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Halloween Clowns: Scary or Funny?

It’s official, spooky season is finally here!! For some of us, it’s the best time of the year, ghouls, costumes, candy, and hanging out with friends while for others, it can just be a significant day for Christmas to not creep earlier into the year. One of the biggest things and essentially the central theme of Halloween is getting to dive headfirst into the fright. This could mean the grim reaper and goblins for some or for others, this could mean clowns. Yes, I said clowns. Before some members of our lovely audience say clowns aren’t scary, I would love to see you keep a calm head when a clown crawls out from under your bed or chases you with a knife at a urinal.

To all of those who have been made fun of for being afraid of clowns, you are not alone. The fear of clowns is called coulrophobia and for some this fear can occur from your first circus encounter with a clown to just simply seeing one on television as a child. David Wilson, a professor of criminology at Birmingham City  University states that “Clowns deliberately exaggerate the human face and cover the human face with paint so as to make the faceless human.” This can be extremely unsettling for a developing child as they function and understand the world around them through daily repetitive perceptual cues. 

Some people may also suffer from coulrophobia due to contagion which is the association of a particular feeling or idea to another larger population, even if the association is with the minority of that group. For example, people can be terrified of clowns due to associated horror with the antagonist in IT, the psychotic crimes of the Joker in Batman, hearing about past murderers dressed as clowns, or through first-hand incidents such as being terrorized by the crazed clowns incident in 2016 or Wrinkles the Clown. In 2016, there were multiple sightings of people dressed up as creepy clowns, possibly with weapons who would wait in either public areas such as bathrooms or in more isolated areas like drive-bys, to creep up on unsuspecting civilians to terrorize them. 

Wrinkles the Clown is a 65-year-old veteran who was hired by parents and guardians to terrorize their kids as a way to make them behave. He would do so by staring at you through your backyard, finding you, and apparently hiding in your draws. Although Wrinkles says in an interview that he just wants to have some fun and make some side money and many neighborhood teens and parents find him to be pretty relaxed, he says that being terrorized by a clown as a kid can leave some psychological trauma.   Although these incidents represent a fraction of the clown culture, it is enough for people to associate fear and harm to clowns rather than a source of comedy.

Granted, although some people may not be afraid of clowns, there is a large population that simply hates them because they find them unsettling, not funny, and simply annoying. Not everyone likes sporadic behavior, water squirted in their face, or being the face of the joke, and as such not everyone likes clowns. Although a lot of modern horror will include terrifying clowns, we see that there are many more child-friendly clowns out there such as Ronald McDonald or Krusty the Clown from the Simpsons. Whether you find these clowns creepy or entertaining, you are very likely to encounter a child or a teen dressed as one this Halloween. With that, if you suffer from coulrophobia, it is completely okay to turn and pivot the next block, there is sure to be candy there too. If you are not afraid of clowns, go ahead and crack a joke with them, just be careful of water and pies! 




Dangerfield Katie, Do clowns creep you out? 6 reasons why according to expert, Global News, September 2017, s 


McAndrew T. Frank, The psychology behind why clowns creep us out, The Conversation, September 2019, 


McCluskey Megan, Why Are You So Afraid of Clowns? Here’s What Psychologists Say, Time, October 2019, 

Poole Steven, The great clown panic of 2016: ‘a volatile mix of fear and contagion’, The Guardian October 2016,

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