Meet Krinkles, a Creepy ’60s Mascot That Hocked Cereal to Terrified Children

Out of the most commonly feared characters, clowns are the most enigmatic. Aren’t they supposed to bring joy and laughter to our lives? Aren’t they supposed to remind us of mirth and magic? How did this seemingly harmless archetype become fodder for Stephens King’s IT, The Joker, and the real life clown killer himself, John Wayne Gacy?

Sure we could blame TV for our social coulrophobia, but maybe we brought this on ourselves. We go to the carnival, after all, for a sense of entertainment and fear. So maybe the first TV advertisers were really carnival promoters, and maybe to the children who were lucky enough to be glued to a TV set in the ’60s–those little ones whose outside pastimes included avoiding nuclear annihilation and cringing through the first polio vaccination–Krinkles the Clown was a ray of sunshine.

After all, Krinkles was way cooler (and far less racist) than his predecessor, So-Hi , an Asian cartoon character so casually and horribly offensive he would fit right in with most of the ’60s Saturday morning cartoons. But in the end, despite the glib commercials, tactless Asian stereotypes, and truly terrifying clown, the Krinkles Cereal brand did not survive past the ’60s–a fate many attribute to people finally finding out what the term “krinkling” really meant.

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