COULROPHOBIA: The Fear Of Clowns Phobia Name

by frugalrvers

Coulrophobia is the fear of clowns phobia name. Yes, there are people who have clown fears, and with the factual and fictitious scary clown stories out there, I can understand why!

It seems like clowns have been around forever, because they are everywhere in our modern world. But strangely enough, the clown as we know it is a relatively recent creation.

Whether on TV, in the movies, in music, novels, or in the latest headlines, most of us know a lot about clowns, and their close relatives the jester, the mime, and the jack in the box.

But some of us are actually very afraid of them, to the point of the fear being labeled with a name – coulrophobia. What is it about the lovable circus comedians that has such power over people?

Let's Define Coulrophobia: It's The Fear Of Clowns Name

Have you ever been called a clown, or been accused of clowning around? Maybe you were a class clown (or knew one) in school – the one kid who always made everyone laugh and was always getting into trouble with the authorities. 

The word is sometimes used as an insult, meaning someone who takes nothing seriously, or who is foolish or naive about ordinary matters. If someone calls you it, it most likely is not a compliment.

But the word “clown” has many other layers of meaning and connotation, and in modern times these layers have become very complicated. So much so, in fact that there is a word for the psychological syndrome of being afraid of clowns: coulrophobia.

The fear of clowns phobia name comes from an ancient Greek word for stilt-walkers, which weren't exactly clowns in the modern sense, but were street entertainers and performers. We associate many other figures and character types with clowns too – court jesters, harlequins, mimes, and jack in the boxes, among others.

But why would such fun-loving and amusing cultural icons be the source of fear for so many?


Kinda Creepy, Scary Clown For Ringling Bros Circus, Isn't It?

Ringling Brother's Circus White Hat Clown 11x17 Poster

Clowns In History We Used To Define JESTER

Clowns in various forms have been with us for a long time, but in their most well known modern form they are relatively recent. The jester (we define jester as a type of comedian clown) in the royal court and the harlequin with his cap and bells are figures from the middle ages and into the Renaissance, and gradually became famous from depictions in plays and literature as well as art. 

But it was not until the late 1700s that the beginnings of the modern clown become evident. Joseph Grimaldi was a famous child actor who during his early career and into the 1800s almost single-handedly created the modern clown as we know him. He came up with the pointed hair and exaggerated face makeup that eventually evolved into the typical clown of today.

George Fox took Grimaldi's idea to America and popularized the clown character on stages all across the country. In the early years of cinema Charlie Chaplin and Emmet Kelly brought their own versions of clowning to the silver screen, and by the time television began in the 1940s, circus clowns were well known elements of pop culture. This is also the point at which the idea of being afraid of clowns – coulrophobia – really began.

Clown History And Joseph Grimaldi

The Pantomime Life of Joseph Grimaldi: Laughter, Madness ...
$20.00  $5.98

Scary Stories About Clowns...A Love-Hate Thing

Just as clowns are somewhat new in our modern world, so is the fear of clowns name – coulrophobia. In popular culture, the familiar figure of the clown is everywhere, and the clown is usually a lovable, fun figure that evokes laughter. 

Circus clowns used to be the main way that children were exposed to the clown phenomenon. With television taking over babysitting chores in the 50s, clowns with their own shows started appearing on a regular basis. One of the most popular clowns was Bozo the Clown, actually a franchise that appeared in different locales using local actors and production facilities. The most famous Bozo show was the one that Chicago children grew up watching in the 60s and 70s, and the clown image that many baby boomers carry in their minds is basically Bozo – bright red wings of hair, exaggerated make-up, and a somewhat gruff character.

Krusty the Clown in the Simpsons is a direct descendent of the Bozo clown, and probably encouraged a trend toward the scary clown.

Along with the seedy clown, we became fascinated with Stephen King's otherworldly horror clown in his novel "It," with rock and roll clowns Kiss, with Batman's nemesis clown, the Joker, and many others. We love clowns, but we also detest and despise them because we are afraid of them.

Jack In The Box History - The Devil As Clown?

Where did the fear of clowns come from, and how did they turn from funny, laughable creatures to beings from a nightmare? In the mass media mind that we all share these days, clowns have become mixed up with other archetypes, characters from ancient times and old stories that become part of our mental landscape. One of these clown-like figures is the old kid's toy the jack in the box, a clown that jumps out in a scary way. Amazingly enough, the name jack is another word for devil, so the devil in the box was meant to strike fear with its appearance from the beginning. This evil nature was exploited by TV writers such as Rod Serling, whose Twilight Zone episode about the frightening jack in the box is one that many former children remember with trepidation. Take the devilish toy, mix in the mask and make-up and outrageous clothes, add some mysterious origin stories, and the clown phobia becomes almost understandable.

Vintage Jack In The Box Toys Popular Once More

These Things Still Scare Me Today....
Schylling Jack-In-The-Box

The TRUE Story Of John Gacy

Killer Clown
Only $6.99

True, Scary Stories For Adults - Scary Clown Stories That Are TRUE

Unfortunately, there is no need to look in fiction, TV, and movies for scary stories about clowns - real life has given us at least one famous one. The story of John Gacy, serial killer, pedophile, and part-time clown, is one that resonates with most of us when we hear the word clown. As with many true crime narratives, the truth about his clown character has faded away to be replaced by the horrific image of a clown actually committing murder – something the experts don't believe Gacy ever did. He appeared at neighborhood functions and hired himself out for children's parties as a clown, but his victim of choice – teenage boys - would not have been attracted to the evil jester. But there was an undercurrent of evil to Gacy that has attached itself to the very idea of the clown, and he probably knew what he was doing. He told investigators who were interviewing him that a clown could get away with murder, which he was able to do for much too long.

Scary Clown Costumes

Carver The Killer Clown

So Why The Fear Of Clowns? Name Your Own Reason!

Social scientists and psychologists have puzzled over the origin of our fear of clowns for some time now. The study of phobias in general is well developed, but there are very few explanations for the way some people react to the familiar clown character. 

The speculation is that the made-up face of the jester, the harlequin, the mime, and the clown resembles a ghoulish, ghostly, and frightening mask worn by an inhuman being. Not only is this being seen as evil, but it is capable of doing harm to people, as we all know from stories and movies, as well as real life.

One study that actually gathered data on the phenomenon of coulrophobia concluded that the image of a clown was strongly disliked by children, who described pictures of clowns as scary and mysterious. Of course, the real question is, have clowns always induced terror, or have we created the fear in modern times? Whatever the reason and the origin, the fear of clowns is alive and well in our world.

Have You EVER Thought Clowns Were Funny?

Coulrophobia T-Shirts - Fear Of Clown Tshirts Might Make You Smile After All!

Updated: 04/02/2016, frugalrvers
Thank you! Would you like to post a comment now?

Clown Phobia Name "Coulrophobia" Comments Anyone?

frugalrvers on 04/02/2013

The old, metal jack in the boxes were quite scary. The crank was an eerie noise, the clowns weren't very "cute" and they popped out making a clank sound on the metal box. The whole experience was quite scary, especially for a youngster! I'm guessing today's are more child friendly and "cute" but those old vintage ones....yikes!

Mira on 04/02/2013

I've never seen a jack-in-the-box. Were they really scary? I look online and they're mostly funny. Like Georgette, I didn't give much thought to the fear of clowns but after watching Jack Nicholson as one I have one idea where it might come from :). You provided other explanations as well, so thank you for that :)

frugalrvers on 03/21/2013

Thanks for your comment!
I remember getting the Bozo Bucket game as a gift one year and was sooooo excited....until I recognized there were no cool prizes when I made the buckets with the ping pong toss. So disappointed! :)

georgettejohn on 03/20/2013

I think every television viewer dreamed of winning the prizes on the Bozo show! I've never been particularly interested in the "clown" portions of any show, circus, or performance. This however was an interesting article that I did enjoy reading! Thanks for prompting me to think about something I wouldn't normally give much thought to! It was great!

frugalrvers on 03/19/2013

I'm with you, Lana! However, growing up in Chicago while Bozo tickets were purchased at birth just so a child can attend the show before college...well THAT was a clown I would have given anything to see! But, truth be told, it was to win the prizes...not because Bozo and Cookie were all that funny!! :)

Ragtimelil on 03/18/2013

Nah, not afraid, but I don't particularly like them. Never thought they were all that funny. Didn't even like Red Skelton that much either.

You might also like

How To Get Over The Fear Of Flying - REALISTIC TIPS

I am afraid of flying - hate it, actually. Here are unconventional help tips ...

Narcissistic Personality Disorder Relationships: Is It Just Me?

I'm no stranger to narcissistic personality disorder relationships, but wheth...

Disclosure: This page generates income for authors based on affiliate relationships with our partners, including Amazon, Google and others.
Loading ...