Why Do People Have A Fear Of Clowns? Plus Helpful Tips To Cure Your Fear.

Scary clown or just sad clown? metro.co.uk
Scary clown or just sad clown? metro.co.uk

Fear of Clowns (coulrophobia)

We all loved to go to the Circus when we were small. I remember it very well. The acrobats and the lion tamers, the high wire walker and the Elephants. But there was one particular character that always had a big impact on the children. The Clown.

He would come into the circus ring, juggling or riding on a childs bike, and make everybody laugh with his antics. But not everybody loved the clown. In fact some people were so terrified of him they refused to go to the circus, preferring to stay well away in case just the sight of him would cause them to break out into a sweat, and give them nightmares for weeks. Lets not make light of this. The fear of clowns is a mind numbing terrifying one. Just the thought of facing a clown, whether at a children's party or even a fair is enough to make anyone run for the exit.

So why do so many people have a fear of Clowns?

IT by Stephen King

I believe the fear of clowns is a subliminal one. Like spiders, we have no idea why we really hate them, but we just do. The fear makes you tingle, cold fingers creep down your spine and your shoulders, and the little bit at the back of your neck suddenly feels very sensitive. You feel as though someone is standing behind you. In fact its so darn creepy that if someone did touch you on your shoulder, you would probably leap into the air and the room would be full of profanities!

Stephen King knew this when he wrote the brilliant IT back in 1986. He took the creepiness of the clown and turned it into a Demon who lived underground. To add to the eeriness, he very cleverly added a lone balloon that would float across the road when Pennywise the Clown was going to appear, therefore building up the terror before he even popped up out of the drain and said, Boo!

I remember watching the film on vacation with my son. We were sitting in the hotel lounge on our own at midnight. The curtains were open and a mist had come up from the sea. The creepiness started to make my neck shiver, and my son sat next to me eating sweets. He was Trying to look nonchalant! The whole program left me with a cold feeling, mixed with an irritation that made me jumpy whenever I heard a door open or close later that night.

When we got home, we had to go up the town, and as it was Sunday, there was no one about. All of a sudden there was a balloon floating across the road. My son legged it, he ran all the way across the road and headed into the shop. When I reached him he said, I know it was just a party balloon, but it freaked me out!

Pennywise the Clown from IT by Stephen King social.entertainment.msn.com
Pennywise the Clown from IT by Stephen King social.entertainment.msn.com

The Fear of Clowns

Actually the answer to the question why do people have a fear of clowns? Is not that easy to explain. There have been lots of study over the years concerning Coulrophobia, as its now called. In fact the name Coulrophobia wasn't even used up until the 1980s. There is a belief that the word is taken from the Greek meaning Stilt Walker.

The fear of clowns starts at an early age. Children, especially before they can talk, are people watchers. They can tell by the facial expression on their parents faces what the parent is trying to say. Whether it be a smile, or a frown. Or fear and of course laughter. If you look at a child's face when they are in an unknown to them situation, they look to their mother or father for key words, phrases or facial expressions. This is an automatic reaction and not a deliberate thought.

So when a child is confronted by a man or woman who does not conform to their expectations it can confuse, worry or totally disturb the child. Imagine seeing a man walking towards you, only to look into his face and see a red nose, painted eyes and scary white paint on it. It must be terrifying for a child.


Even more confusing for children is when they are confronted by this horrible looking parody of a man, only to hear the adults around them laughing at his antics. The confusion in the child's brain between fear and laughter must cause an unease to grow over the years until he or she is face to face with another clown. The creepy feeling will either go away when they first encounter them, or more likely, turn into sheer black abject horror. The thought of the child hearing their parents laugh at something that they themselves find terrifying must grow over the years into a nightmare situation. Parents are supposed to protect you, but they didn't at that point in time. They laughed when you were scared. Mixed up psychology. And that's where fear begins.

We all have an underlying fear of the unknown. As we grow older this manifests in the form of superstition, demons and monsters. Most of us are aware that these are the figments of our imagination. Or are they? That's a question that I doubt anybody will be able to answer. But the feeling is real.


Of course there are genuine reasons why we dislike clowns. We, as adults, cannot see the person behind the mask. They could be someone we know, creepy or what? Nothing worse than speaking to someone who knows you, but you don't know who they are.

Or more to the point, the person in front of you, hiding behind that grinning clowns face, could be a serial killer, who is going to climb into your bedroom at three in the morning, wake you up and grin at you with those Pennywise IT teeth, and then rip your throat out while you are still screaming......sorry where was I? Oh yes, I hate clowns! No not really! In fact I have a collection of them in my bedroom.

Seriously, there are many reasons why we don't like clowns, or in fact hate them so much they give us nightmares. And probably a lot of the fear these days stems from the films, books and TV programs that always portrays the clown as a nasty thing. Our subconscious mind is an eerie place, full of shadows and pockets of creepy crawly things. I like to call them the spider memories as they crawl up into your cerebellum, entwine around your frontal lobe then scurry down your nose and throat so that choke on your own fear. And this is the place where the clown resides. Hidden, waiting to jump out at you and scream, Boo! Hey Wanna Balloon?

A Happy Clown! redutti.ro
A Happy Clown! redutti.ro

Cure Your Fear Of Clowns.

There are simple ways to cure yourself of this fear. But first you have to understand the reason why you fear Clowns. Below is a list of reasons why you may have this fear. Once you aknowledge the problem you will be able to face your demons.

  • Think back to when you were a small child. Did your parents take you to the Circus? And were you nervous about seeing all the acts including the clown?
  • Did the clown come over to you and try to get you involved in the show? How did you feel? Were you scared or just embarrassed?
  • Try to find the exact time when you started feeling scared of clowns. Sometimes your fear may not even be connected to the clown. For example, many people get frightened by being alone, seeing a spider or even hearing a knock at the door. If you happened to be watching a film with a clown in it, it could be a transference of the fear onto the clown. You may not remember the source of your fear, but you will remember the clown.
  • Is there something in your past that made you frightened of not seeing past the 'mask' that someone was wearing? Not necessarily a real mask, but a person who you could not 'read' and they scared you?

All of these things could be the starting point of your fear. The clown itself is the face of your fear. A mask is a very powerful form of hidden secrets. You don't know what is behind it, or who is behind it. Holding on to your fear of clowns is a way of hiding in your mind the real fear that you don't want to bring out in the open. Its like a closed door. Behind that door is the thing that scared you. The door in your case is the clown. Try and open the door and find out what really frightened you.

A clown with a lovely face! flickriver.com
A clown with a lovely face! flickriver.com

Clowns at the wonderful Cirque du Soleil

Wipe That Fear Away.

Now you know why you have a fear of clowns try some of these techniques to get rid of it once and for all.

  • The obvious first choice is to book yourself an appointment with a behavior psychologist who will be able to help you learn to control and clear your fear of clowns.
  • If its not possible to make an appointment, sit down with a childrens book of clowns. Cartoons would be preferable, and take it one step at a time. Learn to count your fear from ten down to one. When you have looked at that book many times put it away and do it with another book or childrens comic that is slightly more scary for you. To get rid of the fear you have to keep looking until it goes.
  • A really good way to help you to get rid of the fear is to actually meet someone face to face who's job is a clown. The reason why you fear them is because you only see the mask on their face while they work. Arrange to meet the person before they apply the makeup. Then sit with them and chat while they are applying the mask. This way you will see the real person behind the mask.
  • You could also do it the other way around. This may be more frightening for you to start with, but hear me out. Arrange once again to go and see a clown in action, and wait until he has finished. Sit with him while he removes the makeup. As each layer is wiped off you will begin to see the real man behind the mask.
  • My last idea may sound very drastic, but if you think you can do it then it will be a good way to start healing. Go to a Circus with loads of people and place yourself in the position you were in as a child. Sit in the front row if this is where you sat as a child. And re-train your mind to see exactly what is going on this time.
  • Look at the man wearing the clown face, and keep telling yourself that he is a real man. Look at the other people in the audience, and see them laughing and having a good time. If you feel safe with your friends, know that you are not in danger, and watch the kids having fun, it should help you to start healing from your fear of clowns.

copyright nell rose

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Comments 92 comments

Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 22 months ago from England Author

Hi pras, thanks so much for reading, great to see you as always, nell


prasetio30 profile image

prasetio30 22 months ago from malang-indonesia

Very informative hub, Nell. I had never heard about the people who phobia or fear with clowns. Very well explanation. Thanks for sharing. Voted up!

Prasetio


Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 22 months ago from England Author

Hi Besarien, lol! yes I know what you mean about cats! I remember going to the circus when i was really small, and the clowns freaked me out! and yes they came over, and jeez! that just makes you worse! lol! mind you I don't blame you for being scared after coming face to face with a drunk clown! nightmare! thanks so much for reading, and great to see you again, nell


Besarien profile image

Besarien 22 months ago

I met an angry possibly drunk and drugged up clown when I was small. He didn't hurt anyone but yelled, cursed and threatened and drove around causing a lot of property damage at an outdoor birthday party I was attending. I remember at the time I was expecting him to run someone over. He did come close. He and later John Wayne Gacy kind of firmed up an opinion of clowns. I wouldn't say I was deeply afraid, but I do find guys dressed up as circus clowns more than a bit creepy and sort have an instinctual aversion. Male circus clowns are like cats apparently. You know how cats can sense the one person in a room who is allergic and walk over and jump up on his lap? Whenever there is a clown within 100 feet of me he will walk over and try to give me flower or pick a coin out of my ear or try to get me to squeeze his squeaky nose. It just never fails. Rodeo clowns, harlequins, mimes, and female circus clowns- none of them bother me a bit.


Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 23 months ago from England Author

Thanks Vellur, great to see you!

Hi Word, that's so true, thanks so much for reading, nell

Hi nanderson, thanks so much, yes they don't bother me, in fact I have lots of clown masks on my wall! lol!


nanderson500 profile image

nanderson500 23 months ago from Seattle, WA

Interesting subject! I have never had this phobia myself, but I know someone who does. Great job!


word55 profile image

word55 23 months ago from Chicago

Great hub here Nell, Fear and phobias can keep people from progressing. Thank you for sharing!


Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 23 months ago from England Author

Hi Jodah, lol! sorry if I gave you the shivers! Haha! thanks so much for reading, nell


Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 23 months ago from England Author

Hi Mysticalmoon, thanks for reading, lol! yes I love clowns, well most of the time!


Vellur profile image

Vellur 23 months ago from Dubai

Came back to read again, great hub!


Jodah profile image

Jodah 23 months ago from Queensland Australia

Great and comprehensive hub Nell. I have never been frightened of clowns..until now..lol. You gave me a lot of reasons to fear them as well as ways to get over it :)

Seriously, this was a very interesting read. Voted up.


Mysticalmoon profile image

Mysticalmoon 23 months ago from Idaho Falls, ID

LOL..what a great Hub to post! I love that you posted right around the time of year that I love the most. Great Hub!


Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 23 months ago from England Author

Thanks suzette, yes you are right, these days kids only see clowns on scary films so it frightens them, back then we saw them in circuses and they were really great! funny how things change, thanks for reading, nell


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 23 months ago from Taos, NM

Hi Nell: I love this hub! I don't have a fear of clowns but I know some people that do. It is a serious fear too. I have also found that the lyoung generation, especially some of my atydents had a real fear of clowns. I think it comes from scary/ horror movies with clowns in them that frightens them. I always found clowns to be fun, happy and goofy when I went to circuses. Your tips on how to get over a fear of clowns are good ones! I loved all the photos in this hub also. Thanks for an entertaining piece.


Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 23 months ago from England Author

Hi Keeley, thanks for reading, yes its probably Stephen Kings fault, with his scary portrayal of IT, as in, hey wanna balloon? lol!


Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 23 months ago from England Author

Hi cfin, yes you are probably right, we have a local guy, an artist, I do know him and his family, and he always wears a clown mask, mainly peirot masks as a disguise as part of his art, and as I know him its okay, but others do find him creepy! lol! thanks for reading, nell


Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 23 months ago from England Author

Thanks Audrey, no me neither, until I looked it up, I think I was watching something on tv, then an advert came on for a program with clowns and that was it, a hub! lol!


Keeley Shea profile image

Keeley Shea 23 months ago from Norwich, CT

As a child I loved clowns, but as an adult I now think they are creepy! I think it is because of some scary movies I have watched over the years.


AudreyHowitt profile image

AudreyHowitt 23 months ago from California

Very cool article Nell! I didn't know there was a name for this!


cfin profile image

cfin 23 months ago from The World we live in

The inability to know what their real emotional state is. That's probably enough to creep me out.


Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 23 months ago from England Author

Hi skullduggery, yes it could be that sly smile or should I say completely nuts! lol! yes the Peirot black and white masks are pretty strange, they reflect the person to be sad, but just plain creepy if you ask me! saying that, I have a wall full of masks so i must be creepy to! lol! thanks for reading, nell


Skulduggery Jones profile image

Skulduggery Jones 23 months ago from Basingstoke

Hi Nell, great hub and it helped me discover why I've always been terrified of clowns! All though I still think it's that psychotic killer looking smile that's painted on their face. I especially hate black and white clowns.


lovedoctor926 2 years ago

Oh ok. lol. thanks for clarifying that. Anytime. you too:)


Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 2 years ago from England Author

Thanks love doc, no pluto has been declassified as a meteor, or asteroid. lol! Have a wonderful Day, and thanks again!


lovedoctor926 2 years ago

same here Nell. lol. I thought it was a fear of planets. Is that planet still around? I think I read that they had replaced it with another one. yeah, clowns are funny looking. I dressed up as one a few yrs ago for Halloween. Have a nice Sunday.


Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 2 years ago from England Author

Hi doc, I have never heard of plutophobia, I would have thought it was a fear of planets, groan, sorry! lol! yes clowns are funny things, you either love them or are scared witless! thanks for reading, nell


lovedoctor926 2 years ago

Hi Nell, I can understand small children being scared of clowns.I''ve been to a couple of clown birthday parties and seen kids crying whenever a clown gets too close. now for adult to be scared of clowns sounds a little weird to me. lol but you're right there are some interesting phobias out there.I remember writing an article for other site I used to write for on phobias. There's even a phobia listed for those people scared of water AKA plutophobia. voted up!


Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 2 years ago from England Author

Hi Sparkster, my friend used to have a terrible phobia about moths! She believes its because when she was little she picked up a bat by mistake thinking it was a moth! lol! big mistake! thanks for reading, nell


sparkster profile image

sparkster 2 years ago from United Kingdom

I know quite a few people who have a fear of clowns. Personally I used to have a phobia of moths and butterflies but I managed to overcome it using NLP!


Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 2 years ago from England Author

Thanks mary, yes its funny how some people have phobias about the strangest things, I used to hate daddy long legs! lol! thanks for reading, nell


Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 2 years ago from England Author

Thanks Lizzy, they do weird me out sometimes, but I don't have a phobia about them, thanks for reading, nell


tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 2 years ago from New York

Nell you outdo yourself! This is excellent covering so many points. Its hard to understand how someone could be afraid of clowns but I'm sure there are people who can't understand why I'm afraid of bees!

Your descriptions were beginning to send chills up my spine. Well done my friend.

Voted up, useful, awesome, and interesting.


Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 3 years ago from England Author

Glad you liked it Slone, and thanks!


Slone 3 years ago

I'm totally terrified of clowns, but I think your article helped me a lot. Thanks!!!!


Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 3 years ago from England Author

Vellur, yes that's true, I actually love clowns, but saying that they can be a bit creepy! lol! thanks for reading, nell


Vellur profile image

Vellur 3 years ago from Dubai

Clowns are great fun and I love watching them. I guess each one have their own phobias. Great hub.


Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 3 years ago from England Author

Hi Miss Mimi, Wow! you work in a Circus? You lucky thing! lol! one of my childhood dreams! yes it does make sense doesn't it? it's a bit like someone wearing a mask and picking up a child, it frightens them because they can't see the real features and expressions, thanks so much, and yes I am sooooo jealous! lol!


Miss Mimi profile image

Miss Mimi 3 years ago from On the road again

Nice post, Nell! I'm a circus artist, and have had the pleasure of working with some really awesome clowns and I can't even count the number of times we've talked to audience members who are terrified to watch a clown act or meet a clown. One of the shows I perform for decided that none of the clowns would wear any make-up other than basic stage make-up (foundation and a bit of eyeliner) so that the audience could enjoy their comedy without having to face their phobia. Most of the clowns I've worked with think that for at least some kids, the fear of clowns starts when their parents force them to interact with clowns at a young age. If they are working some sort of event, many parents think "here's a spot where my kid can have a good time and not get into trouble and I can go and talk with other adults for a few minutes" then they either leave the child in the care of the clown; sometimes even thrusting the kid into the clowns arms. Because they're sure the kid will find the clown funny. It seems to work right alongside your theory of how it can create a psychological rift when the people who are supposed to protect you the most are laughing and forcing you to interact with something that is frightening to you.


Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 4 years ago from England Author

Hi TT, Wow! that sounds spooky! arghhh! lol! I wouldn't have put it in a rocking chair in the first place, I would have had nightmares just thinking about it! lol! thanks as always, nell


TToombs08 profile image

TToombs08 4 years ago from Somewhere between Heaven and Hell without a road map.

Heya, Nell. I was never afraid of clowns until my clown doll used to rock in my rocking chair at night when I was about 6. Not a fan. Mom would tell me it was my imagination, but she wouldn't put it in her room, either. :) Voted up and more!


Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 4 years ago from England Author

Hi DDE, yes I totally agree, its amazing how many people do hate them though, creepy things! lol! thanks so much for reading, nell


DDE profile image

DDE 4 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

Voted Up!! Thanks for the excellent Hub clowns are supposed to entertain people not for one to be afraid them


Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 4 years ago from England Author

Hi Victoria, thanks for reading, yes I never realised that there was a particular name for it, I don't mind clowns but they do give me an eerie feeling sometimes! lol!


Victoria Lynn profile image

Victoria Lynn 4 years ago from Arkansas, USA

Sure, clowns are a bit creepy, but I never realized that people can have such a violent reaction to them like the lady in the video. Wow. I guess there is probably a phobia out there for just about anything. Thanks for this hub. It was very interesting and entertaining!


Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 4 years ago from England Author

Hi teaches, yes that's so true, it can be just that one little thing that can start of the fear of clowns, I know they always make me shudder! lol! thanks as always, nell


teaches12345 profile image

teaches12345 4 years ago

I know some adults who still have a fear of clowns. They had an early exposure to them and not in the best approach. It's something parents do not consider when they throw a child's party, they assume all children (and adults) love clowns. Great post, Nell. Voted up.


Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 4 years ago from England Author

Hi avian, thanks for reading, I have a sister in law who is scared of clowns, I have often wondered why, thanks!


aviannovice profile image

aviannovice 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

I'm not afraid of clowns, but have known someone that was.


Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 4 years ago from England Author

Hi unknown spy, thats so true, their faces can be hiding anyone or anything, they definitely make me uneasy, thanks so much for reading, cheers nell


Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 4 years ago from England Author

Hi Ruchira, that does make sense, I used to have a woman a work who always smiled when she was being nasty, it was really surreal! lol! spooked me out most of the time! yes as we get older the fear of clowns etc does go of, but I still can't watch Hellraiser! haha! thanks as always, nell


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