We all love a good villain, and the Joker is simply one of the best. With a mind for well-executed chaos and a penchant for dark humor, it's no wonder that Batman's archnemesis has become something of an inspiration to make-up artists, cosplayers, and fans in general. He's the kind of enemy who embodies the aspects of society that we so often ignore.
However, there have been a few cases of Joker fanatics taking their admiration way too far. The grisly example that immediately comes to mind is the 2012 Aurora shootings that took place during a screening of The Dark Knight Rises. A needless and devastating crime, that infamous event brought the concept of copy fictional killers back into the national spotlight.
This list presents the other criminals who have taken their Joker obsession to the extreme and made innocent people victims in the process.
1. Deranged killers
In June of 2014, Jerad and Amanda Miller took to the streets of Las Vegas fully intent on wreaking havoc. Armed with a shotgun, a revolver, and multiple handguns, the married couple targeted police officers and blindsided two on their lunch break. After killing them, they fled to a Walmart where they murdered another person who attempted to stop them with his concealed weapon. Once police arrived, Jerad was shot and killed by their gunfire, while Amanda shot herself in the head and ultimately died in the hospital.
As if this reign of terror weren't disturbing enough, the couple thought they were bringing about a revolution against tyranny. Jerad posted a series of YouTube videos dressed as the Joker, in which he confirmed his disdain for law enforcement. Needless to say, watching them with 20/20 hindsight is horrifying.
2. Young arsonist
Back in 2010, an Irish teen named Christopher Clancy decided to dress up as the Joker and set his high school ablaze. According to his testimony, he committed this act of arson because the school administration was full of "hypocrites" who didn't treat his friends right.
Dressed in "in a purple suit, with green hair, a white face and red painted lips," Clancy spilled cans of gasoline in the corridor and, without a second thought, lit it up and caused over $1 million in damages. Though he told the judge he was "glad" he did it, she ended up sending him to get professional help instead of jail time.
3. Student targets teacher
A "model student" from South Vermillion High School in Indiana allegedly "snapped" when she went to the bathroom on an otherwise normal day. She emerged in the telltale white face and red lips before pulling out a razor and cut her face (presumably from mouth to cheeks to emulate the Joker's scars, but that has not been confirmed).
She then brandished her knife and motioned toward the teacher, clearly intending harm. The teacher was able to fend her off using her desk and a chair, and the girl was eventually taken to a mental health facility for treatment.
4. Jilted lover
In January 2009, a man from Clark Country, Wisconsin named Cole Vetterkind painted his face to look like Heath Ledger's Joker from The Dark Knight and set out on his misguided mission. He broke into a home where he found his ex-girlfriend in bed with his cousin, which caused him to fly off the handle and attack. According to authorities, he strangled his cousin, who in retaliation shot Vetterkind in the leg.
Though he pled not guilty for his crimes of trespassing and battery, Vetterkind was sentenced to almost ten months in jail.
5. Thwarted mass killer
Only one week after the mass shooting in Aurora, Neill Edwin Prescott was arrested after he told his employer that he was the "Joker," planned to "blow everybody up," and "wanted to see the supervisor's brain splatter all over the sidewalk." Police intervened in time and discovered close to 25 firearms in his possession, including semi-automatic weapons and thousands of rounds of ammunition.
When police showed up at his door to arrest him, Prescott was wearing a shirt that said, "Guns don't kill people, I do." He was committed involuntarily for psychiatric evaluation. Despite his threats to commit a mass killing, a judge ultimately threw out his case after prosecutors could not connect their allegations to a specific crime. He likely has received his entire arsenal of guns since he purchased them legally.
6. Soldier with an obsession
Another man who idolized the Joker, Christoper Lanum, actually had the training to cause some real damage. Lanum was a solider who took to the Shenandoah National Park after donning the Joker's face paint and costume that he had from Halloween. He fled because he was suspected of stabbing a fellow soldier only a few hours earlier.
When police pursued Lanum, who was trying to escape in a van with his girlfriend, he pointed a shotgun at them with his finger on the trigger. He refused to drop it, so the police opened fire and killed him. His girlfriend was taken to the hospital for her injuries, where she admitted that Lanum had a full-blown obsession with the Joker, which led Lanum to "prepare for war."
In the end, there's no easy solution to prevent cases like these, but it's important to separate fictional characters from real life. Obviously, that's easier said than done when you factor in mental illness, but the Joker is clearly not a role model.