Clown and out
SHUTTERSTOCK PHOTO Copyright nito
The recent phenomena of creepy clowns showing up at inappropriate times and places (as opposed to appropriate times and places) seems to have a number of people on edge, not only because of the proximity to Halloween, but because clowns themselves are just downright creepy, even without the chainsaw and/or hatchet.
Now complete with its own Wikipedia page titled 2016 Clown sightings, the reports range from August to October in North America and overseas, and document dozens of incidents for robberies and assaults on kids and adults.
Turn to the person nearest to you right now and ask them if they like clowns – they’ll say no. If they say yes, then run. Revulsion of clowns seems to heavily outweigh any attraction to them, so much so that there’s a pathological fear referred to as ‘coulrophobia’ and while it’s not yet recognized by the American Psychiatric Association, its sufferers – judging by social media feedback – exist in great numbers.
I fully understand.
I once got into a fight with a clown in a grocery store and while no one was actually hurt and no arrests were made, I discovered that day that I have an edge and clowns have the ability to push me over it. (Yes, I’ve told this story before but it bears repeating.) I was wheeling my then very young son through the aisles of the newly opened locale and the owners were fêting the event with balloons and clowns who prowled the premises looking for unsuspecting children to entertain.
My lad, who had been stacking up soup cans and Jell-O boxes building an imaginary city as he quietly rode along in the cart, instantly burst into tears, curled up in fear and hid his face after glancing over my left shoulder at the clown who, unbeknownst to me, had been following me and making visual clown-like overtures in my boy’s direction.
My polite but cold smile did little to dissuade him and, moments later, my comment of, “He’s not interested” was also met with continued attempts to entertain my child, tears now streaming down his cheeks.
Only my final shout of, “Back off!” as I pushed his colourful clown shoulders with my palms got the message across. In retrospect, I guess I was lucky that he stayed in mime mode and didn’t push or yell back at me, only frantically flapped both his hands in the air as if to say, “Okay, okay!!”
That same son, who’s now grown up to be an aficionado of odd, experimental music and ‘noise art,’ once came home with a CD scoured from the dusty shelves of the second-had store by the hardcore hip hop band ‘Insane Clown Posse.’ It’s rare that I’ll prohibit any music without giving it a fair chance but I couldn’t even make it through the first freaky song before pulling the plug.
Although horror author Stephen King aptly personified our innermost fears of clowns with his book It, the fear of clowns taps into a much deeper neurological response coined the ‘uncanny valley,’ a term for the brain’s natural revulsion of anything that looks close to human without actually being human. Google it, it’s fascinating.
So, if you don’t like clowns, you’re not alone and in very good company.
If you actually like them, I’d love to hear why.
Only I ask that you submit your response by email. If you show up to explain yourself in person, I can guarantee that I’ll be unavailable to meet with you.
Partially revisited – portions of this column were originally published September 19, 2013.