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Why Do Children Fear Clowns?

Updated on June 20, 2012
Kids Party Entertainment Companies Provide Clowns
Kids Party Entertainment Companies Provide Clowns | Source

Coulrophobia is commonly known as the fear of clowns. More and more children, and even some adults claim to have this aforementioned phobia. Unfortunately scientific research in regards to this phobia is lacking and its origins are unknown. However there are several theories as to why some people are scared of clowns.

One theory for the fear of clowns is a negative experience at young age with a clown. This is a common theory as to why people develop phobias. For example, a toddler gets bitten by a dog and grows up having a fear of dogs. A misfortune accident with someone dressed in clown make up can provide the same psychological effect as the dog.

A different theory of the fear of clowns is based off the string of “clown murders” in the late 1970s. Emmett Kelly III, the son of the famous clown Emmett Kelly, decided to follow in his father’s footsteps and go into the clown business. In his personal life, Kelly III became depressed and turns to sexual deviances and drugs. He murdered his two homosexual partners and blamed his clown alter ego Willie. As it turned out, Kelly III suffered from multiple personality disorder. Around the same time in history, John Wayne Gacy, a volunteer clown, was convicted of sodomizing and murdering over 33 boys. Clowns instead of gangsters were becoming the new face of murder.

Another theory is the overwhelming portrayal of evil clowns especially in the 1980s after the murders in the 1970s. This is easy to see in horror movies such as Killer Clowns From Space and Stephen King’s It. Children during this time period were never presented with friendly clowns from the media but only clowns that were mischievous and homicidal.

But the most probable reason that children are scared of clowns are the exaggerated facial features of clowns. Their painted faces, bright red noses and fake painted smile can be terrifying. These “happy” features also contradict the humor of the clown. Clowns are mostly known for slapstick comedy, which involves hurting another person. Their expression of happiness in hurting another person can give children the wrong impression that you cannot trust someone who has a painted face.

If you were thinking of hiring a clown for your next birthday party, keep in mind that some of the children might be scared. You’re best bet is hiring a kids party entertainment company that has “sweet tea” clowns which don’t paint their face in make up but still wear clown costumes.


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    • Julie Katz profile imageAUTHOR

      Julie Katz 

      6 years ago from Bellmore, New York

      Thanks Luis! Even looking at the picture on this page freaks me out!

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      clowns is funny

    • LuisEGonzalez profile image

      Luis E Gonzalez 

      6 years ago from Miami, Florida

      Good article and you have explained well. Welcome to HubPages...BTW I don't like clowns either


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