Are You Afraid of Clowns

By: Christine Hersom


(3 min read)

Do you have any fears that people tell you are irrational? What makes a fear irrational? Who decides what is rational and what is irrational? Some people are afraid of spiders, snakes, or small spaces. I have a terrifying fear of clowns. I have been afraid of clowns for as long as I can remember. My first time at the circus as a little girl, I saw a clown, and the terror was very real to me. I was crying, hyperventilating, and begging to leave. My father was furious. He even tried the “bringing the fear to the child” method. He called the clown over and made me sit on his lap. I still remember to this day the absolute terror I felt. I was sweating, shaking, and hyperventilating. Needless to say, it didn’t cure me of my fear of clowns…it made it worse.

What is it with clowns? They are everywhere. They go to children’s parties, take part in parades, visit hospitals, and even represent fast food. Don’t even get me started on the clowns in horror movies. Stephen King has always been one of my favorite authors. I thought I would read his book “IT” and get past the fear of clowns. It didn’t work. I couldn’t see the clown, but reading about it made me hyperventilate. It is the only Stephen King novel I was unable to finish.

Nothing about clowns makes me smile. They are creepy. Their garish makeup makes them look like they are dead. The only thing worse than a big clown is little children dressed as clowns. These, to me, are the most terrifying.

Why are clowns so terrifying? Is it their creepy painted faces, the big floppy shoes, or that they are always trying to play tricks on us?

The first time I went to a large hospital to see a sick friend, I didn’t even make it to her floor. Clowns were everywhere. I made my parents promise never to take me to that hospital if I was sick.

As a person with a healthy dose of coulrophobia (fear of clowns), I can honestly say that it’s not just the clown’s appearance that scares me. It’s the fact that they seem to be everywhere, lurking in the shadows, waiting to pounce when you least expect it. I have yet to see a clown that does not scare me. I even find the McDonald’s clown to be frightful. I know clowns are supposed to make you smile and bring you joy. However, in my reality, they make me sweat like a long-distance runner. Clowns also don’t talk. What the heck is that about? If you are trying to make a little kid smile, try talking.

My grandchildren love clowns and horror movies with clowns. My granddaughter wears that evil Stephen King clown on a t-shirt at least once a week. When she visits my house with the T-shirt on, I make her turn it inside out or change it. She thinks that is hilarious, so she tries to wear the T-shirt often.

As an adult, I try to avoid clowns whenever possible, but I also prepare myself to see one in situations where you would expect them to be. However, I was at the gas station the other day filling my truck. I put the hose in my tank, pressed the on button, then started to people watch (large SUV, so big tank and lots of time). I was looking all around, and nothing struck my interest. I started to turn back towards my truck when from out of nowhere, a clown was driving the car behind me. WHAAAAT? It caught me so off guard and scared me so much that I dropped the hose. Now with the price of gas, I can’t afford to have gasoline pouring onto the ground. I was flopping around trying to catch the hose when a big white-gloved hand handed it to me. I knew before I looked up that it was the clown. I started hyperventilating. I just knew a severe panic attack was coming on. The clown knew it too. He kept telling me to breathe and relax. When he realized that I was not calming down, he calmly put the hose back in the gas tank, returned to his car, and moved to another pump. I have never been so embarrassed in my life. Now like most clowns, this guy was very nice. He recognized my fear and tried to alleviate it the best that he could.

My fear of clowns prevented me from thanking him for doing what he did. I hope that someday he sees this and knows that it was nothing personal.


Christine Marshall Hersom
All Things Wellness, LLC

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