This morning on my Facebook feed, I saw that one of my friends had posted the following:
I am a sufferer of Coulrophobia! Wondering what it is?….
The phobia can cause a state of panic, difficulty in breathing, irregular heartbeat, sweating, nausea and feelings of fear.
The coulrophobia may seem absurd for some, however, many people suffer so much, that it prevents them to eat a hamburger in a famous fast food chain. It is not a trivial matter either and coulrophobia shouldn’t be treated lightly.
Some hospitals use clowns as mural decorations which may make some coulrophobic children feel unease during their stay at the hospital.
Although the fear of clowns develops most of the time during childhood, it is prevalent among adult population too, even if a big number of adults would deny it.
It is said that the phobia develops in early years, when children are very sensible to an unfamiliar face in a familiar body.
There isn’t any official data about how many people suffer from coulrophobia, although it is believed that it is much more prevalent in western society (where exposure to clowns is more prevalent since a younger age). Some estimate that around 12% of adults in the US suffer from it.
It’s not a funny thing! It is actually pretty scary!
If you didn’t catch drift from what was meant to be funny, coulrophobia is a fear of clowns. This started me thinking about the similarities between clowns and psychopaths. Perhaps the comparison is not one-to-one, but it comes close. Like psychopaths, clowns have their masks. With clowns, what we see on the outside, we are supposed to laugh and be entertained by. But the person wearing the clown suit could be a pedophile in “real life” for all we know. Hopefully most aren’t, but some could be worse than we think.
Psychopaths wear masks, in fact, masks that are tailor-made just for us. They are charming and they love-bomb us, promise to fulfill our dreams, and swear that they are our soul mates. Taken in, we begin to trust them, even though we may sense that something is not quite right. When the person beneath the mask is exposed, there’s no one at home. We find that they have lied to us about anything and everything, drained our bank accounts, triangulated our friends, verbally, emotionally, and physically abused us, used every tool of deception to destroy us — sometimes the unthinkable — and then once they have become bored and stripped us of everything precious, they toss us aside like yesterday’s garbage, move on to the next victim, and we see that what we thought was love was nothing but a mirage from day #1.
Even though most people will associate clowns with the circus or with children’s birthday parties, it seems that popular culture has tapped into the scary facade of the clown. What Culture lists the 10 Scariest Horror Movie Clowns. If you don’t want to click through the list, Pennywise starring Tim Curry gets top billing. As I recall, Stephen King’s novel, It, included a scary clown.
When I think of the comparison between clowns and psychopaths, I believe the ultimate is …
… serial killer John Wayne Gacy. Gacy tortured and murdered a minimum of 33 teenage boys and young men in a series of killings committed between 1972 and 1978 in Chicago, Illinois. Gacy was executed by lethal injection on May 9, 1994. From the Wikipedia article:
Gacy became known as the “Killer Clown” due to his charitable services at fundraising events, parades and children’s parties where he would dress as “Pogo the Clown”, a character he devised himself.
All Things Crime lists some Gacy quotes. Here’s one:
“A clown can get away with murder.” (Although when Gacy acted as a clown for the children, he was reportedly always amiable, his clown figures, as manifested in his notorious “clown paintings” seem to be stripped of all humanity; in short, they are are literally “clowns without pity”.)
I found an interesting article in Psychology Today, Why Are Clowns Scary? It’s short and worth a read if you are curious about coulrophobia. One quote:
Psychologists believe that this kind of fear may have less to do with clowns and more with the unsettling familiarity. A normal-sized body with a painted face, big shoes, colorful clothes—but what’s under there?
Do you see the link between clowns and psychopathy? We feel so close to them in the beginning, but the mask creates an “unsettling familiarity.” Perhaps benign with most clowns — except John Wayne Gacy — but not so benign with psychopaths. Reportedly, many phobias can be cured. Coulrophobia is real. And it can be cured. If you want to see how disabling genuine coulrophobia is and how it can be overcome, watch the videos below.
I don’t mean this to be a discouraging post. I think we can find our whole selves after a close encounter with a psychopath. Once we’ve learned to recognize the red flags, developed strong boundaries, and grieved our losses, we don’t have to fear psychopaths any longer.
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