Creeped out by clowns? Don’t worry you’re not alone. A recent survey of 1,341 volunteers, ranging in ages from 18 to 77, identified that being a clown was the creepiest occupation. But why is this so? Psychologist Frank McAndrew determines that so many people find clowns creepy might have something to do with ambiguity, or not knowing how to react to a certain person or situation.
McAndrew found that while physical appearance may not play an outright role in determining one’s creepiness factor, those odd features such as bulging eyes, a peculiar smile or inordinately long fingers may highlight or amplify other traits. Also, clowns hide behind makeup, wigs, sometimes elaborate costumes which shadow their true identities and feelings. Because the senses are already thrown off, and because of a clown’s mischievous nature, people aren’t really sure how to react when confronted with a clown. Are they about to take a pie in the face or become the butt some other innocent joke? The unknown makes us uncomfortable.
Of course, the godfather of creepy clowns has to be John Wayne Gacy, who used to dress as “Pogo the Clown” to perform at birthday parties. After his true self was identified, Hollywood jumped on making as many creepy clowns in film and television as possible. How about Pennywise from the 1990 film It? People struggled to disassociate Gacy’s horrible acts from his clown persona; they were forever linked.
Now with the recent string of clowns walking through our neighborhoods and city streets in the middle of the night, it doesn’t look like the phobia has any chance of dissipating any time soon.