The suburban areas of New Jersey are well-known known for the weird and strange. Alongside Route 35, Middletown has its own unique Weird NJ landmark. He stands like a steadfast giant on the side of the road, watching passersby with hunting eyes. He doesn’t so much as smile, but grins like a depraved child waiting for disaster to happen. His name is Calico, but most know him as “The Evil Clown of Middletown.”
Despite how eerie The Evil Clown of Middletown may look, there is no urban-legend, haunting, ghost story, folklore, or dark history that follows Calico’s past. The nearly 30 foot-tall steel sign was constructed in 1956 as a roadside advertisement for Joseph Azzolina’s Food Circus. At the time, the circus clown advertisement seemed appropriate for the circus themed grocery store.
The artist responsible for Caliclo, The Evil Clown of Middletown, was Leslie Worth Thomas of Road Side Ad Company. The name may sound familiar to some New jerseyans because he was also responsible for another sinister clown – Tillie.
Joseph Azzolina’s Food Circus was a local success and quickly grew into Food Circus Supermarkets Inc., which now operates 10 stores in the New Jersey counties of Monmouth, Ocean, and Middlesex. However, the original store closed in 1991 and has been replace by a local liquor store, Spirits Unlimited. But the ownership of the store still belongs to the Azzolina family (along with the Scaduto family). So the iconic clown still stands tall, but the connection of why he is there remains lost to many.
Regardless of its connection or lack-there-of, locals still have a strange liking to The Evil Clown of Middletown. Calico has his own line of t-shirts, a facebook page, and has appeared in several movies including Clerks II.
In 2011, Joseph Azzolina Jr. had the clown cleaned, renovated and repainted, and vowed to “preserve the Evil Clown as a unique symbol of Middletown pride.” So it seems Calico, The Evil Clown of Middletown, will remain in Middletown for quite a while. . .