Coulrophobia – My Irrational Fear of Clowns

Clown Smiling

I catch myself fidgeting nervously as I sit among my new friends at the “Fraidy-Cats Anonymous” meeting. One by one, they tell their stories, describing how they’re deathly afraid of spiders, tornadoes, black cats, etc.

Then it’s my turn, and all eyes fall on me. I swallow hard. “My name is John Mark,” I begin timidly, “and I’m a Fraidy-Cat. I’ll own up to it! I have a deep, irrational fear of clowns. They’re creepy, and while I know they’re supposed to help cheer up the world, I can’t help but absolutely despise them.”

The group starts to laugh, but I hold my ground. “Hold on, now… I have a good reason for my Coulrophobia! Here’s my story…”

I wasn’t always this way. I used to think clowns were fun! But when I was seven years old, my parents went on church visitation while one of the deacon’s daughters watched my siblings and I. As soon as my parents drove off to share God’s love with the community, the deacon’s daughter turned to us confidentially.

“Who wants to eat a whole cereal bowl of ice cream with chocolate syrup and watch a show about a killer clown?”

Well, come on…. what kid’s gonna turn down that offer?

She sat us down (my brother was six, and my sister was five), and let us feast our eyes on Stephen King’s IT.  For those of you who haven’t seen it, consider yourselves fortunate, and here’s a quick rundown on the film:

1.)    A man dressed in a clown suit lives in the sewer beneath the innocent little town of Dairy, Maine.

2.)    The man uses candy and balloons to entice kids toward the sewer drains, and when they get too close, he attacks them with razor sharp teeth and kills them in cold blood.

3.)    A few kids know about the clown, but none of the adults believe them. Finally, they head into the sewers themselves to face this killer on their own.

Let’s just say that none of us slept that night, or any night for weeks afterwards! For the next several months my brother refused to sit on the toilet or take a bath unless I went and sat in the restroom with him, and we all developed the compulsion to close the sink drains every time we passed by. At church they let me collect the offering and take it to a back room, and I can still remember walking through the dark church hallways and being afraid to walk past the restrooms.

You’d think I would have gotten over my “clown fear” over the years, but it never quite went away. And in a sick twist of fate, my college roomate’s mother turned out to be a professional clown. One year for my birthday he decided to play a prank on me, and his mom showed up at my job in full clown attire. My roommate and his girlfriend laughed in delight as the freakish clown made me a “birthday pie” of shaving cream and slapped it onto my face and honked her little rubber car horn in my face. I knew I was supposed to laugh, but the whole thing just made my skin crawl. Now that I think about it, I never really got my roommate back for that, either (adding to my bucket list… done).

To this day I feel a nervous chill when my kids ask to take a picture with Ronald McDonald (who, for the record, is one of the creepiest looking clowns I’ve ever seen!).

But my clown phobia hasn’t been all bad.   For several long months I had a recurring nightmare that I was trapped in a dark sewer, and a terrifying clown was walking towards me in slow motion. In the dream, I was always paralyzed, and though I tried to scream no sound would come out. I usually woke up just as the clown grabbed my shoulder, but one night the dream lasted longer. I actually fought the clown, and defeated him! As soon as this happened, the recurring nightmares faded away.

So in a way, this traumatizing childhood experience taught me to stand up to my fears. And as I’ve grown older, I’ve realized that feeling fear doesn’t make you weak… it simply makes you human. As a great man once said:

“Courage is being scared to death, and saddling up anyway.” – John Wayne

And of course, I’ve discovered that I can trust God to help me with any challenge or fear – including clowns!

“The LORD is the strength of my life, of whom shall I be afraid?” – Psalm 27:1


How Do You Feel About Clowns? Fun or Creepy?



Writing 101 Day 17 Challenge:   We all have anxieties, worries, and fears. What are you scared of? Address one of your worst fears.


45 thoughts on “Coulrophobia – My Irrational Fear of Clowns

  1. Very well written. I can completely understand and feel the fear toward clowns, as it comes across as an extremely traumatizing life experience. As for myself, I don’t think of clowns happy or nefarious. They are people with make-up, playing a part. Then again I’m positive my view would be different if I had a negative experience with them.


          1. I’ll be happy to help fund your purchase of Raid!

            Well, while the exchange was nice – I must admit I overcame my arachnophobia. I realized that every creature great or small has their part to play on this earth and I should not be afraid. II Timothy I:7 really helped me through the hard times when I thought the anxiety would win.


  2. this is great! i never understood the fear of clowns, until now. it seems such a cruel societal joke on kids. but your sharing about what you’ve learned as a result is valuable :). very nice read. thank you.


    1. You were very fortunate to skip out on the traditional clown birthday party – ha! And yes, I think the scary part is that they hide behind that false smile and you don’t know what they’re really thinking or who they really are…yikes!


  3. To be fair, Mcdonald’s redesigned Ronald McDonald in to this cartoon instead of a real-life clown which makes him a wee bit less scary. 😀 Although it’s mascots I don’t like, I totally get the creepy factor.


    1. I suppose, but cartoonish or not, I still feel like he has a creepy smile! I think it’s because he looks a lot like the clown from Stephen King’s “IT,” with the same red hair and yellow suit…(and hey, any reason to NOT eat at McDonald’s works for me!)


  4. I almost couldn’t open your post because I am 100% creeped out by clowns. (thanks for the giant clown face, by the way!) I read IT and it scarred me as well, but I also have the “funsters” in my childhood history – which involved people I knew dressed as clowns and is better left unexplained. Be sure and post when you get that college roommate back! Fun (and disturbing) to read.


    1. You’re so welcome for the clown face, Lisa – glad I could help you relive that childhood trauma – LOL! And don’t worry, when I come up with an adequate revenge I’ll be sure to post about it. Glad I’m not the only one who feels this way about clowns!


  5. To be sure, there are many adults today with a fear of clowns because of the movie “It”. I saw the movie when I was a kid and then read the book. Now, I live with a distrust of clowns. “Don’t trust anyone with their face covered.” Good advice! Tim Curry, you have ruined clowns for me. 😀


  6. Wow John, what an awful babysitter!! It makes you so cautious about leaving your children with anyone!! Totally rational reason for fearing clowns though, I do not blame you! Great way to wrap it up though–we are human, we have fears. He is God, He can give us the strength to tackle that clown down in defeat! 🙂


    1. That’s exactly right… it’s something we can remind our own kids of when they face these same kind of fears! As a very wise cucumber from Veggie Tales would say, “God is bigger than the Boogey Man!”


  7. John,

    I think I’ve said this before but I’ll repeat it, I am very much enjoying your writing challenges. I bet Stephen King would get a kick out of reading this one for sure 🙂 I saw the movie “IT” as a teenager and it was terrifying. I hear the book is even scarier but I’m not up to that challenge – no thank you! So, how do I feel about clowns? Well, I am not a fan, they tend to be more creepy-weird than fun and friendly.

    Great post! God bless!

    Jennifer – I Give God All The Glory


    1. I bet Stephen King would find this funny… hey, his story did exactly what it was intended to do – scared me to death! Glad to find someone else who shares my distrust of all things clown!


  8. I like clowns. I had a friend who was a sweet clown!! Good memories for me!! Though my daughter definitely does not like clowns!!
    Thanks for this!! Well written!!


  9. Wow. I knew of a girl who was afraid of clowns. I think especially as a visual artist, I am very sensitive to visual imagery especially anything that reeks of Satan and that killer clown story is Satanic. The underlying message is horrible too, parents do not believe your children what they tell you. Even it seems outlandish . Listen Satan and his cronies affects everyone including children . We should believe then and help them to cast down imaginations against the knowledge of God. We not given the spirit of fear but of power love and a sound mind (II Tim 1:7). I was bound with the spirit of fear as well and I didn’t realize I was bound until the Holy Spirit told me the cause of this fear which interfered with my relationship with people. Of course since then I’ve physically felt satanic spirits touching me since then trying to induce the fear but I refuse since I know the Holy Spirit lives in me in the name of Jesus. Sorry for this comment for being so long, thank you John Mark for sharing your testimony.


    1. I agree that this was a very dark story – this is the reason that I really don’t like to watch horror movies at all now…thanks for sharing the verse – it’s a great one to go with this post!


  10. Did your parents ever invite that babysitter back?!? I hope not! Showing IT to a trio of young children is definitely among the worst babysitting ideas of which I’ve heard!

    I totally understand not liking clowns. I’m not a fan of them either, though I’m not usually scared of them. I just find them creepy in a way that makes me feel really uncomfortable.


  11. Masks are never a good thing…especially creepy, evil masks. I have never liked clowns, or mimes. Maybe it’s my instincts that tell me to never trust people whose faces do not match what is inside.


  12. I’m not afraid of clowns… but I do think they are creepy. Not an appealing form of humor, a mere step above mimes (in my opinion). As for the movie “It,” you refer to the clown as a “guy,” but he was actually a malevolent spirit of some sort as I recall. Demonic, rather than merely human, evil.


  13. oh my! I would be afraid of clowns too! But then my teenage parents took me to see Some movie called Blood Feast and I had nightmares for years after that. What were they thinking? Life is not always kind.


    1. Oh no! It’s so easy to forget as parents how terrifying certain movies can be to small ones (since they’re not so scary to us). Case in point: I let my daughter watch an episode of Goosebumps. I just thought it was funny, but she started screaming at the top of her lungs! Ever since then there have been no more Goosebumps at our house! :O)


  14. You people really need to calm down. You`re saying you are afraid of ugly clothes and paint. It`s just a dumbass in ugly clothes and pain on his face, clowns are not wild creatures you suddenly encounter while walking in the woods. It`s impossible to understand, is it the clown costume that scares you or is it the guy underneath all the crap? You are either afraid of clothes and paint or regualr people. Non of them makes any sense, snap out of it and pull your head out of your ass, I hate it when people act so crazy. I dont understand how you people survive in todays world, if paint scare you, you should probably never read the news or join the army or do anything.


    1. I can’t help but smile as I read this – obviously you never watched Stephen King’s “IT” as a young child! Go watch that movie and imagine you were in Kindergarten, and then we can talk!


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