With clowns and clown attacks making news headlines around the world it is hardly surprising that more and more people are creating a fear of clowns.
But even before this latest happening, a great percentage of the population are known to have suffered from a phobia of clowns – or ‘coulrophobia’.
In fact, it’s thought that around 2% of the population suffer from clown phobia, together with the ‘ihateclowns’ Facebook page listing almost half a million enjoys.
Perhaps the main reason clowns can seem so frightening is because the clown’s make-up makes it impossible to read genuine human emotion.
In order to feel secure, as sighted people we rely on visual cues, facial expressions especially help us to quickly evaluate an individual’s character.
With the clown’s painted face we just can’t do that. The person is hiding behind the make-up, Critter Control Cost and when a person is hiding we might think that he has something to hide – maybe even something not in any way nice.
We might feel that there is something dark or sinister lurking behind the make-up – as was the case with the American mass murderer John Wayne Gacey who in the 1970s, dressed as a clown known as ‘Pogo, murdered over 35 young people. He did not of course, since he had been executed for his crimes.
The ‘menace behind the make-up’ is something that the movies have picked up on. Heath Ledger’s version of ‘The Joker’ in the Batman film for example was made up as a clown, and this made him look even more menacing, more unsettling.
And of course there’s an element of lunacy from the clown’s antics, something unpredictable and out of control about them that can be really unsettling, something which perhaps disturbs our sense of ‘normality’.
The Cultural Factor
There appears to be a cultural element in children’s response to clowns, however. Research from the University of Sheffield in the UK, for example, found that most kids disliked and even feared images of clowns.
While Italian researchers found that children hospitalized for respiratory disorders got better quicker after playing ‘curative clowns’.
Whatever the reason for people’s dislike or fear of clowns, the ‘clown strikes’ currently hitting the news will definitely add to this, possibly for years to come.
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