21 Comments

  1. Brian Wishnefsky

    Speaking of Scary where were the Mental Heath Experts chiming in on the Great Clown Scare of 2016? NOT ones that were in the articles making people feel ok with their “Pseudo Clown o Phobia” while producing Junk Science while making money & Fame off it. It’s amazing this happens & no one says stop this! It’s very odd so many people have Coulrophobia but never seek help? Celebrities claim they have it proudly. It’s the only Phobia that you have where you post it on Facebook & everywhere else! The Professionals are baffled!!! All they can come up with is to attach their PH.D to the article. Ever heard Munchausen Syndrome? etc.. How would ANYONE like their Occupation & Joy in life Trashed like this ? If you can do it to a Clown you can do it to anyone. I’ve studied this absurd phenomenon for years If you don’t believe me Google: “What makes people creepy.” This whole thing really isn’t about Clowns at all. I would be more than happy to debate any so-called expert on this subjectI

    Reply

  2. I really liked this article about Coulrophobia; I continue to learn about being a clown. While this unfortunate fear does exist, true coulrophobia cases are rare. Even I do not like scary Halloween or movie clowns; thanks for “IT” Stephen King. I go the extra mile to be professional; making sure that my attire, appearance, and demeanor does not portray a scary image. To prey on someone’s paralyzing fear is repulsive and immoral. I do and will always respect a person’s fear, real or pretend. That said, I fail to understand why people feel compelled to fake a fear of clowns; roughly 85% to 90%, maybe it’s a “trendy” mental disorder. Seems many in today’s society don’t appreciate the physiological support clowns provide in crisis situations and helping ground others when life is taken too seriously.

    In the short time I’ve been volunteering; I’ve seen people reinforce their own bias while also instilling that prejudice in their children through their own behavior. “Creepy clown,” “freaked out,” and “I hate clowns”; how disheartening. While I respected their space; it was all too obvious that they were trying to be “cute” and fashionable. I’m sure they didn’t realize their actions were discourteous. It is wrong to intentionally be disrespectful to anyone for any reason.

    To be “stylishly rude” to clowns is being unkind to a very compassionate group of individuals. People who volunteer their time in hospitals, nursing homes, schools, and countless other venues; clowns are pillars of the community. Their goal is to enrich the lives of others they encounter and help people forget their troubles. I will always remember one smile that touched the very core of my being, especially considering their illness. That smile is the reward of every clown, making clowning for me worthwhile.

    Reply

    • Hello David,
      I agree, it does baffle me why people pretend to be afraid of clowns, in order to appear trendy!
      I’m glad you have such a professional and kind approach to your audience. Keep fighting the good fight!
      I invite you read the other articles I’ve written on this same topic, there are about 10 in all:
      http://mooseburger.com/moose/tag/coulrophobia/
      Thanks for reading our blog, and for commenting.

      Reply
  3. fearfulchick

    I guess people really do fake it, which I don’t understand at all. But from a person who will avoid a clown in all ways… I don’t care if it’s joker from batman, a scary mask, a supposed to be funny one, it scares me. I have an identical reaction when on bridges, especially stopped on them, and around spiders (big, small, poisonous or not).

    I was a waitress in a busy restaurant. My sister’s grandma worked there too. I had a table of 4 party clowns come in. They were my table, during lunch rush. I could not wait on my section with them there. I could not do it. I wanted my professionalism to be strong enough, so I tried. As I was carrying a tray of coffee out, I was shaking so bad that coffee cups were rattling And coffee was spilling. My sisters grandma came out and waited on them. She told them She was sorry for the wait. And they asked her if I was scared of them. She told them yes. They offered to get up and move to another section so I could handle my tables, but I gave her My section and I went to work in her place. I feel bad to this day, like I was discriminating against working people. It was not about them at all. It was me. It would be like waiting on 4 giant spiders. I just couldn’t.
    The next day, I had 4 men come in and sit in the same spot. They asked if I remembered them. I said no. I took their order, waited on them. They told me, it’s nice to see me smile. Said they’d definitely come back when they were in town again. I said, where are you from. They told me They were with the circus, and got a balloon out and made a poodle. One said, now do you know. I got red faced and embarrassed because I knew it was my clowns from the previous day. I wasn’t scared of these men at all. One said, “we felt horrible that we scared you yesterday, so we drove 45 minutes to come back to show you, we are just regular people.” I apologized to them for being rude. I know they weren’t anything to be scared of now. I know how ridiculous it is. I know. Fear is an irrational thing most of the time. But truth be told, if they came back dressed as clowns, I don’t think I would have been able to separate them from the fear.

    I don’t know if others fake it. I don’t know why people would think it’s funny to fake phobia. Personally, I hate telling people. I like being able to rely on no one, and I prefer to have control of myself. So for a person like me, fear of anything is a lack of control, and I hate it. I read about it. I try to face it. But it’s still there.

    My fear of spiders, I get. Its understandable to a degree. I was bitten by a brown recluse spider at about 11 or 12. It made me sick. I had a bad reaction and needed antibiotics, the skin began to cave in. I was dehydrated from the fever.

    I never had a run in with a bridge or clown to make me scared, but it’s there and it’s real.
    I hated those pop-up jack in the box as a kid, so maybe it stems from that? My mom had those mask type things People hung on the walls and they creeped me out. I don’t know where it come from, I wish I did though. I do know that my fear started early on. Its not based on a fad or whatever. What 4-6 year old fakes fear of clowns, when no one else they know has the fear?

    My point in commenting, please don’t count it out as truth. If someone is faking it, then so be it. But I have to tell you, if even one person you come into contact is and you disregard it as far, then your intention as a clown, has been lost. Don’t let the incessant need of a few to be ironic, get in the way of sensitivity for those that could be thrown into a full blown anxiety/panic attack. Panic turns to hyperventilating and I don’t think your intentions are to send a person to the hospital or worse. Fear can be dangerous, so even if some fake, err on the side of caution for those who aren’t.

    Also, who are you all to tell someone they need to get over it? Now the anchor shouldn’t have said your daughter/clowns are creepy. But to expect her or others not to shutter with fear or whatever, is ridiculous on your part. Don’t jump down my throat here, but being a clown is a choice, being in the presence of one is not. She had to be there. Now let’s use an example, say you’re scared of snakes or spiders and your boss makes you sit through a segment with a spider guy or a snake trainer (whatever). If you’re scared of them, how can you not shutter with fear?

    This article gives the impression that fear of clowns should be a civil offense. Its a choice. I don’t choose to be fearful. I don’t get attention for it. If I’m out eating and having fun and a clown comes in, my persona changes. My head goes down or I leave. That’s not my choice, it is what a fear makes me do. Fear is not rational. Being a douchebag to someone for a fear because you don’t understand it is not ok. I’m sorry if it hurts your feelings but I’m shaking, sweating, nauseous, heart pounding, etc., I’m freaking out on the inside. How can I possibly my be concerned with your feelings during this? The difference between a truly fearful person and a faker is, you won’t be in my presence long enough to know how I feel, as I surely won’t be sticking around to talk.

    Reply

    • Thank you for your comments and honest feelings. It always helps to hear it from those with real coulrophobia.
      I agree with you; I cannot comprehend why people would fake their fear. Yet, 90% of the people who loudly protest that they are “scared of clowns” are not truly afraid; they just want the attention. It happens at each and every parade, without fail.
      Believe me, we clowns can tell who are the ones afraid, because they never say anything and leave the vicinity immediately. They do not call attention to themselves. It would go against everything we stand for to approach someone who does not want to interact with clowns. We must have compassion for them and give them their space.
      I don’t recall telling the anchor-woman to “get over it”. I would never be so callous to those with a phobia. I appreciate you giving me another angle from which to view the situation. From now on I will reconsider those who are forced by their profession to deal with the very objects of their fear. It may have been her job on the line if she refused to sit through the segment. Thank you for your insight; I did not consider it from her side.
      The point I was hoping to get across in this article was about bullying against clowns by people who should know better. Since the people with coulrophobia are not vocal about it, I am not pointing the finger at them.
      I am disappointed with the media and companies who use offensive images of clowns to promote their products, and with people who just don’t “get” that is not right to be disrespectful.
      I think the anonymity of social media has transferred to real life, and people have lost their sense of courtesy and tact. It’s one thing to post your opinions and emotions on Twitter or Snapchat, but it’s something else when you are face-to-face with someone and hurting their feelings.
      I’m sure I sound like an old fogey shaking her walking cane at the young whipper-snappers these days. LOL! But it just seems like people in general (not just teenagers) are going out their way to be rude and heckle clowns. Whatever happened to the adage “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all”?

      Reply
      • Cristina Ungstad Yu

        After reading these comments, I’m going to have a stereotype of clowns as thoughtful, articulate and compassionate people. 🙂 Thank you for sharing your perspective.

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    • Cathy

      This is so true! Why has become acceptable for people to say to my face “I hate clowns” and then snicker with their friends? Would they say that to me if I didn’t have my costume and make-up on? I doubt it.
      Its as if the costume gives them license to treat clowns as if there was no human underneath.
      I hear similar stories from cosplayers. In case you are not familiar with this hobby, these are people who dress up in costumes and make-up as characters from film/television/video games. They attend conventions (like Comic-Con) or public events (like parades or grand openings).
      My friends who are cosplayers tell me instances where people will forget there is a real person wearing that costume, and they will touch the person or costume, or say inappropriate comments to them. It’s not like the costumes are sexy or revealing, either!
      These things would never happen if that cosplayer was wearing a normal t-shirt and jeans.
      What is it about a costume that makes the public think they can be disrespectful?
      Is wearing a costume in public some sort of announcement that it is okay for everyone else to treat them as if they don’t have feelings anymore?
      I know its my choice to wear a costume and makeup, but clowns and cosplayers are still people. I’m not forcing anyone to talk to me. They just come up to be and say rude things.
      I guess I don’t get how people can be so mean and then be surprised when the clown or cosplayer responds with: “You hurt my feelings just now. You would never say to to my face if I wasn’t wearing this costume, right? So what gives you to audacity to say something so mean to me?”
      It is bullying. But what’s different about this sort of bullying is that they don’t even realize they are being mean. Maybe the costume disrupts their perception and it doesn’t dawn on them that their is a human being underneath it? Most bullys have the intention of hurting feelings or getting something out of the action. But these new bullys are just insensitive.

      Reply

  4. Not a clown — but I have learned a heckuva lot from clowns and have massive respect for what you do. Will write, but here — as well — are the comments I put up when sharing this post on my personal Facebok:

    Here’s a clip from a local news show where an anchor goes off on how “creepy” a clown’s “painted on smile” is (because there’s nothing creepy about the insincere smile of a news anchor)…and I need to rant about what a clown is, and what a clown isn’t

    Many of the performing titans on whose shoulders contemporary comedy stands — Red Skelton, Buster Keaton, Charlie Chaplin — were clowns.

    As I look at the people performing today who I’ve learned from — whether watching from afar, working together, or studying with –some of the brightest lights are (or started out as) clowns: Bill Irwin, Avner Eisenberg, Chuck Sidlow, Karen Bell, Robin Eurich, Steve Russell, Elena Day, Kenneth Ahern, Giovanni Livera and the many hard-working artists whose names I’m forgetting.

    And I realize that our culture has forgotten what clowning is. A clown isn’t someone who puts on make-up. It sure as hell isn’t a desperate $75 birthday entertainer with a rainbow wig from party city.

    A clown is someone who has worked hard to connect with another human being through playfulness. It has nothing to do with make-up (that’s just a tool for a character to project to the back of a large arena)

    Clowns ground us when we take ourselves too seriously. They confront the powerful (Chaplin’s “The Great Dictator” took on Hitler two years before the rest of America did). They connect us (in 2009-2010 I got an up-close look at the way great clowns were able to enrich the lives of patients and residents in hospitals and nursing homes through the incredible work of The Circus Arts Conservancy’s “Laughter Unlimited” program). They remind us that we’re alive.

    In short: I’d much rather hang with clowns than with someone who feels threatened by an artist celebrating joy…

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  5. Good for you for writing that letter, Pricilla! As both a clown and a journalist/co-publisher of a newspaper, I am disgusted to learn about Ms. Clifft’s blatant disregard for journalistic ethics. It is an example of yellow journalism at its worst. Have you sent a copy of the letter you wrote her to her boss, i.e., the CEO of the station?

    Reply

  6. Thank you for the opportunity to “sound off” and share. I too wrote Candyce Clifft and trust she is re thinking her comments/behavior. I have been clowning for 25 some years now and still love it. I have found in all these years the derogatory comments predominantly come from females ages 15-40 ( give or take a few years either way) I can also tell you that they are predominantly “drama queens” as you stated, only trying to draw attention to themselves. In 25 years of clowning I would say that I have encountered TRUE clown fears less than 1/2 dozen times…..how do I know? They say nothing, drawing no attention to themselves, they simply exit the room to get away from me. As for responses I have used several…. ” So, you think this is scary? You should see me with no makeup”…..or……”Let me guess, you’ve watched that bad clown movie “It”? ( 90 out of 100 times the answer is yes) . Well, have you ever noticed all those ugly, nasty, mean, scary clowns are guy clowns?” They reply, hey you’re right, I never thought of that. I say you know why?….because girl clowns are not stupid enough to be in a movie like that” ( sorry to the male clowns out there. And if my heckler is a teen….in my most dramatic voice I say in response to their “I’m afraid of clowns, I’m afraid of clowns”……I say……I’m afraid of teens…I’m afraid of teens. All 3 of these responses have always gotten a laugh and 99 out of 100 times….I get I was afraid of clowns, but I’m not afraid of you, you’re so cute!! Also it seems like the majority of people who have been “scared” by a clown, where scared by a male/white face….just telling ya what they tell me. Some males come on too strong, too loud, too fast and sometimes with too exaggerated makeup. Remember you are dealing with children. Lastly I might ad, even in response to the “haunted clown”…there to me is no place for this. Prior to being a clown I was a cop…and both are SUPPOSE to be GOOD not evil. I don’t want to think of either in a bad light….and a haunted clown falls into the “bad light” for me.

    Reply
    • Brian "PuncH" Chamberlin

      Hello,

      My father is a retired Boston Detective I don’t want to think of cops in a bad light either. I don’t think of clowns in a bad light, again I love them. So I totally agree, cops and clowns are supposed to be good not evil. What I do is not evil.

      Do you remember the old “tunnel of love” ride? It was scary on the inside it made people jump into one another’s arms for comfort. That is what I do. As a clown or even as another creature. I will scare some one into some one else’s arms and walk by and whisper “You’re welcome” give a wink and keep walking.

      I also know a lot about coulrophobia. The two top movies people reference when they talk about why they are scared of clowns is “It” with Pennywise, and oddly enough Killer Klowns from outer space. Which boggles my mind. A close 3rd its poltergeist with the clown doll. That causes people issues with Courophobia, Pediophobia (fear of dolls), and Atomotonophobia (fear of something that misrepresents human life. such as Dolls, mannequins, puppets etc.)

      Full white face is the second biggest trigger of coulrophobia. A red nose being the first and a painted on mouth being third. People who have issues with white face can also be triggered by Geisha makeup and other forms of white face. The issue stems from a type of xenophobia, it appears alien and not natural and in turn their brain doesn’t think it is right.

      I have seen people who have true coulrophobia. The ones that when they see a clown they freeze or cry or even drop straight into the fetal position. This is trauma induced fear and has nothing to do with movies. I have had their friends come up to me and encourage me to go after them. That is not fun for that person and that is not funny. And so in those situations I walk away.

      There is a simple cure for coulrophbia. Laughter. The easiest way to get some one over their clown fear is to have them put on a clown nose and look at themselves in the mirror. They see it is funny and even silly. You can not force them to get over it. You just suggest they to go to a costume store and pick up a foam nose for $1.00. and do it on their own time when they are comfortable. This works about 80% of the time. If it does not work the problem has deeper roots and that I cannot help with.

      I’m sorry if what I have done offends anyone. But I really have done a lot of good in my unique style of clowning. It took a lot of courage for me to step forward. I could have hid and not said anything but I figured I could at least shed some light from a different perspective and maybe even help with the problem.

      I will continue to help people get over this absurd fear from my end. I wish you all the best of luck on yours as well.

      May all your days be Circus days.
      ~Brian aka PuncH

      Reply
  7. Jack Kramer - aka "Polyester"

    I’m 75 years old and have come into clowning only within the last three years. Although I’ve enjoyed watching clowns since my childhood, I’ve always encountered people who have what I would describe as a disdain for clowns, beginning with my mother and continuing with my own wife. Several years ago when I began to seriously consider clowning, I was viewing a web site with pictures of clowns and my wife glanced over and said “That’s scary”. Actually, there wasn’t a scary clown shown anywhere on the screen – they were all colorful with very professional-looking makeup.

    Anyway, unbeknown to my wife, I eventually gave clowning a try when a nearby town was holding a spring festival. Two of the organizers were women who owned a country naturals boutique shop in the town and invited me to use their private restroom to change into costume. I guess I was a success because I came home with all kinds of freebies from the different merchants and vendors. I had a great time, but the real mark of success was that I was asked to return for the following year’s festival. After the fact I informed my wife about what I’d done, and I think that somewhat changed her opinion of clowning. What did it was the realization that there are many very normal people out there who enjoy clowns and appreciate our efforts to bring a little more fun into the world.

    I still encounter people who don’t like clowns and I’ve adopted a few tactics in addition to simply staying away from those people. If a child is shy or frightened, I’ll act bashful myself and say that I’m shy too. With other people I’ll say I’m afraid of clowns too … that’s why I never look in a mirror.

    I’ve concentrated on entertaining in nursing homes and at charity events, and have repeatedly been asked to return again. My wife staunchly insists she would never be a clown herself, but (God love her) she takes a bit of pride in this old guy’s success as a clown.

    Reply
    • Pricilla Mooseburger

      Thank you Jack for your thoughtful reply. I’m so glad I got to meet you! You make a wonderful clown!

      Reply
  8. JJ

    I live in Minneapolis and know a few people that claim to be “freaked out” by clowns and say they find them “creepy.” These same people LOVE zombie movies and even dress up as zombies every year at the annual “Zombie Pub Crawl.” I’ve seen photos of them dressed up like this with very gruesome looking costumes and make-up with fake blood everywhere. I’ve asked them how the heck they can say a smiling clown is scary but portraying a decaying corpse is “cool” but they never have an answer. I know the answer though; It’s currently popular to say clowns are creepy. That’s it, nothing more.

    Reply
  9. Brian "PuncH" Chamberlin

    Hello,

    My name is Brian, I am affectionately known as “Punch the Clown”. I am a haunted house clown/actor. I have been working in the haunted house industry for the past 16 years. Most of those years has been as a clown and scaring people.

    Now before you get your pitch forks and mallets hear me out for a moment.

    I love clowns. I have ever since I was small and my parents would bring me to the circus. My favorite part was always the clowns. I think Coulrophobia is an absurd fear as much as Triskaidekaphobia (fear of the number “13” yes just the number) or Leporiphobia (fear of rabbits and/or bunnies). I cannot fathom being scared of clowns. But I understand fear and fear is not always rational.

    Now the question is Am I ” part of the problem? ” I am dressing like a clown and scaring people. I must be a horrible person or a bully right?

    I have wanted to be a circus/party clown for a long time now. So much so that I almost enrolled in the school back in 2005. Life got crazy, I broke my neck, it didn’t happen. But I digress.

    While working as a haunter I have scared thousands upon thousands of people. But for every person I make scream I have also made some one laugh or smile. Haunted house actors are entertainers. When training haunters we tell them if you can’t scare them entertain them and vice versa. Haunting is not traditional clowning but we are entertaining people. Some people like to go see cartoon movies and comedies, others like to see horror movies. Me, I like them all.

    My personal rule is do not scare children. It is cruel and they are to easy to scare. Also scaring children alienates them at an early age from becoming future customers. I teach this to anyone I train as a haunter and especially as a clown haunter. When I was a manager I enforced this rule and even fired actors for breaking it. Note not all haunted house clowns think the way I do it is unfortunate but it is true.

    Being a Clown in a haunted house it is easier for me or other like minded haunter clowns. to approach a scared child than some one with a chainsaw. I tend to crouch down to their level assuring them that is it ok. I roll up my sleeve and show them that it is only makeup. Then tell them that I get to celebrate Halloween for a whole month and that I get a lot of candy. That usually makes them smile. I give them a hive five (on occasion I get a hug) tell them happy Halloween and I am on my way. 5 seconds later I am making a grown man scream.

    While working as a haunted house actor/clown I have volunteered and donated my time to multiple charities and organizations. To help raise money and awareness for many causes.

    here is a picture of me working for a blood drive for The Children’s Hospital in Boston for kids with Leukemia.
    https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=433674957713&set=a.412712367713.199241.551212713&type=3&theater

    During my clown experience I have also helped dozens of people get over and some times even cure their Coulrophobia. Again, I think it is an absurd fear.

    Another thing to note is clown history from the Smithsonian.
    http://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/the-history-and-psychology-of-clowns-being-scary-20394516/?no-ist

    Not everything is black and white, but it’s not grey either. There is a rainbow of different people out there. Good, great, bad, and worse. I dream of a day where everyone loves clowns as much as I do.

    All of that being said. What the reporter did was extremely uncalled for. Her lack of professionalism is sickening. Again things are not always black and white and she should have smiled and nodded and gone about her day instead of blasting clowns across the airwaves.

    I hope this comment is not to long winded. I love everything you all do! all of the newsletters and updates. Maybe some day I will get out to the school and learn some good light hearted clowning techniques. For now it is just a dream.

    Thanks for reading and your time
    ~Brian aka Punch

    Reply

  10. We were at a grand opening of a fitness center. one of the young fitness trainers kept coming by making a comment about john wayne gacy clowns being perverts etc. I asked him to step around the corner. I told him, why dont you come to the hospital with me and see a small child very sick from cancer and you are able to get them to smile if only for a few seconds. Then the mother tells you with tears in her eyes, that is the first time I have seen her smile in a month. I then said to him, now what is it you want to say about clowns. He was speechless and left. We never say him again that day. I have only usef this story a few times. I save it for the true wiseguy. We must defend who we are because nobody else well. God Bless

    Reply
    • Pricilla Mooseburger

      That’s the best response ever! Well done!

      Reply
  11. Betsy Kallmeyer

    Thank you for this article. I appreciate the sample letter and other letters and email on this topic, too. We need to saturate the media with good stuff about clowns. There seems to be a trend, that it’s cool to have a clown phobia, and it’s solely because of the media, so let’s bombard it with the truth, and inspire others to both enjoy clowns and become clowns!

    Reply

  12. I’ve been clowning now for 26 years and I have never run into anyone who was actually afraid of clowns, but every time I have an appearance I find at least one person who pretends to be afraid of clowns. It’s usually an adolescent girl who hides her face and gets all fluttery and I believe that they do it to set themselves apart from their friends. I can’t blame them. They dress alike, wear the same hair styles, listen to the same music, form the same opinions, share the same likes and dislikes…it’s pretty pathetic. My approach while in costume has always been to ignore them. When out of costume…that’s a different story!

    Reply

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