Heightened coulrophobia in the year of the monkey: What’s up with the clowns?

Clowns are creepy. We all get that. Some five year olds out there may not get weirded out by clowns. But they are the minority. Not that I have any hard data on this. It is just my gut feeling. I personally met a clown once. He nearly became a family member. Thankfully he went away into his creepy mancave. He was actually not very funny and not even dark-humored. If a clown can’t be funny, can’t he be woody allen? Oh wait, I don’t want that level of creepiness. Rewind.

Why are clowns creepy? They tend to have round faces which should be appealing. Our eyes, especially as kids, like round objects. Their fake, painted on smiles are odd and sinister, overall. The fake smile makes you think that there is a perpetual sneer underneath at best and at worse a look of death.

Clowns have been around forever. Thousands of years. And, according to historical accounts, clowns and priests were often one and the same. That’s odd, isn’t it? Mind you, court jesters are not to be confused with clowns. Very different roles throughout the centuries. Court jesters while silly also were wise advisers to the court. Eventually, in the 1800s, Joseph Grimaldi created the clown we know today with the red face patches. Apparently, he suffered from major depression. So he put on an act to push down his depression and make others laugh. He died of alcoholism at the age of 31. I think that image of crying clowns has long stayed with us. Kids don’t get it but at some point in time, we all start to get the mania of clowns. The image of the killer clown started to take root in mid 1800s after a clown killed a kid who made fun of him. I suppose clowns can’t stand critics. Why are they in show business?

Clowns with the makeup, the frenzied acts and the sinister undertones and history remind us of a warped sense of lunacy that scares us. We are scared we will lose our minds and become a clown. Clowns tap into our mental fragility where reality and otherness meet.
Now, in the year 2016 the fear of clowns is back. We have random forest clown sightings. We have odd clowns children interactions that remind us of John Wayne Gacy who had killed over 35 men in the 197os. Did you know his clown name was Pogo? Is that an app or a sandwich?
This past year clowns have been reported to be lurking in vast woods across the south and midwest. Supposedly, in Greenville, South Carolina, they have had more than 10 clown sightings since August.  Yikes!  There have been sightings as well in Chicago and just recently California.  Kids are frightened and so are campers and hikers. Luckily, I don’t go camping unless its glamping. Is that still a thing? And because of my torn knee muscle I can’t go hiking. I am bummed about that but I suppose I should consider myself lucky. I really don’t want to have to use up my cute pink pepper spray on a crazy clown on a hiking trail. But lets go back to the why of this all.


With the recent rash of clown sightings across the United States, I’m left to wonder if Steven King decided to elevate his written work into some kind of performance art. Or have his clown demons (the movie It) come to life? Perhaps what we are witnessing is a mass onset of coulrophobia- the psychological fear of clowns. This manifestation could be leading many to imagine that they have seen clowns wondering through the forests. Think about it. Our election cycle has been so screwed up this time around, why wouldn’t there be mass delusions.

Question is how do we fight back against the clowns?  Do we need Batman? Dark against dark? Do we need Buffy? Slayer against demon? Do we need Wonder Woman to lasso up some creeps? We need a superhero. We’ve been waiting for one all year long. The clowns are just the latest manifestation of how this year of the monkey just was bananas.

5 replies »

  1. As if camping wasn’t horrible enough as it is. Now there are clowns to contend with. Think I’ll just stay home. P.S. I never hated clowns until I saw “Poltergeist” and read “It” so we can blame both Hollywood AND Stephen King. 😉


  2. I just read a great Stephen King novel, “Joyland,” and nary a clown in site. I knew a woman who was a graduate of Ringling Bros. Clown College, but only in a local storyteller’s guild – never saw her in clown getup. Several of Ingmar Bergman’s movies, notably, “The Seventh Seal,” feature very creepy clowns. Sigh!!! Much as I am a Giants fan, I think only the Cubs winning the World Series can redeem our country from clown insanity – both the ones running around being sighted in woods and such, and the really creepy one running for president.


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