The cover illustration depicts Murder the Clown dodging blood-stained axes while more blood is visible behind him.
Ray Gordon really likes the circus. His uncle, Theo, is a performer in Koko's Klown Academy and he invites Ray to come join him for the summer. At first, Ray's parents are reluctant - they know their son has a habit of getting himself into strange situations. But Ray manages to convince them that he'll be in his best behavior.
The circus itself is very cool. The clowns stay in their makeup all day and only go by their clown names. Ray becomes a clown-in-training named Mr. Belly-Bounce. But the longer he's there, the scarier things become. There are whisperings about a place named Clown Street and nobody, including Murder the Clown, wants to go there. Will Ray be able to survive the dark secrets of the circus?
Ray “Ray Gun” Gordon and his friend, Heather James are sneaking out of Ray's house at night. They attempt to sneak into a circus but are caught by a huge clown named Tiny. He tells Ray clown life is good, unless you are sent to Clown Street. Before he can find out what that is, Ray is caught by his father.
Later that night, Ray and his parents argue about a card his uncle Theo sent, inviting Ray to Koko's Klown Academy, the circus where Theo works. Ray manages to convince his parents and, at the beginning of the summer, he goes in a trip to the circus. Uncle Theo shows him the circus, and Ray notices a clown at a dunk tank. However, Theo drags him away just as the clown gets dunked. When the water drains, the clown is gone. Ray asks his uncle where the clown went, but Theo ignores him, and tells him to keep moving.
They walk a little more, and Ray meets a mean clown named Mr. HahaFace, the boss of Koko's Klown Academy. After all the clowns leave the food tent, Ray and his uncle start toward the trailer where Theo lives, but suddenly a knife comes flying at Ray's head. Luckily, the knife misses, but no one knows who threw the knife. Murder says it's probably just a joke, but Ray is not fully sure.
Later, Ray is given the clown name Mr. Belly-Bounce and is then introduced to his roommate, a clown named Bingo-Bongo. A few hours later, he meets Deanna Banana, a clown girl to whom Ray talks to about Mr. HahaFace. They talk for a while, but then Bingo-Bongo calls him, and says that Deanna is Mr. HahaFace's daughter. That night, Ray hears a whisper coming from outside his trailer, calling his name. He goes outside, but only to stumble and fall facedown into a pile of fish intestines.
The next day, after breakfast, he returns to his trailer to get his clown shoes, but his uncle tells him there's no problem in rehearsing for the show without the shoes, so they go to the main tent anyway. After the rehearsal, Ray walks to the trailer, but then he finds his clown shoes, completely sliced in half. He asks Bingo-Bongo if he was the one who sliced his shoes, but he swears he doesn't know who did it.
A few hours later, it is time for the circus show. All the clowns do their roles, but at the end, Ray accidentally trips over Bingo-Bongo's shoes, knocks Mr. HahaFace, and falls heavily in the top of him. Although it was an accident, the audience loves it. But after the show, Mr. HahaFace tells Ray what he did wasn't funny. When Ray says he accidentally tripped on Bingo-Bongo, Mr. HahaFace says that he'll handle Bingo-Bongo.
He leaves the tent, and finds Deanna Banana. They go eat hot dogs, and Ray sees Bingo-Bongo perched on the seat of the Dunk-A-Klown tank. A man hits the target with a ball, and Bingo-Bongo disappears. Ray and Deanna return to the circus, where Ray finds out that Bingo-Bongo was replaced by another clown named Dr. Phooey and was sent to Clown Street. A few minutes later, Ray walks toward his uncle's trailer, to find him washing off his Murder the Clown makeup.
But when Ray sees Theo's real face, he turns out to not to be his uncle. The “fake Theo” explains everything, telling Ray that his real name is David Ford, and that Ray's uncle was sent to Clown Street by Mr. HahaFace, a few days before Ray arrived at Koko's Klown Academy, so Mr. HahaFace told David to replace Theo.
Ray decides he has to rescue his uncle from Clown Street, and plans to anger Mr. HahaFace enough to make him send Ray there immediately. He walks to HahaFace's trailer, grabs a banana cream pie, and smashes it against him, while he was sleeping. But it turns out to be a clown named Tommy Teardrops, as Mr. HaHaFace is visiting friends that night. After Ray explains himself, Tommy says it's too late, because once you go to Clown Street, you can never leave. He finally realizes exactly how to get there, and takes off running to the Dunk-A-Klown tank.
Ray starts to climb the water tank, but Deanna appears. She admits she is on his side, and tells him that she was the one who was threatening him, as she was trying to warn him. Ray tells her to throw baseballs at the dunk tank to dunk him and she reluctantly agrees. Ray is flushed quickly into an even larger water tank. A few seconds later, Deanna also splashes into the water tank. A giant mutant squid shows up from behind them. They fight the squid and Deanna pokes one of her knives into the squid's eye, killing it. They then notice applause.
They peer through the glass wall of the tank and see people clapping and cheering to them. Before they have a chance to move, two huge clowns grab them and take them to the “Clown Street Hotel”, which is nothing but a prison for clowns. Ray and Deanna hear a roar from a cage, and see two gray-uniformed guards dragging a clown down the prison hallway. The clown begs the guards not to be thrown into the bear cage, but the guards ignore him.
A clown in a cell next to the kids utters "poor guy". Ray turns to him, and sees it is uncle Theo. Theo explains everything: There is a guy who everyone calls The Frightener. He owns Clown Street, and he built it because he is so afraid of clowns, he wants to kill them all. Mr. HahaFace works for him, sending clowns here. Frightner forces him to work for him. The Frightener made every clown walk through a machine that sends out a ray that makes the clown makeup permanent, so it can never be removed. He forced all the clowns to entertain him and his family and guests by fighting the squid or the bear. And when the clowns weren't fighting for their lives, they went entertain at kid's parties. The Frightener keeps the money the parents pay, to support his prison.
When Theo finishes talking, The Frightener says over a loudspeaker that his nephew Freddy is having a birthday party, so the clowns have to entertain the kids at the party. Ray has an idea and tells Theo and Deanna his escape plan: When they arrive Freddy's house, instead of making the kids laugh, they will make them scream. The Frightener will hear the screams and enter the room. Then the clowns would surround him, scare him.
Some time later, the clowns all leave the bus and enter Freddy's house. They act as scary as possible, but the kids laugh and laugh instead of screaming, as planned. The Frightener ends up entering the room suddenly, asking why all the laughter, and the clowns seize the opportunity. They jam up against him and force him into a corner, laughing maniacally.
The Frightener begins to scream and run out of the house, with the bear chasing him. The clowns celebrate the fact they are finally free. When Ray arrives home, he wants to tell his parents about the adventure he had and about how he saved the clowns from Clown Street. However, when he attempts to wash his face, the clown makeup won't come off.
- The finalized cover art has several changes in comparison to the original artwork. Murder's eyes are less pronounced, his hair is gold instead of white, and a black splat was added behind his head. Murder's suit colors are also more saturated.
- Ray has the very same full name as the main character from Slappy New Year!. However, the character's appearance doesn't fit with Ray from the Goosebumps HorrorLand book.
- This book features a different version (and different description) of Murder The Clown from the HorrorLand books.
- This title is a reference to the 1984 horror film, A Nightmare on Elm Street.
- At one point in this book, Ray wonders if Mr. Haha Face smokes cigars. This is one of the few drug references in a Goosebumps book.
- This book references Google, Power Rangers, Bozo the Clown and the Tampa Bay Rays.
- The name "Koko's Klown Academy" is a possible reference to the cartoon character Koko the Clown.
References in other Goosebumps media
- The Uncle Theo version of Murder the Clown appears as a background monster in the film Goosebumps. However, his appearance is different than how is depicted on either the cover of the book or the story itself.
- Theo Gordon and Koko's Klown Academy appear in Goosebumps HorrorTown.
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