Pennywise the Clown: Stephen King's Take on Every Kid's Worst Nightmare

Pennywise the Dancing Clown. Sounds innocent enough, right? If you've never read Stephen King's IT, or seen the film and TV adaptations, you might think the name conjures a friendly image of a happy clown entertaining children with a funny dance. Of course, if you are familiar with Pennywise, you know nothing could be further from the truth. And if you're one of the millions of adults suffering from coulrophobia (the deep-rooted fear of clowns we've discussed in a past article), Pennywise will terrify you whether you know the truth or not!

Clowns can be scary enough on their own, it's true. But Pennywise takes this a step further, as the clown persona is just a disguise IT uses to lure in vulnerable children. Its true form is impossible to understand and drives people insane just by looking at it, and it appears on Earth as a massive pregnant spider, which brings to mind all sorts of terrible implications. If that's not a perfect recipe for horror, we don't know what is.

Now, if you're ready, we'll delve a bit into the backstory and mythology of Stephen King's most notorious villain!

Origins of Pennywise

IT, or the creature that likes to disguise itself as Pennywise, originated billions of years ago in another dimension. It crashed to Earth in the location that would one day become Derry, Maine (the unluckiest town in the universe with the possible exception of Castle Rock, if you're familiar with Stephen King's works).

After millennia of slumber, IT rose to begin a cycle involving awakening roughly every 27 years to feed, spreading terror and misery among its human prey because mortal fear improves the flavor of human flesh. IT prefers to target children, because their powerful imaginations and youthful fears make them capable of a more exquisite terror than adults, making children a gourmet feast for this horrific creature from beyond.

The Pennywise persona came about as IT sought more effective ways to lure children to their demise, before striking them with their worst fears and ultimately devouring them. But IT has more powers at its disposal than just a knack for clown makeup.

Pennywise Then and Now

IT's Mission and Powers

IT's most important power is shapeshifting, as this allows the creature to entice victims by disguising itself as friends or loved ones, as well as to transform into a variety of mind-breakingly terrifying forms. IT can read a victim's worst nightmares in order to choose a form that will result in the most powerful fear possible, which improves the quality of the meal when IT devours the victim. IT is able to alter the perceptions and memories of those nearby to help conceal its presence, especially from adults. As a creature of timeless evil, IT has all the powers of the most horrific predator in any universe.

As for its mission, we can sum that up quite succinctly: IT exists only to feed and destroy, preferably on terrified children. Its position as an eternal cosmic entity of evil, opposed to all that is good, is just its nature.

Pennywise in TV and Film

The first adaptation of Stephen King's novel was released as a TV miniseries in 1990. Pennywise was portrayed by the legendary Tim Curry, whose take on the character made Pennywise all the more terrifying!

The new IT film adaptation is being released in two parts, with the first part out last year. Bill Skarsgård plays the iconic evil clown this time around, and in September 2019 we'll see his return in IT: Chapter 2. The jury is still out on which adaptation is better, although they both have their strengths and it's a matter of opinion.

Pennywise in Your Neighborhood

Wait, your neighborhood? Yes, that's right. Pennywise can make his ghastly appearance in your neighborhood and even your home. The world's most terrifying clown has become such a pop culture phenomenon that he almost single-handedly tipped the balance away from funny clowns to scary clowns. This, of course, makes Pennywise enormously popular for Halloween costumes.

We're proud to be a part of that tradition at, and we have what you need to complete your Pennywise costume, including full-body outfits, a variety of masks, and of course those famously sharp, jagged teeth! We absolutely guarantee that you'll scare the living hell out of all the adults you encounter — and despite what IT might think, we know that's way, way more satisfying than scaring kids.