Why Are People So Scared Of Creepy Clowns?

A couple of days ago, I realized it’s now October—and that means Halloween is coming up. I also noticed this year, there seem to be a lot of killer clown type movies around lately—perhaps to coincide with Halloween? (It: Chapter 2, Joker, and Wrinkles the Clown, for example.)

Anyway, I began to wonder why clowns seem to creep people out (me included, I have to admit). I mean, clowns aren’t supposed to scare people. They’re meant to make people laugh—aren’t they???

Happy circus clown image by Jacqueline Macou from https://pixabay.com/users/jackmac34-483877/?utm_source=link-attribution&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=image&utm_content=678042
Happy circus clown image by Jacqueline Macou from https://pixabay.com/users/jackmac34-483877/?utm_source=link-attribution&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=image&utm_content=678042

When I looked online, I found that fear of clowns has been given an official psychological term—coulrophobia—and psychologists actually have a few theories as to why people are afraid of them. Here’s some of the reasons Dr. Mark D. Griffiths shared:

1 – Exaggerated looks. Clowns have really really long arms, legs, and feet, giant smiles, large noses, painted white faces, brightly colored hair, and colorful costumes.

2 – Killer clown movies. Part of modern culture has come to encompass evil clowns as a common trope in horror films. If you’re watching a scary movie and see a clown, you should assume he (or she) is bad news. Just sayin’.

3 – Hidden identities & feelings. Because clowns wear such elaborate costuming and cover their faces with thick makeup, it’s almost impossible to recognize their true identities. Likewise, it’s also hard to tell what their intentions are—so you just don’t know if they’re going to give you a pie in the face or perhaps a lovely flower instead.

Joker-like clown photo by Daniel Linclon from https://unsplash.com/@danny_lincoln?utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=photographer-credit&utm_content=creditBadge
Joker-like clown photo by Daniel Linclon from https://unsplash.com/@danny_lincoln?utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=photographer-credit&utm_content=creditBadge

Because of these reasons, it’s hard to know how to react to clowns. Should you laugh? Cry? Run for your life? This emotional roller-coaster of uncertainty can be scary—and lead to fear. … And if you’ve ever listened to Yoda, you know fear is bad.

Another article I found at mentalfloss.com summarized the history of clowns (they found it on PBS), which points to how clowns have always been seen as outsiders, leaving people unsure about their trustworthiness. Because court jesters lay outside the normal social hierarchy, these professional pranksters were the only ones able to make fun of monarchs. In the middle ages, harlequins exuded mischievousness and wore extravagant costumes. Later on, in the 19th century, circus clowns provided entertainment directed at children. But in the 1970’s, clowns found their way into horror, portrayed as villains.

… So now that I’ve added to your coulrophobia with my musings about sinister clowns, who’s up for a scary movie? Poltergeist anyone? Maybe the new Joker? Or how about an It double feature?

Hmn … on second thought, maybe I’ll watch a comedy instead….

Scary Halloween pumpkin photo by WxMom from https://www.flickr.com/photos/wxmom
Scary Halloween pumpkin photo by WxMom from https://www.flickr.com/photos/wxmom

Happy Halloween, Everyone! 🙂