Science finally agrees: Clowns are horrifying

Probably don’t so much want to play the Grand Prize Game with these people

Island Packet – Everybody loves a clown, except me, because I hate them, hate them with an intractable hate, an icy and all-consuming hate, a hate that’s so hateful it’s gorgeous, because all clowns are bone-chilling, spine-curdling, bone-curdling, fake flower-squirting, red-nosed, be-wigged messengers of hideous demon-terror. And I’m not just saying that because of the recurring nightmares I’ve been having since what years of therapy have determined to be around the age of 4, but then again, I probably am. For when they would haunt my sleep, the clowns would mostly chase me across a desolate, bone-dry landscape, one filled with brush and tumbleweeds and Sergio Leone camera crews; I tried in vain to run away, but they were relentless, cackling horrifically on their unicycles and popping up from behind cactus after cactus after cactus. This went on for years, pretty much until the nightmares with the Incredible Hulk began, but this is probably oversharing now, as well as a startlingly long intro paragraph.

For the most part, I don’t like to overgeneralize about things I disapprove of, except Fox News anchors and country music, but I feel comfortable saying that clowns should be avoided at all costs; in fact I have endeavored to keep my young son, for instance, away from them for as long as possible. Seriously, if he came up to me right now and said, “Dad, can I have a clown birthday party?” or “Dad, can you buy me a carton of cigarettes?” my only question would involve his preferred level of filtering.


So it is with a high amount of glee — and a pretty serious celebratory shot of spritzer — that I report that I am not alone. According to a study recently published in Nursing Standard magazine, which you get a free football-phone for subscribing to, kids not only don’t like clowns, but are also often scared by them, despite a longstanding cultural directive that compels parents to decorate rooms with assorted clownaphenalia and companies to use them as icons and marketing characters. Why, to this day, the very sight of Ronald McDonald makes me pretty quickly grimace KA-POW.

Many of the 255 surveyed children between the ages 4 and 16, in fact, found clowns “frightening and unknowable,” two traits that didn’t stop them from liking Hannah Montana, but whatever. There’s even a term for the affliction: coulrophobia, an “abnormal or exaggerated fear of clowns” that is “not uncommon among children, but is also sometimes found in teenagers and adults as well,” so says Wikipedia, which is never incorrect.


Related, sort of


But lest you think this is just the irrational, partially drunken rantings of a 34-year-old who should really be over this by now, let us turn to a scientist with a large name: Prof. Paul Salkovskis of Britain’s Maudsley Hospital Centre for Anxiety Disorders and Trauma, which will be breaking ground on a new Clown Wing this spring: “People are typically frightened by things which are wrong in some way, wrong in a disturbingly unfamiliar way,” said Prof. Salkovskis.

Well, Capt. Poindexter, I have a corollary theory: Clown makeup makes you look like a deranged lunatic bent on human suffering. You can’t look not-mortifying in clown makeup. Scarlett Johansson wouldn’t look not-mortifying in clown makeup. I mean, she’d be hot, but mortifying. So let us agree now to put an end to the use of clowns in decoration, advertising and culture. It might not solve everything, but I’d sleep a lot better.


About Jeff Vrabel

My writing has appeared in GQ, Men’s Health, Success, the Washington Post, the official, Indianapolis Monthly, Billboard, Modern Bride and more. View all posts by Jeff Vrabel

9 responses to “Science finally agrees: Clowns are horrifying

  • Robin

    As a child, my grandmother decorated a bedroom with clown statues, clown paintings and (I have no idea where she found it), a set of clown sheets. Needless to say, despite a water bed in that bedroom, no grandchild ever spent the night there.


  • Thomas Stazyk

    This is true! It’s called coulrophobia. And if you don’t have it yet, just check out Killer Klowns from Outer Space, a 1987 movie so bad it’s good.


  • Mindy

    I argued with a co-worker once about how scary clowns are. He insisted that everyone LOOOOOOVES clowns. Just for kicks, I typed Indeed, we are not alone and and you can apparently purchase all kinds of anti-clown paraphanalia so you can express your hatred to the world (my favorite is a shirt that says “Can’t sleep. Clowns will eat me.”)


    • Aspasia

      ““Can’t sleep. Clowns will eat me.””

      That’s one of my favorite lines from one of the funniest Simpsons episodes.

      Personally, I think it’s perfectly normal to recoil at the sight of clowns. I think it’s an animal instinct not to like the face of anything you can’t properly “read”. The permasmile painted on the clowns face isn’t a true emotion, ya know, so is the clown actually happy or waiting to spring on me?

      And I second Thomas Stazyk’s recommendation of Killer Klowns From Outer Space.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: