The Phobia of Clowns and Mimes

What is Coulrophobia?


     Coulrophobia is the excessive fear of clowns or mimes. It is a phobia which has only been known for a few decades, dating back to the 1980s. It is therefore not as old as some other phobias, but then clowns and mimes might not be as old as some things which people have a fear of.


MimeCredit: wikimedia commons

How Common is Coulrophobia?

     Coulrophobia is actually quite common. Clowns are supposed to be fun and interesting, yet many people fear them. Perhaps not the people behind the clown exterior, but the look of a clown. Movies where clowns are the antagonist really don't help matters and may even turn someone who enjoys clowns into a coulrophobic. In any case, there's just something about clowns that many people see as frightening and unsavory.

     Maybe its the weird makeup or hair, maybe its the nose. Maybe its even the clowns prank like manner or laugh. Clown laughs can sound very strange, even frightening. It is however not only that which might have resulted in a persons dislike or fear of clowns.

     Some people are even afraid of people who are professional clowns, but are not in costume, just because they play one. Just imagine if you were a clown and your fiancee had coulrophobia and only later found out about your job or volunteer work as a clown. Sadly, you might not have a fiancee anymore!

     If one were to take a look at the history of clowns, they might well find many contributing factors to why coulrophobia is so common and widespread.

The Disasters and Crimes of Clowns Weary Willie and Others

     Weary Willie was a character, a clown made up by Emmett Kelly I, but the character was also played later by his son, Emmett Kelly II and his grandson Paul Kelly.

     Both Emmett Kelly I and his son, Emmett Kelly II were accused by their wives of their personalities being taken over by the Weary Willie character. Although perhaps it was not that their personalities were being taken over, but that they had a mental health condition that may never have been realized.

     Paul Kelly, Emmett Kelly Jr. son later after he had lost his leg took over the role of Weary Willie from his father. He even changed his name to Emmett Kelly III. It was he who made Weary Willie into a criminal, as he himself was a murderer.

     Once he took on the role of Weary Willie he began a life of drugs and sexual freedom. He was later arrested in 1978 for murdering two of his homosexual partners.

     It became evident upon his admittance to the slaying of his homosexual partners that he had multiple personality disorder, which was later diagnosed. One of the signs was that he had listed Willie as his accomplice.

     It is no wonder there are people who are afraid of clowns were they to have ever heard of this factual story. Although it is not the only story where a clown or a man who played a clown committed heinous crimes. Another culprit, John Wayne Gacy who was a volunteer clown also committed crimes in the 1970s as had Kelly III.

     John Wayne Gacy however murdered far more than Kelly III ever had, but unlike Kelly III who suffered from multiple personality disorder, Gacy had not.

     Gacy sodomized and killed at least, if not more than 33 young boys in men between 1975 and 1978 in the Chicago area.

     Once these real life killer clowns were known about, the killer clown idea became mainstream. Made even more so when Stephen King tapped into it with his fictional horror novel, It.

      It is no wonder that coulrophobia has become so widespread and rampant. It's also no wonder that the phobia did not exist until the 1980s, shortly after Kelly III and Gacy had been caught and were later revealed to be clowns.

Not all Clowns are Murderous

      It's not the clown, or mime for that matter which is murderous, but the person behind the clown make-up and beneath the colorful costumes. Not every clown in the world is a deviant, although old world clowns of centuries long since gone by may well have been. It was what they were paid for, as a form of entertainment. Today's clowns and mimes however are supposed to be cheerful and fun. Not morbid and frightening.

      Ronald McDonald isn't a murderer, although some health activists might think otherwise with the promotion of happy meals and other fattening foods. However McDonalds does have healthier alternatives to their happy meals. Many people have reported that Ronald McDonald is creepy rather than entertaining. Several people after all dislike and even fear clowns, including Ronald McDonald and any friendly circus clowns even though they're not killer clowns.

      Coulrophobia is easily more explainable than many other phobias which might exist. It isn't that irrational a fear, at least if one has read up about real live killer clowns, seen killer clown movies or even had a bad experience with a clown sometime in their life.

How Do You Treat Coulrophobia

      As with all phobias, caulrophobia, with the help of a mental health expert one can slowly be exposed to clowns. Progress may be slow, but if one keeps to it, they will slowly overcome their fear, at least enough to tolerate clowns. One probably doesn't see a clown everyday in real life. However if one wants to enjoy a circus, television or certain events they'll need to have been through therapy to enjoy those events.

ClownCredit: wikimedia commons

      Coulrophobia, the irrational fear of clowns can be overcome. Just because a person who played a clown killed people, doesn't mean all clowns are killers. After all everyone around you is a person and people murder other people. However even though coulrophobics may realize that, it does not stop them from being afraid of clowns.




Never tease someone for their phobia

      Phobias are very real, just like coulrophobia. Therefore one should not tease or try to make a person see or go where they really don't want to. An irrational fear can lead to an anxiety attack or worse a rise in heart rate and blood pressure in such a way that the person is literally scared to death. Let the person who is afraid of clowns avoid the clowns if they want. If they're going to therapy to help with their fear, let them and their therapist deal with the fear, not you.