Coulrophobia: Fear of Clowns

Some people like clowns, some don't like them, and others avoid them at all costs!

An extreme fear of clowns
is called coulrophobia. defines coulrophobia as: A persistent, abnormal, and irrational fear of a specific thing or situation that compels one to avoid it, despite the awareness and reassurance that it is not dangerous.

Children are much more likely to be afraid of clowns than adults, although it's more common in adults than you might think. It is possible that this fear has something to do with the exaggerated features of an Auguste clown face, or the total white face of the aptly named Whiteface clown.

An Auguste Clown uses reddish color on the facial skin that is left visible and covers the mouth and eye areas with white make-up to enlarge facial features and make them "grotesque" looking.

A Whiteface Clown leaves no skin color visible - the entire face and neck is painted white, looking quite ghostly. Sometimes the facial features are simply enhanced with black and red, although the Whiteface may eggagerate the size of the mouth and paint on raised eyebrows.

Then there are the wigs...

A rainbow of hair colors can be seen - including all the colors of the rainbow in one wig! Definately not a typical human look.

...and the noses...

Small, painted-on noses, cute little nose tips and, of course, BIG Red Noses! All of these things combined make a pretty frightful sight.

Okay, maybe not. But that doesn't make them any less scary for coulrophobes.

What is behind coulrophobia - this unrational, yet very real, fear that is so intense it can cause a person to become hysterical almost immediately?

Although we don't always remember the events or circumstances that cause our fears, they are all learned, except two: we are born with a startle reflex at loud noises, and a fear of falling. Every other fear we have is learned. Whether through an experience that we can or cannot remember or simply the influence of some important person in our life, we learn to be afraid.

Let me repeat that: We learn to be afraid! The good news is if we learn to fear something, that means it can be unlearned. While that may be easier said than done, it can be done! And here is one way to overcome the fear of clowns:

Clowns Teach People Not To Be Afraid Of ... Clowns

from National Public Radio's (NPR) website dated June 17,2010
"All Things Considered" Michele Norris, Host

Paul Carpenter, aka Popol, and his clown friend Kakehole
Paul Carpenter, aka Popol (right), and his clown friend Kakehole run pre-show therapy sessions.

"Coulrophobia, or fear of clowns, is the third most common phobia in Britain. To help combat that fear, John Lawson's Circus in the U.K. is offering "clown-seling," a pre-show therapy session to help people overcome their fear. Michele Norris, talks with Paul Carpenter, aka Popol, a clown who helps with the sessions."

Listen to the short interview here:

It is my opinion that Hollywood is partially to blame for the widely growing fear of clowns. Too many late 20th century movies have portrayed clowns as frightening, evil creatures who like nothing better than to kill nice people - especially children.

Click to see some
famous and not-so-famous clown movies.