On Halloween we expect to see people walking dressed as all manner of horror movie creations from vampires to werewolves to sheet draped ghosts. But which would you rather run into while walking through a darkened field in the middle of the night, a vampire or a clown? If you answered your door and found someone standing outside asking to use your phone, which would you let into your house? There’s just something about clowns that is unexplainably terrifying to us all.
It’s always interesting to ask why certain popular images designed for entertainment are received so poorly by some groups. But it’s a clear case of the “uncanny valley” at work. Clowns, though clearly human, are exaggerations of what the human form is. And to be specific, the elder male human form. The skin is often painted white, giving it a sort of sickly pallor akin to those who are diseased. Naturally during the evolutionary development of mankind, we learned to avoid those who were sickly looking, as they may carry contagious pathogens. Their eyes are accentuated by massive eyebrows or circles giving their faces the appearance of skulls. In fact, it’s interesting to draw the parallel. What else reportedly has sickly pale skin and massive black eyes?
And as with anything that scares us, we love to share stories in a ritual old as civilization: The campfire ghost story. I leave you with this particularly ghoulish tale passed around for years. Though its veracity can neither be confirmed nor denied, it is a harrowing journey through the macabre and perfect fodder for your next Halloween party.
A babysitter, left caring for a new couple was flipping through the TV when she suddenly got a text message from a friend of hers telling her to check her emails. Not having a computer with her, she searched the house for a computer. She found one in the master bedroom, but standing next to the desk was the statue of a clown smiling merrily with a red polka-dot jumpsuit and its hands out at its sides. Not wanting to use the computer without permission, she walked back down to the living room where she had left her cell phone. She dialed the parents and asked them if she could use their computer. They said she could, and she was about to hang up when she added, “Oh, and is it okay if I throw a sheet over that clown statue in your bedroom?” There was a short pause on the phone, and then the father quickly broke in, “Get the kids and get out of the house. We don’t have a clown statue.”
And if stories like that aren’t enough to make you a Coulrophobic (someone with an incapacitating fear of clowns), don’t forget about the serial killer John Wayne Gayce. Of course, contrary to some modern film adaptations of the killer’s horrific murders, Gayce never actually wore a clown outfit while carrying out the murders. Still, the image of the murderous clown is one of the most powerful and terrifying pop culture icons to be depicted again and again. And that’s no joke.