The fear of clowns, known as “coulrophobia,” is a relatively common phobia. There are several possible reasons why some people may experience fear or anxiety around clowns:
Appearance: Clowns are often characterized by exaggerated and sometimes grotesque features, such as oversized shoes, red noses, and painted faces. Some people may find these features unsettling or frightening.
Uncanny valley: Clowns often exhibit exaggerated emotions and behavior, creating a sense of unease or discomfort in some people. This may be because the exaggerated behavior falls into the “uncanny valley” – similar enough to human behavior to be familiar but different enough to be unsettling.
Negative portrayals: Some people may associate clowns with negative portrayals in popular media, such as horror movies or stories about clowns behaving in creepy or dangerous ways.
Early experiences: Negative experiences with clowns during childhood, such as a scary encounter at a circus or a traumatic birthday party, may also contribute to a fear of clowns in adulthood.
It’s important to note that not everyone afraid of clowns has a diagnosable phobia, and for some people, their fear may not be severe enough to interfere with their daily life. However, for those who experience significant anxiety or avoidance related to clowns, treatment options such as cognitive-behavioral therapy or exposure therapy may be helpful.
Kevin Kirbo has a severe case of corophobia
Kevin’s parents had no idea that he had this fear, until one day they took him to the circus. Everything seemed fine and Kevin was enjoying the show, until a little car drove out in the middle of the main ring. A group of clowns piled out of the car and Kevin came unglued. He stared screaming with a mouth still full of popcorn, then started to choke. His father picked him and slapped his back, and a large wad of chewed up popcorn flew out of his mouth. He could breath again, and as soon as his feet hit the ground, he was off and running for the exit.
Kevin was only 4 years old and this was his first experience with clowns. Kevin ran past the popcorn guy and the drink guy and out the nearest exit of the big top.
His parents were bewildered by theirs’s son reaction and found him standing by their car in the parking lot.
They tried to drag him back into the show, but he wasn’t having any of it.
Kevin gets teased at school
As Kevin got older he was mocked at school because of his deep fear of anything related to clowns. He even felt uneasy if he saw an over-sized shoe.
When he was 9 years old, his uncle Buster got him a jack-in-the-box. This was the first time Kevin had ever seen a toy like this. He cranked the little handle on the side of the box, which played the familiar “pop goes the weasel” tune. When the little clown popped out of the top of the box Kevin was startled to his core, He knew immediately that this was going to be the source of many nightmares to come.
Kevin’s parents questioned uncle Buster, “why would you get him something like this?” Buster said, “I thought this might cure him of his clown phobia. Well, it did not. It just made it worst.
Kevin goes to high school
Kevin knew that if his classmates ever found out about his fear of clowns, then his life would be over. He knew that they would use this information to terrorize him forever.
Sure enough, by accident, Kevin went to a haunted house attraction with some friends one Halloween night, and of course there were some clowns involved.
Kevin was ok with ghost, monsters, and such, but in the middle of the haunted house tour, a clown pop out of the darkness revving up a chain saw, and Kevin quite literally crapped his pants.
By the next day, then entire school was aware of Kevin’s fear of clowns. This made the next couple of years seem like a lifetime. His so-called school friends teased him almost daily.
Kevin's fear of clowns becomes unmanagable
It’s one of those psychological phenomenon traits. When something is always on your mind, you start seeing things everywhere. It seemed that everywhere Kevin went, there was a clown involved.
He went to Walmart and saw a baloney package in the meat department with a clown face. Each slice of baloney was a creepy smiling clown face. He jumped back about three feet and ran out of the store. Security chased after him because his actions were considered suspicious. They caught up to him in the parking lot, and he had to explain his fear of clowns.
On the way home from the store, he passed a billboard sign about a circus coming to town, and of course, it had a big picture of a clown on it. He almost had a wreck, pulled off the road, and took another route.
When he got home, that same circus had sent him some junk mail. The same clown was on the oversized postcard, sent directly to his home address. At this point, he actually believed that clowns were out to get him.
Who are clowns, where did they come from?
The first known clowns date from the time of the Fifth dynasty of Egypt, around 2400 BC. Later civilizations also knew about clowns. Early clowns were also priests, and their roles were almost inseparable. Clowns of ancient Greece were bald and wore padded clothes to appear more prominent.
When did clowns become scary? According to some, 1970s American serial killer John Wayne Gacy—who performed as Pogo the Clown at charity events and children’s parties—solidified the idea of the evil clown. He became known as the Killer Clown due to his public performances as “Pogo the Clown” or “Patches the Clown” before discovering his crimes. John Wayne Gacy was born on March 17, 1942, and was executed in prison on May 10, 1994. He was an American serial killer and sex offender who raped, tortured, and murdered at least 33 young men and boys in Norwood Park Township, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago.
How common is the fear of clowns?
According to Cleveland Clinic
There are few studies on coulrophobia. Some experts believe as many as 1 in 10 adults fear clowns. One study on hospitalized children found that approximately 10 out of 1,000 children, most of them girls, were afraid of the clowns the hospital brought in to cheer them up.
The American Psychiatric Association (APA) doesn’t recognize coulrophobia as a phobic disorder in its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). There are no set criteria for diagnosing it.
A healthcare provider may recommend an evaluation with a mental health professional like a psychologist. This provider may diagnose coulrophobia after evaluating symptoms, including the impact of the phobia on daily life.
Kevin gets his first job
Kevin’s parents offered to help pay for his college if he agreed to get a job and pay his living cost. Kevin gets a job at a convenience store. He worked the swing shift, which started at 3:00 pm and ended at 11:00 PM
The store where Kevin worked was in the warehouse district of town, so business was slow during the swing shift. Kevin’s main job was to restock the shelves and sweep and mop the floors before the end of his shift.
This job was perfect for Kevin because it gave him time to go to college and helped pay his bills.
Keven finally found relief from clowns because he left home to go to college, and no one knew anything about his clown fear. This was like a new beginning for him. He was meeting new friends, and he wasn’t about to let them know that he suffered from a fear of clowns.
Kevin gets a motherload of clown activity
It was a few days after Easter, and Kevin’s store had more than 50 small stuffed teddy bears left over. They wanted to get rid of them, so Kevin was told to sell them at a reduced amount of only $1 each.
Kevin made a store display and placed the teddy bears in a box next to the front counter. Soon after a customer named Matthew bought one of the teddy bears. Unknown to Keven, Matthew was a professional clown, but he wasn’t dressed in his clown outfit.
Matthew was on his way to a clown alley meeting. Kevin had never heard of a “clown alley,” He didn’t realize that a huge clown alley had a monthly meeting in one of the warehouses near his store.
A clown alley is an organization of clowns who meet monthly to promote clown activities, learn balloon twisting, face painting, and other kid’s party activities for birthday parties and volunteer work.
This particular clown alley meeting consisted of 27 clowns that night, and most of them were dressed as clowns because they were taking pictures for a brochure.
Matthew stood up at the meeting to show all the other clowns the little bear he purchased at the convenience store for only a dollar down the street.
Matthew said, “these little teddy bears would be great giveaways for their upcoming children’s hospital visit.”
He also said at only a dollar each, they wouldn’t last very long. Many of the clowns agreed and decided to stop off at the store on the way home from the meeting and buy the rest of the teddy bears.
Unbeknownst to Keven, he was about to have the worst day of his life. It was 15 minutes past 10 PM, and Kevin had just finished stocking the shelves at the store. Now he only needed to sweep and mop the floors.
Kevin went into the back room and got his dustmop sweeper, and when he returned, he came face to face with 17 clowns waiting at the checkout stand with the remainder of all the teddy bears.
Kevin started trembling, his eyes rolled up into the back of his head, and he stopped breathing and collapsed in the aisle.
One of the clowns just happened to be a doctor, and he rushed in to assist Kevin and gave him mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.
Kevin came to with the sight of 6 concerned clowns hovering over him. He yelled out, then fainted again. Each time he would come to, the sight of the clowns standing over him was just too much to handle.
The clowns called 911, taking about 5 minutes to reach the store. In the meantime, he kept coming to and passing out repeatedly.
The clown doctor said, “I’ve never seen anything like this. I wonder what’s wrong with this guy?” The concerned clowns were unaware that they were the problem.
Finally paramedics took over
Paramedics put Kevin on oxygen and transported him to the hospital, not fully understanding the real problem.
Unaware of the problem, the clowns decided to visit Kevin in the hospital the next day. Then over the hospital’s floor PA system, “We have a code blue in room 311,” Yep, that was Kevin’s room.
Finally, after reviving Kevin again, the doctors said, “look, he’s trying to talk.” Kevin took a big gulp of air and yelled, “Keep those clowns away from me!”
Keven was released from the hospital after a few hours observation. As of today, he still hates clowns.