Coulrophobia. Fear of clowns. Yeah, folks, it’s real. We’re not sure if it’s a generational thing or a nature versus nurture thing, but the time of the clown as a happy-go-lucky bringer of good cheer has gone by the wayside.
These days you’re more likely to see them blood-soaked and maniacal in your local Halloween store than making children laugh with their goofy antics. However, in our ongoing quest to understand human fear, we’ve researched and discovered that society (of course) is most likely to blame for giving these once beloved jesters a bad name.
And being a card-carrying coulrophobiac myself, it’s with great pleasure (and trepidation) that I give you a look into the vilification of these poor souls in this Tip of the Scalpel to Evil Clowns.
We can hypothesize as to why so many people are now disturbed by clowns. However, let’s look at what we do know for a fact. They’re perennially smiling but can’t be happy having to work children’s parties every friggin’ weekend and being forced to wear ridiculously oversized shoes that have to make walking a pain in the ass. And they hide behind face paint. How many good-intentioned people have you ever known that continuously hide their faces? Except perhaps for The Ultimate Warrior and Ace Frehley. Other than that, face paint usually means bad things are about to happen. Am I right, Juggalos?
Let’s look at the theory that coulrophobia is an inborn fear. This is possible, I suppose. In fact, research by the University of Sheffield showed that children are generally frightened of clown-themed decor in hospitals. We researched deeper and found that Dr. Ronald Doctor (Okay, that sounds like a fake name. Thanks, Wikipedia!), a psychology professor at Cal State Northridge, states that young children are “very reactive to a familiar body type with an unfamiliar face.” Hey Bozo! They’re talking to you, you grease-painted menace.
But I’m really not buying into the inborn fear side of this argument. It’s quite obvious that society has been doing its best to drive a wedge between children and clowns for years. And it seems that it’s finally succeeded.
We can’t blame the whole problem on John Wayne Gacy, but he did nothing to advance relations between regular people and the clown population. It certainly takes a bit of time to heal the wounds left by a balloon-toting lunatic on a 33-person killing spree with bodies crammed into his cellar. That’s just not something the general populace tends to overlook quickly. Strike one, clowns!
The entertainment world has certainly been just as guilty in the downfall of the clown. They’ve absolutely peppered us with images and tales of clowns doing all kinds of despicable things. First and foremost, how about The Joker? The Clown Prince of Crime has been terrorizing the good citizens of Gotham City for over 70 years! Do you think a little thing like that goes unnoticed?! Or how about Ronald McDonald? Does he really think that we don’t know he’s been single-handedly clogging arteries, promoting heart-disease, obesity and general bad heath for decades. Do you think slapping his face on the side of a Happy Meal box is going to make up for that? I don’t think so. He’s gotta go. And he can take The Hamburglar and Fry Guys with him. They all creep me out.
How about the music industry? The Insane Clown Posse don’t exactly evoke a warm and fuzzy feeling in people. And Slipknot has a member who embraced the evil clown persona in Shawn “Clown” Crahan (also known as #6 for those of you keeping score at home). Crahan really understands the idea of the traditional values clowns represent. Nothing says good clean family fun like a big red nose and an inverted pentagram carved into your face. Now that’s what I call fun. Send in the clowns? My ass.
The list of evil clowns in film and television has expanded exponentially through the years. Sid Haig as Captain Spaulding in House of 1000 Corpses comes to mind immediately, as does that freaky clown puppet that Jigsaw always works into his Saw traps. I think it’s more the voice in that case though. He’s only three feet tall and riding a tricycle, so physical intimidation kind of goes out the window on that one. And although campy, Killer Klowns from Outer Space represents still another example of these evil bastards among us. It just doesn’t stop. Who could ever forget Pennywise the Clown from Stephen King’s It, one of the ultimate evil jokesters?
But certainly, the single most horrific example of a clown that scarred more children than any other came in 1982 with the release of the legendary horror film Poltergeist. And I could stop writing right here because every single person who grew up around that time knows the exact scene I’m going to talk about. Aside from Carol Anne, there was a young boy, her brother Robbie, in Poltergeist. He had a large clown doll that was kept in a chair at the foot of his bed. He hated this doll and was completely freaked out by it (which leads one to ask why the hell his parents kept the thing by the foot of his bed if it made him nearly crap his pants every time he saw it). Now it wasn’t bad enough that he already got yanked out of his bed by an evil tree branch that busted in his window one night, but as the haunting gets worse, the clown disappears from its chair. It reappears suddenly with a new, demonic looking face and pulls the boy under the bed of all places and tries to strangle the life out of him. At that point I was damaged. To throw gas on the fire, shortly after this Craig T. Nelson hallucinates, tearing all the skin off his face after eating a chicken leg full of maggots. But that didn’t matter; nothing that followed the attack by that face-painted freak could have compared. The damage was done.
As clown horror rolls on, we can now eagerly anticipate an Eli Roth-produced film entitled Clown (basically an evil clown version of Tim Allen’s The Santa Clause). Apparently, a group of filmmakers produced a fake trailer for a movie called Clown. They jokingly attached Roth’s name to it. When Eli caught wind of the film idea and trailer, he loved it. And now, much like Machete and Hobo With a Shotgun (fake trailers from Grindhouse), Clown will become a real-life movie. Great. Coulrophobics worldwide, rejoice!
You’ve tortured us for years, clowns… and it seems like it just keeps getting worse. We’ve got to hand it to you with a Tip of the Scalpel to Evil Clowns.
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