Hanging “corpses” wrapped in black plastic bags in the Philippines; creepy clown masks that German department stores had to take down from their shelves—these objects were not just fun scares for the Halloween revelers, but evoked real-life violence that is all too close to home.
More than 1,800 people were slaughtered by vigilantes in the war on drugs currently being waged by Philippines president Rodrigo Duterte, who has encouraged civilians to kill drug dealers. The fake corpses in Manila replicated the way some vigilantes wrapped up their victims, and were meant to raise awareness of the extrajudicial killings. Masks of Duterte—who in early October likened himself to Hitler in his crackdown on drugs—were also a hit Halloween prop among both supporters and detractors.
Real-life violence also cast a shadow over festivities in Germany. At least 30 attacks by people wearing scary clown masks were reported prior to Halloween, causing police to warn people to watch out for criminals dressed as clowns. Major department stores also stopped selling creepy clown masks for the celebration, and some civilians shied away from wearing them.