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No More Clowning Around

REILLY BRADY

STAFF WRITER

Coulrophobia: the fear of clowns. Out of everything that Americans are afraid of this Halloween season, clowns are definitely at the top of the list. Recent clown sightings have invoked coulrophobic fears across the country this October. So what makes these large-footed, red-nosed characters so scary?

You have probably heard about the clown sightings that have been reported in the past few months. It all started in South Carolina, where clowns were allegedly attempting to lure children into the forest. Many people have joined in on the pranks, causing havoc across the country. The fear of clowns may seem like a recent phenomenon, but many past events have developed into a widespread uneasiness
of clowns.

Ancient Greeks and Romans used clowns for entertainment purposes. Ancient Egypt had their own form of clowns who joked and danced for the pharoahs. Despite a sense of fun, clowns have always had a dark side. They have always been considered mischievous characters, and their painted faces and quirky outfits contradict normal
human behavior.

Many modern-day factors have caused a common suspicion of clowns. In 1986, Stephen King wrote the horror novel  It about clowns that prey on children. In fact, the story starts with a scene where a young boy is grotesquely murdered by a clown lurking in a sewer. Although the book is fiction, many people developed an uneasiness towards clowns after its release. In 2000, Alice Cooper wrote the song “Can’t Sleep, Clowns Will Eat Me,” with lyrics such as “they’re always there with funny hair” and “to them I’m just a happy meal.” The character Phil Dunphy in the television show Modern Family has an extreme fear of clowns. While Stephen King’s novel focused on horror, Phil’s coulrophobia is humorous and is often referenced in many episodes.

Although the majority of America is afraid of these clown attacks, some have sided with the clowns. Professional clowns have started a “Clown Lives Matter” group that promotes clowns’ friendly side through peaceful marches. However, one march was recently canceled because the event organizer received death threats on
social media.

Though I believe that this entire “clown epidemic” is just pranks, I can’t help but watch my back. A few days ago, my family ate dinner in Los Altos late at night. When walking to our car, I heard a leaf blower in the distance. “A clown with a chainsaw,” I joked to my brother. We laughed nervously, but we both ran towards our car and jumped in as quickly as possible. It seems that the sightings have sparked a fear of clowns in me that won’t be going away anytime soon.

There are more consequences to these incidents than one might think. McDonald’s is reducing the amount of advertising with the clown Ronald McDonald because of the sightings. Target is removing clown masks and costumes from store shelves, and many schools have forbidden wearing clown costumes for Halloween. Despite fears, you shouldn’t be too worried about clowns attacking you, as most of the incidents are sightings and not killings. But why are we so afraid of clowns? Is it their evil grin, big shoes, or horribly clashing checkered-and-striped outfits? Though some may have genuine coulrophobia, I believe that the current fear of clowns that has spread across America is rooted in these opportunistic sightings and pranks. However, while trick-or-treating with friends this Halloween, stay alert — you may never know where the next “creepy clown” will strike.

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