The Creepiest Way to Say Happy Birthday

In 1986, novelist Stephen King cursed a generation of people with a horror story which centers upon a malevolent, shapeshifting title character called, simply, “It.” In the book and in the similarly frightening 1990 television miniseries, It takes the form of an absolutely terrifying, over-the-top cheerful clown named Pennywise. Over the course of the book, Pennywise/It terrorizes a group of kids in ways that I’ve blocked from my memory and don’t care to rekindle through research (thank you very much). For those kids as well as for many people in real life, Pennywise was a source of nightmares.

But for a man named Dominic Deville, Pennywise was inspiration. Here’s a picture of Deville, and reader beware: he’s scary. That’s the point.

Deville is the evil birthday clown. He even has, which loads with a spooky cackle. That’s probably the best way to contact him in case you’re in need of his services — which you hopefully aren’t, because you’d have to be really mean to want what he offers. Okay, it’s kind of funny too, if the target has a particular sense of humor, and doesn’t mind being scared. But it still isn’t very nice.Deville’s business is pretty simple (but too horrible to inspire copycats). For a fee, you can hire him to don the murderous clown costume and stalk your friend, co-worker, or sibling the week before his or her birthday. As of 2010, Deville, per Metro, would spend a week stalking your target, “sending chilling texts, making prank phone calls and setting traps in [mailboxes].” (Metro says that Deville will do this to kids if you’d like, but that’s because he misled the press — he later made it clear that he only targets adults.) At the end of the one-week period — assuming that the person who hired him hasn’t called off the prank — Deville let the target off the hook by yelling “happy birthday!” while smashing a pie in the birthday boy or girl’s face, as kind of seen above.

If that sounds sadistic, well, it probably is. In 2012, Deville told a blog that he had given up the craft due to lack of time, even though his services didn’t get very much use. Only about ten people hired him over the course of his time in business, and he only operated near his home in Switzerland. Before he retired, he charged 666 francs for five days of stalking and only went after people over the age of 18, and successfully pied his target about 50% of the time. But he’s hung up his clown shoes for now. So if you’re being stalked by a creepy clown, it’s not Deville. (And hopefully, it’s not Pennywise either.)

Bonus Fact: The fear of clowns — called “coulrophobia” — is real, and really, very few people like clowns. In 2008, researchers at the University of Sheffield (per Reuters) surveyed 250 children (age four to 16) about how to improve the decor of pediatric wings in hospitals. All 250 said to keep the clowns away. One of the researchers concluded that “clowns are universally disliked by children,” and “some found them quite frightening and unknowable.
From the Archives: Beware the Unicycling Clown: He’s not very scary and you’ll probably not notice him, but that’s the reason he’s there.Take the Quiz: Name these Stephen King novels with one word titles.

Related: “It,” the book or the movie — both very good, both should come with warning labels.