The Clowns are gonna getcha!!

In just the past week, no less than two of my friends, both normal, well adjusted men, have told me that they suffered from a phobia that I’ve never encountered in real life, the fear of clowns. It turns out it even has a name: coulrophobia.

So I did a little research, and what I found was fascinating. While it’s quite common for children to be afraid of clowns, I discovered that some experts believe that as many as one in seven adults never outgrow this fear. Like most phobias, symptoms can include shortness of breath, irregular heartbeat, sweating, nausea and overall feelings of dread.

Like most phobias, it is difficult to explain where this comes from. The most common cause is usually a bad childhood experience involving a clown. But there is another interesting theory about how this phobia develops. Because a clown’s smile is painted on, you can’t tell what the clown is really thinking. Is he going to give you a flower or go for your throat? That perpetual smile does something in the mind of the coulrophobe, who finds this inability to “read” the clown, along with the clown’s historic propensity for acting outside social norms (and getting away with it) so unsettling that it creates an unreasonable panic.

Google “fear of clowns” and a whole plethora of websites come up devoted to explaining and helping people overcome the phobia. Clearly, coulrophobia is no laughing matter.

Many famous fictional characters suffer from coulrophobia, encompassing such wide ranging types from Cosmo Kramer to obsessive compulsive detective Adrian Monk. Pasquale, the perpetual child in the comic strip “Rose is Rose” is terrified of clowns, as is Bart Simpson.

Alan Shore, the wily lawyer from the TV series “Boston Legal”, is so afraid of clowns that the normally glib attorney actually froze in a courtroom when the plaintiff, a clown, unexpectedly showed up for the trial in full clown regalia. Later in the episode, Shore claimed there was nothing unreasonable about his fear, describing clowns as “evil” and taking issue with parents who encourage their children to “simply trust them”. He eventually overcame his fear–with the help of colleague and former Marine Brad Chase–to the point where he is able to approach the clown, who allows Alan to squeeze his nose. (There’s a reason this is one of my favorite TV shows. I’m a big fan of the surreal.)

For a comprehensive list, (and boy, is it a long one!) click here.

And I always thought the lions were scary. By the way, if you suffer from coulrophobia, do not, under any circumstances, look at the picture below.

But if you LIKE scary clowns, check out this link.

Hey, I warned you!


7 Responses to “The Clowns are gonna getcha!!”

  1. July 18, 2007 at 8:33 am

    Wow, just digging right to the gut of people! LOL
    There’s also a large propensity for Gen-X and millenial generations to have coulrophobia, or a much more mild fear of clowns. Several of my friends over the years cannot stand clowns, myself included. Weird thing is, I don’t mind pictures, but can’t stand being close to clowns or mimes. I don’t get the symptoms you described, but I get like an anxiety attack and a feeling like some people get in really tight spaces, the need to get away.

    Great post! Very interesting topic. 🙂

    Thank you! glad you enjoyed it!


  2. 2 joebec
    July 18, 2007 at 6:28 pm


    although i’m not afraid of clowns, persay, i’m terrified of ventriloquist dummies and dolls that open and close their eyes. i’m cool with barbies and cabbage patches, but porcelain dolls, american girls, any doll with the potential to look life like is not allowed in my house, or in my sight for that matter.
    i believe my fear comes from sneaking and watching the movie “Magic” as a 5 year old. yeah, bad idea!

    Sounds like you’ve been scarred for life.

  3. July 18, 2007 at 10:03 pm

    You just solved a long mistery of mine. I hate clowns but I never really understood why. Everybody always laughed at clowns and I would have liked to have all of them banned. As a kid and still. I actually dislike the circus because my first association with the circus are clowns. I have dreaded having to take my children to a circus and I don’t even have any (yet). They even annoy me on TV.
    Could it be that I am just plain scared of them? It’s true that I don’t trust them.
    But on longer thought, I don’t think I’d call it scared. I might just be annoyed with that sense of simple humour. I generally like things simple but humor has to have some intelligence to it. Maybe it’s my caring side, one clown just always was made fun of, and that’s just not fair!

    It ain’t easy being a clown!


  4. July 19, 2007 at 10:33 am

    Those are some scary clowns.

    Yup! Damn scary. Thanks for stopping by!


  5. 5 ~m
    July 21, 2007 at 9:49 am

    Thanks for the evil clown generator.
    Now I can really freak the kids out.

    Just doing my bit for the children. 8)

  6. July 25, 2007 at 1:29 pm

    Geez, now my heart is racing, my breath is short, shortness of breath, I’m sweating, I’m nauseous and just feeling overall dread! Really, just the sight of clowns here has got me going.

    I know I can’t sleep and I don’t ever sleep because those clowns are out there, they’re everywhere.

    Once I thought I was having a nervous breakdown and was sitting on the curb waiting for the bus to take me to the local psych ward at the hospital when along came a damn parade, replete with clowns. Where I lived, clowns were known to throw candy to … at? … people and it sure didn’t help my mental condition.

    I think that’s when and how I developed a horrendous fear of clowns.


    Well, it’s always nice to know that a post hit home with someone. 😉


  7. 7 Emily Wemily
    October 2, 2007 at 3:22 pm

    I know the most common cause for fear of clowns. The film ‘It’. That film has haunted me since the moment I found out about it. I was terrified of clowns. Still am today.
    Actually, last night I had a dream that Pennywise murdered me. I think those films are awful and can ruin peoples lives like it ruined mine. Please listen. I know it must be tough for the people who are clowns for a living. It’s not their fault. It’s the media’s fault.
    All throughout my life I have been haunted by that clown. Just becuase of a film. It seems stupid and I think it should stop.

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