Join 3,411 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Coulrophobia
August 8, 2013 12:39 PM   Subscribe

People have been frightened by clowns for centuries.
posted by Obscure Reference (76 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite

 
Maybe if they wouldn't make creepy vagina hands in front of their crotches like "Weary Willie" here, I might not be so inclined to call Child Protective Services so quickly.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 12:42 PM on August 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


The author was interviewed on All Things Considered on Wednesday.
posted by djb at 12:47 PM on August 8, 2013


Yeah, and ATC really needed to push more on Krusty/Simpsons.. It's fine to talk about historical clowns etc, but Krusty (which gets barely a mention in TFA) is, for better or worse, the zeitgeist of clowns for the past 20 years.
posted by k5.user at 12:51 PM on August 8, 2013


NOPE.
No.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 12:52 PM on August 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


I don't have any particular fear of clowns. BUT. One afternoon while I was at library school a friend of a friend invited a bunch of us over to her parents' place to watch her favourite bad movie, Clifford.* Turns out their living room was The Clown Room; clown pictures all over the walls, clown lamps, clown figurines, clown rugs...virtually everything in the room except the furniture had clowns on it. It was fucking CREEP-PAY.

I had assumed we were going to smoke up, but it was probably a good thing we didn't.

* not a good bad movie.
posted by The Card Cheat at 12:53 PM on August 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


Planes Crash. Clowns kill. Avoid both.
posted by The Whelk at 12:54 PM on August 8, 2013


What's with that whole "hobo/tramp/bum" laugh-at-the-poors clown trifecta?
posted by oceanjesse at 12:54 PM on August 8, 2013


When I was about 15, I got dragged along to the circus over my teenaged-too-cool-for-this objections, because my mom's friend had extra tickets.

In the row in front of us was a little girl, maybe 7 years old, with her mother. One of the early acts was a clown, doing various comedy routines with props.

"Don't you like the clown now?" the mother said

"Noooo," wailed the little girl.

"Why?"

"HE'S CREEPY."

And I thought to myself, "you go, kid."

(Honestly though, overall my sullen teenaged self had a pretty good time that night.)
posted by kagredon at 12:56 PM on August 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


Some circuses have held workshops to help visitors get over their fear of clowns by letting them watch performers transform into their clown persona.


...that's supposed to make them less scary?
posted by Omnomnom at 12:57 PM on August 8, 2013 [5 favorites]


Killed by being swung around by the heels by a circus clown.
posted by Knappster at 12:57 PM on August 8, 2013 [12 favorites]


I'm lucky in that I've never feared clowns, or things that are, in general no real threat to me (gladly phobia-free). The only things clowns are a threat to is comedy.
posted by IvoShandor at 1:07 PM on August 8, 2013


"Killed by visitation of God"
posted by angrycat at 1:18 PM on August 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


I like clowns. But maybe not in Clown Room quantity. That's kinda weird.
posted by asperity at 1:19 PM on August 8, 2013


Sometimes I think this notion of "coulrophobia" is so prominent largely because it's a popular topic of discussion. People love to tell everyone how creepy clowns are and how much they hate them. I've heard so many people say the same things about disliking clowns.

I'm very contrarian about this and I get annoyed thinking about people who talk about how scary clowns are. I don't know why. It's totally irrational. I almost want to start an anti-anti-clown club.
posted by ChuckRamone at 1:21 PM on August 8, 2013 [10 favorites]


Clowns and tornadoes are the only things I really find consistently scary. A tornado made of clowns would be the most terrifying thing the world has ever seen. Swirling death a quarter-mile wide speeding across the plains with the sounds of houses ripped apart, screams cut short, and honking noses echoing for miles...
posted by Blue Meanie at 1:22 PM on August 8, 2013 [6 favorites]


I had a friend who kept dating clowns. Serious. She once met this Wall Street dude and thought she was free of the curse, then went to his place and on the wall was a photo of him in full clown regalia. True story
posted by angrycat at 1:22 PM on August 8, 2013 [26 favorites]


Ugh. One of my best friends hates clowns with a passion. She actually changed her commute (lengthening it significantly) because there was a clown billboard on her usual route. She refused to drive on that road until her husband assured her that the clown billboard had been replaced with a different one.
posted by Elly Vortex at 1:26 PM on August 8, 2013


Clowns don't frighten me. I just find them...creepy. And very unfunny.
posted by Thorzdad at 1:28 PM on August 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


Discovering Jerez the Clown is one of my early fond memories of the internet... well until I realised those eyes were going to haunt me for life
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 1:28 PM on August 8, 2013


You know what would be really scary? A clown studded with lots and lots of holes.
posted by Renoroc at 1:29 PM on August 8, 2013 [4 favorites]


Clowns aren't scary. via
posted by cjorgensen at 1:34 PM on August 8, 2013


Blue Meanie, are you angling for a job as a writer at syfy ?
posted by k5.user at 1:37 PM on August 8, 2013 [4 favorites]


What, no Shakes the Clown links yet? Here's Binky!
posted by dougzilla at 1:38 PM on August 8, 2013


Sometimes I think this notion of "coulrophobia" is so prominent largely because it's a popular topic of discussion. People love to tell everyone how creepy clowns are and how much they hate them. I've heard so many people say the same things about disliking clowns.

I'm very contrarian about this and I get annoyed thinking about people who talk about how scary clowns are. I don't know why. It's totally irrational. I almost want to start an anti-anti-clown club.


I'm the same way about the word moist. NO, YOU HAVE NOT ALL INDEPENDENTLY COME TO THE CONCLUSION THAT IT'S THE GROSSEST WORD, NO YOU HAVEN'T
posted by showbiz_liz at 1:41 PM on August 8, 2013 [16 favorites]


Obligatory
posted by double block and bleed at 1:46 PM on August 8, 2013


I hate to sound like Sophia Petrillo, but . . . Picture it, rural Illinois, 1979. I'm about 11 years old. All over the news, there are reports of a guy in Chicago who lured teenage boys into his home, raped them, killed them, and buried their bodies in his home.

And oh, by the way, the guy who did this, he was a CLOWN.

Still hate clowns. Always will.
posted by MoxieProxy at 1:52 PM on August 8, 2013 [4 favorites]


ChuckRamone: "Sometimes I think this notion of "coulrophobia" is so prominent largely because it's a popular topic of discussion. People love to tell everyone how creepy clowns are and how much they hate them. I've heard so many people say the same things about disliking clowns.

I'm very contrarian about this and I get annoyed thinking about people who talk about how scary clowns are. I don't know why. It's totally irrational. I almost want to start an anti-anti-clown club.
"

I've thought clowns were creepy since I first saw one when I was 4. That was in the mid-70s, long before internet meme-groupthink.
posted by double block and bleed at 1:54 PM on August 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


A moist clown in panties.
posted by mmmbacon at 1:54 PM on August 8, 2013 [10 favorites]


There is a my-family famous photo of me at age 4-ish at the circus giving a nearby clown a horribly suspicious stinkeye. I've always found them weird and off-putting.
posted by elizardbits at 1:56 PM on August 8, 2013


A moist clown in panties.

What the fuck is wrong with you?? That made me spit-laugh at my screen.
posted by MoxieProxy at 1:57 PM on August 8, 2013 [10 favorites]


As someone who couldn't possibly care less about clowns, I think it's hilarious to try to scare the coulrophobes. Come on, guys! Look at the clown! He's got a smile painted on, how scary could he be?
posted by jenlovesponies at 1:57 PM on August 8, 2013


Check out the photos of the Clown Motel in the middle of nowhere, Nevada. It was disturbing seeing it at the Nevada high noon - at night I shudder to think how it looks.
posted by GuyZero at 1:58 PM on August 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


Come on, guys! Look at the clown! He's got a smile painted on, how scary could he be?

That's what's scary. Imagine a person who has to paint a smile on their face, so it will stay there. Imagine this person wants to be around children. Imagine that this person goes to the store looking for paint, then stays in the mirror for like a half hour, carefully painting a semi-permanent smile on their face.
posted by cashman at 2:01 PM on August 8, 2013 [4 favorites]


Can't sleep, clown'll eat me.
posted by FJT at 2:02 PM on August 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


mmmbacon: A moist clown in panties.

[flagged as offensively fantastic]
posted by Rock Steady at 2:04 PM on August 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


The weirdest thing about clowns is when you're driving and you glance over at the car in the next lane and there's a clown at the wheel.
posted by Atom Eyes at 2:06 PM on August 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


Check out the photos of the Clown Motel in the middle of nowhere, Nevada. It was disturbing seeing it at the Nevada high noon - at night I shudder to think how it looks.

I feel safe saying that there is no way that the clowns are the scariest thing about that place.
posted by IvoShandor at 2:06 PM on August 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


"This is just a gig, it's not my life."
posted by gompa at 2:08 PM on August 8, 2013


ChuckRamone: I'm very contrarian about this and I get annoyed thinking about people who talk about how scary clowns are. I don't know why. It's totally irrational.

If you don't have time to read the full Smithsonian article, the All Things Considered segment is something of a condensed version. A good take-away comment:
I think there is something fundamentally disturbing to people about someone who covers their face with makeup. The other thing that you hear is that clowns are able to engage in activity that is usually not socially sanctioned, and they don't suffer any consequences for having done it.
I don't (generally*) find clowns disturbing, but I understand these thoughts of concealment or distortion and breaking personal barriers.

* John Wayne Gacey's paintings of clowns are creepy on their own, and more so for the context of who painted them.
posted by filthy light thief at 2:08 PM on August 8, 2013


Knappster: "Killed by being swung around by the heels by a circus clown."

Well, he died doing what he loved.
posted by invitapriore at 2:14 PM on August 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


Someone who is afraid of clowns told me this joke 15 years ago. The punchline is like a secret incantation for me, I laugh every time I think about it.
posted by peeedro at 2:19 PM on August 8, 2013 [4 favorites]


Just remembered this 'news' story: Woman with fear of clowns marries circus colleague – who is a clown
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 2:20 PM on August 8, 2013


Meanwhile, on the heels of Grimaldi’s fame in Britain, the major clown figure on the Continent was Jean-Gaspard Deburau’s Pierrot

HOLY SHIT it finally makes sense to me why they call clowns "Pi -e-ro" in Japan.

People love to tell everyone how creepy clowns are and how much they hate them

Yeah it's probably overdone in pop culture, but seriously people in masks are kinda creepy sometimes. People in masks that you don't know and want to interact with you, doubly so. People in masks that you don't know and want to interact with small children who are supposed to completely overlook that there's anything creepy about it at all, I don't even know. The whole thing is weird.

The concept of the clown to me isn't scary or gross. The cartoon version is fine. It's the practical part of it, the reality of a clown that is weird. I mean, the image is great, but when you get up a bit closer it's really obvious that it's some strange dude and he smells like an actual dude and he has bad breath like a dude and he sweats and has stubble/hair/blemishes/etc like regular dudes have and his makeup isn't totally even and its all oily and the wig and nose look really stupidly fake now and why are you doing this, man...it really drives home that this isn't the fun happy cartoon clown but some guy in bizarre makeup and the creepy factor goes up a whole bunch.
posted by Hoopo at 2:22 PM on August 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


I go back and forth on clowns: sometimes I find them creepy, other times they just seem garishly outdated, like savory Jell-O or ads with doctors recommending particular cigarette brands.

Although I was freaked out by the clown-themed toy drum set I saw in the Sears Wish Book as a little kid. The clown was freaky enough, but the words "Tot Traps" really pushed it over the top. Why are you trying to lure kids into a trap, you horrible clown?
posted by Metroid Baby at 2:32 PM on August 8, 2013


She once met this Wall Street dude and thought she was free of the curse, then went to his place and on the wall was a photo of him in full clown regalia.

[Sad trombone]
posted by MartinWisse at 2:34 PM on August 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


Why don't cannibals eat clowns?
Because they taste funny.
posted by dougzilla at 2:40 PM on August 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


[Sad trombone]
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 2:42 PM on August 8, 2013


Planes Crash. Clowns kill. Avoid both.

Ironically, this plane fails to crash.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 2:48 PM on August 8, 2013


Pennywise----so you never forget.
posted by Seymour Zamboni at 2:59 PM on August 8, 2013


[Sad trombone]
posted by cashman at 2:59 PM on August 8, 2013


When in college one Halloween, I had a novel Idea for a costume. A clownpire—half clown, half vampire. I got a clown jumpsuit and a black vampire’s cape for the costume. I painted my face white and put bloody dribbles down my chin. Round clown nose and vampire teeth. And the best part: a big rainbow wig with that I slicked backwards with a lot of gel and Vaseline. I even cut a deep Widows’ Peak in the center. In short, it was probably the best Halloween costume I ever conceived.

At my friend’s party, some people really dug my outfit and some folks were scared of me. As in, genuinely frightened. It started as a joke, like “Ah, you’re scary, haha” but progressed into stares and people just not talking to me much. I distinctly remember some girl making a big, inconvenient circle to go around me, as well some genuinely nasty stares. No love for clowpires, I guess.
posted by zardoz at 2:59 PM on August 8, 2013 [9 favorites]


I think it goes back to the time I went to the circus and a clown killed my dad.
posted by Cookiebastard at 3:04 PM on August 8, 2013 [12 favorites]


My wife is one of those weird people that actually likes clowns and thinks they're funny and gets indignant when you talk about how they're creepy. I have no idea how to explain it to her. How do you explain wolves to a deer that doesn't know fear instinctively? By the way, these things may walk up to you and murder you for no reason or because they're hungry. That's what they do. Clowns, I mean, wolves are largely misunderstood and hunted out of fear, whereas clowns are totally understood and should be hunted, period.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 3:11 PM on August 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


One word.
Juggalos.
posted by radwolf76 at 3:16 PM on August 8, 2013


Com'on, GuyZero, you can do better than that! The Nevada Clown Motel is a special kind of place You know it's the only one with the cemetery located behind the motel! Of course, everyone's welcome. Don't forget to visit the Memorial Room.
posted by BlueHorse at 3:31 PM on August 8, 2013


I seriously had no idea about the cemetery. I actually drove by it this summer and was pretty weirded out.
posted by GuyZero at 3:42 PM on August 8, 2013


Clowny clown clown.
posted by mr_roboto at 3:48 PM on August 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


Gah. CLOWNS!
posted by sfts2 at 3:50 PM on August 8, 2013


It floats!
posted by bookman117 at 4:02 PM on August 8, 2013


I am having fun CTRL-Fing "it" in this thread and then taking comments way out of context.
posted by burden at 4:13 PM on August 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


Some circuses have held workshops to help visitors get over their fear of clowns by letting them watch performers transform into their clown persona.
...that's supposed to make them less scary?


Seriously, Sesame Street pulled that shit when I was little and it terrified me so much I couldn't watch the show for months.
posted by christopherious at 4:28 PM on August 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm sorry. I couldn't help myself.
posted by 4ster at 4:37 PM on August 8, 2013


Clowny clown clown.
Think I'll clip you across the nose, clown.

(I love that song).
posted by Redfield at 5:38 PM on August 8, 2013


When I was in middle school, I always imagined that one day when I was a rich adult, I'd have a decent sized place, and one day, I'd buy a bunch of beer and snacks n shit, and hire a bunch of clowns to come hang out. Like, they wouldn't have to juggle or do tricks or shit, just kick it, they just had to keep their getup on. They'd still get paid and everything, extra probably. Maybe watch a movie, I don't know. Maybe they'd like Street Fighter.

I still think it's a good idea.
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 5:38 PM on August 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm surprised Killer Klowns From Outer Space hasn't been mentioned yet. The first photo from the article really looks like one of the clowns from the movie, to me. The movie sort of makes the creepier side of clowns really clear. Review at rotten tomatoes.
posted by annsunny at 6:03 PM on August 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm one of those people that hates clowns. My mom used to collect clown figurines, which she conveniently displayed in a large glass case dimly lit at night by a single low power light bulb... Try growing up with that and not having an aversion.

I wouldn't say I'm afraid of them so much as they disgust me. When I see one I feel sick to my stomach and have to leave the vicinity to feel better again. Luckily my clown sightings are rather rare these days.
posted by fishmasta at 7:00 PM on August 8, 2013


I guess I'm some kind of hipster-coulrophobe. I hated clowns before it was cool.
posted by Lizard at 9:01 PM on August 8, 2013


People in masks that you don't know and want to interact with small children who are supposed to completely overlook that there's anything creepy about it at all, I don't even know. The whole thing is weird.

I wonder if increased coulrophobia is also connected to the increased focus on pedophilia.

Like, these are adults pretending not to be adults. Behaving wannabe funny and pushing boundaries. Hiding behind masks. Specifically targetting little kids.
posted by Omnomnom at 12:21 AM on August 9, 2013


I think clowns are ok. They juggle and fall off things and look funny. Nothing wrong with that. The reason I was terrified of clowns as a kid and still don't want to see a show with clowns is the participatory aspect. Even if you don't volunteer, they'll pick you and not take no for an answer, and some people have really cruel senses of humor. Every time I go to some sort of show, I find myself trying to be as small, boring, unfriendly, and invisible as possible. It's usually a clown issue, but magicians, bellydancers, and various street performers and presenters do that shit, too.

It's not the wig or the fakeass smile, it's being stuck in front of everyone and being ridiculed. Fuck you, clown.
posted by blnkfrnk at 12:34 AM on August 9, 2013


I didn't really think that a post about people being scared of clowns would have a bloody great picture of a clown as soon as I clicked on it. So I closed it and now will try and calm down.

Put a warning on there! If you believe people can be scared of clowns then don't put them in the position of having to look at them.

Yes, I have coulrophobia. Apparently I reacted badly to clowns before I could walk. I have also taken circuitous routes to avoid their images and a few years ago when there was an inexplicable series of clown posters with nothing but a very small web address (which led to no contact details) I found a contact via looking up whois and complaining about their clowns. They had never heard that people have a genuine fear of representations of clowns.
posted by bwonder2 at 1:01 AM on August 9, 2013


Grew up in Chicago in the late 70s. I'll pass on the clowns, thank you.
posted by professor plum with a rope at 1:17 AM on August 9, 2013


I've never been scared by clowns. But I have always been scared by the Joker, ever since I was a little kid. The Joker is terrifying.
posted by X-Himy at 6:25 AM on August 9, 2013


I have a co-worker with coulrophobia. Very bad coulrophobia. She reacts to clowns with either a fight or flight response. If you are a lone clown in her presence and she has nowhere to go, she is likely to deck you (and she can). I was going to share the article with her, but the slideshow at the start would be enough to set her off.

Several years ago we were attending a conference around Hallowe'en and as a perk the attendees were given free entrace to a local theme park's fright night. You know what they had in the plaza just past the entrance? Creepy/scary clowns with chainsaws. Real chainsaws with no chain. She almost went catatonic, and I think this was the loudest I've ever yelled to get the "cast member" to back the fuck down. We got a non-costumed employee to help escort her in past the gauntlet of chainsaw clowns.
posted by plinth at 6:30 AM on August 9, 2013


I'm not afraid of clowns; it's more that I'm seriously creeped out by them. Even as a child, I assumed they were up to no good. Why else would a grown man dress up like that and hang around children all the time? Beyond that, clowns always seemed so tacky to me. It was easy to see through the garish makeup and cheap costumes, which just reinforced my belief that here was this creepy guy hanging out with children .

Having said that, it was quite refreshing and almost healing to see Homey D. Clown on In Living Color in the early '90s.

posted by oozy rat in a sanitary zoo at 7:51 AM on August 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


When I traveled to Ecuador in 2009, I noticed something strange. If you got a little ways away from Quito, all the trashcans started having clown faces on top of them. Each clown's mouth was the hole for the trash. If we had to throw away something, we would call it "feeding the clown."

We stopped at a convenience store and asked the clerk, "Hey man, what's the deal with the clowns?" He didn't really know, said it had always been that way. That's how I came to know that the Spanish word for clown is payaso.

I've always been a bit creeped out by clowns, and there's something special about the sight of a clown face with its mouth overflowing with trash. Staring at you with lifeless eyes. Waiting to be fed.
posted by A Bad Catholic at 8:14 AM on August 9, 2013


Grew up in Chicago in the late 70s. I'll pass on the clowns, thank you.

One of my friends in first grade (I think) was the overly indulged child of north-shore zillionaires and he had not just any clown for his birthday, but the real, in-the-flesh Bozo, Bob Bell himself, who by those days was terribly close to retirement. That experience made Krusty so much more real to me in later life!
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 10:28 AM on August 9, 2013


« Older How One Group of Seniors Bucked Convention and Avo...  |  In anticipation of the Wii U V... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments