I have a fear of clowns. Some people tell me it’s an irrational fear. Whatever. I know I’m not alone with my terror. If I was the only adult afraid of clowns, Stephen King could not have written the best seller IT. And the USPS couldn’t have made that shipping commercial about returning the clown doll.
What is it about clowns that make them scary?
After all, clowns delight children. Clowns entertain us. They wear big floppy shoes, crazy patterned clothes, and red rubber noses. Hilarious.
I believe my fears stem from my earliest exposure to evening news. As a child in the seventies, I remember listening to the reports about John Wayne Gacy. The serial killer dressed as a clown to go drinking—perhaps trolling for his next victim. I remember my mother and my schoolteachers’ warnings. Never take candy from or go anywhere with a stranger. If you don’t recognize them as a close friend, do not go with them.
Clowns, as we all know, purposely conceal their identity with face paint, and hand out treats like candy and balloons. They ask us to follow them, playing silly games. NOT ON YOUR LIFE!
I have a friend at my church who dresses up as a clown for special events. He is the sweetest man you’ll ever meet, honorable in every way. I know his wife and children; they are a wonderful family. He wouldn’t hurt a fly. When he’s a clown, however, he scares me. I’ve explained this to him. He just smiles.
Clowns scare me because they could be anyone. They paint on smiles. They wear clothes that mask their true physique. They speak in funny voices, if they speak at all. They deceive. They are strangers.
Many movies depict clowns as loveable entertainers, like Jimmy Stewart’s character, Buttons, in 1952’s The Greatest Show on Earth, though even Buttons had a shady past.
Most producers recognize the potential for evil behind a completely concealed persona—a perfect villain. Thus, we see Jack Nicholson playing The Joker in Tim Burton’s 1989 release of Batman. We get invaded by Killer Clowns from Outer Space. We hide from Tim Curry’s Pennywise in IT. The clown doll tries to strangle the little boy in Poltergeist.
They terrify us. They haunt us. They live under our beds.
Am I justified in my fear of harlequins and fools? You tell me—I’ll be the one quaking in fear under the covers.
That’s a wrap for this Toast to Cinema. Thanks for reading!