The Science Behind Coulrophobia: The Fear of Clowns
A stranger disguised in garish face paint, with awkwardly proportioned body parts and a penchant for maniacal laughter… It’s not without reason that so many of us find clowns a tad, erm… Unsettling. In fact, an empirical study by a team at Knox College in Illinois found clowns topped the list when it came to creepiest ranked professions, edging out taxidermists (take that, Norman Bates!). There’s even a special term for the condition of being morbidly freaked out by clowns: coulrophobia. The list of symptoms include nausea, feelings of dread, accelerated heartbeat, and, as most every child can attest, many, many tears.
Making matters worse for Bozo and his buds, those notorious “killer clown” sightings which marked last year’s news cycle have begun cropping up again following the big-screen release of IT, adapted from Stephen King’s novel of the same name. The film tells the story of an evil entity whose preferred form is Pennywise the Clown and whose hobbies include devouring children in between 27-year-long naps.
While we might have King to thank for adding clowns to the ranks of pop culture’s greatest horror icons, he’s adamant that IT is not to blame for making them scary. In a Tweet from April 2017, King stated, “The clowns are pissed at me. Sorry, most are great. BUT…kids have always been scared of clowns. Don’t kill the messengers for the message.”
And King may be right, if a recent scientific study is to be believed…