The Fear of Clowns
Written By: Jess Rich
Edited By: Grave Reviews Staff
There has always been a distinct interest with clowns as a source of terror within the media. We have seen this trend for the last four decades. For example, the infamous novel, IT, published in 1986 and written by Stephen King, has paved the way to turn the story into a mini-series and then a motion picture. The story has led to countless other painted-faced killers in popular media. Clowns have always been something more malevolent than their intended purpose. For many people, clowns are something seen in our deepest nightmares, rather than as a Big Apple circus act. But why this spike in clown-related horror? Why are clowns portrayed in such a scary manner? Has it contributed to the rise in fear of clowns?
Coulrophobia is defined as an irrational fear of clowns. Andy Muschietti’s IT, Stephen Chiodo’s Killer Klowns from Outer Space, Eli Roth’s Clown, and even episodes of so-called children’s show such as Are You Afraid of the Dark, are plentiful examples of how the media portrays clowns. With this trend, people tend to see clowns as evil, child-killing monsters.
For many parents and moviegoers, horror involving children can hit home very easily. For example, in the film, IT, the feeling of paranoia and utter discomfort at the scene where poor Georgie would be taken into the sewer by Pennywise was very disturbing. The disturbing nature of a horrific event like a child being eaten alive, by no less than a baby-faced clown, seared terror in the hearts of many. Therefore, the discomfort involving clowns is easily born.
“clowns are something seen in our deepest nightmares”
Fear, in my opinion, is largely a societal detail, the majority of which comes from how the media portrays certain characters, like the clown. Most people I know who experience coulrophobia do so because of a scary movie they saw when they were children, or terrifying urban legends pointing at the clown as being the big bad guy.
Media, however, is not only to blame for this phenomenon. True crime events such as the cases of serial killers like John Wayne Gacy and the spike of the “clown-sighting epidemic” in 2016 have also led to being a more rational fear of clowns.
Personally, I have always loved clowns. My own nursery room as a child was carnival themed and growing up, I adored the trend in horror surrounded by clowns. Clowns have always been a personal source of comfort for some, reminding them of childhood and happiness. But for many, our friends with painted faces aren’t so joy-inducing. Therefore, it is very easy to see why when you take a quick look at modern horror.
What are your thoughts on the rise of coulrophobia? Are you afraid of clowns?
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