Why Do Clowns Creep People Out?

Scared of clowns? You're not alone — and you may be coulrophobic. 🤡

Answers to your questions about coulrophobia

The circus clown — with its painted face, wig and oversized clothing— arose in the 19th century.

“Clowns have never been good. I mean if you go all the way back through history, they are designed to be pranksters. If you go to the circus and they pull somebody out of the audience, you know that nothing good is about to happen. And so, there is no reason to expect something good from a clown. And we get creeped out by things that we can't predict. I've done some research on creepiness. And anybody that's outside of the norm if they're interacting with you weird, they're talking about strange things, they're not using eye contact, right? That kind of throws us off and we don't know if there's anything to fear about the person but being creeped out is this heightened state of discomfort. Well, clowns by definition do everything outside of the norm. They've got the nose and the makeup, the wigs. So, they're dressed in a very strange way and they disguise who the person is. You can't tell who the individual is. You can't tell what they're feeling. They've got a smile painted on their face. But are they really happy? And all of those things press buttons on our brain that immediately places on our guard against them,” Social psychologist author of the study "On the Nature of Creepiness" Frank T. McAndrew tells Brut.

But the creepy clown persona came out after serial killer John Wayne Gacy was convicted in 1980. A study conducted by the University of Sheffield revealed that few kids actually like clowns as stated on BBC. The fear of clowns is known as coulrophobia — a word that was added to the Merriam-Webster dictionary in 2019.