see a clown in your area, either call the police, or just try to ignore it until it goes away. They feed off your attention, so starve them out. Just don’t shoot anybody, okay? That’s not cool, kids.

Of course, it could always be The Great Juggalo Uprising spoken of in ancient prophecy. If you don’t know what a Juggalo is, you probably still have some faith in humanity and hope for the future left inside you, so you should probably just nod your head and move along.

However, if you want to nip those optimistic feelings you have in the bud, go ahead and click here to find out what I’m talking about. Then, just sit back and relax as a warm blanket of black despair envelops and consumes your immortal soul.

Just don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Carlo Allegri / Getty Images

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