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Creepy clown posse

April Clark
Staff Photo |

Stephen King knew their spook potential. So do the creators of “American Horror Story.” In high school, my best friend was truly afraid of them.

Not all are scary, but clowns can have that effect on people.

It seems as Halloween fast approaches, the fear of clowns — scientifically referred to as coulrophobia — is quietly being tested. And the creepy clown imagery is making an impression in the U.S. There’s a strange surge of copycat clowns randomly appearing in unlikely places, including neighborhoods in California, Florida and New Mexico. And now in my home state of Indiana.

People aren’t laughing.

These are not the funny clowns I remember from childhood with cute red noses that made bunny hats out of balloons. Or wore lapel flowers that squirt water in an unsuspecting kid’s face. These clowns come complete with menacing frames, dark personas and a handful of balloons.

In this case, creepy clown pop culture has become real life.

Personally, I’ve never had a problem with clowns. I enjoy the art of balloon animal creation and people in character who make other people laugh.

Face paint can be hilarious when applied correctly.

I’ve always been a little fascinated with clown culture. Clowns are consummate performers who understand the art of staying in character for my ultimate form of entertainment — humor. Clowns cheer up ailing kids in hospitals and transport adults back to their own childhoods when Bozo was on TV and life modeled the American dream.

Red Skelton is still one of my favorites.

I remember once in high school, my best friend and I were driving down the road, and we passed a classmate’s dad, who also happened to be a professional clown. He was in character while driving a car, and for some reason that visual made us laugh and laugh, like we were little girls at a circus or parade.

I still don’t know how they fit so many clowns in one tiny car.

Recalling seeing that clown dad in public, driving a real car down the road, still makes me giggle. Clowns should bring joy, although some people might feel anxiety when they see them. Stephen King’s infamous Pennywise clown in “It” plays on that phobia. “American Horror Story: Freak Show” has nailed it with its ominous Twisty the Clown character.

Good luck sleeping at night after watching an episode.

The creepy clown concept relates to children, and adults, who fear faces they don’t recognize or adults who are unknowable. That’s understandable. Early on, we are taught not to talk to strangers, and especially don’t accept candy from them. Clowns sometimes have that on hand. Along with balloons. There was even a University of Sheffield study on coulrophobia and how hospitals and doctor offices decorated with clown imagery sometimes freak kids out. I didn’t like going to the doctor much as a kid.

So I can see that.

The Clowns of America International pro and amateur clown club recently commented publicly on clown fear and how “American Horror Story” hasn’t helped with the stereotyping. I haven’t heard them speak up yet on these public sightings of creepy clowns around Halloween. The trend started a few weeks ago in California with the Wasco Clown social media project, starring a scary-looking clown holding balloons walking down the street or sitting on park benches and swing sets. Unless loitering is the charge, it’s hard for me to judge if there’s anything wrong with walking around dressed in a clown costume. There have been reports where the copycats have carried machetes or baseball bats, and that is so not cool. That image does not incite a tongue-in-cheek clown fear that Hollywood can sometimes incite.

That is just really scary to me.

This weekend and next, practically everyone, including their mothers, will be roaming around in costume, clown or not. Dressing up as something we’re not and spooking people is the reason for the season. Like the clowns of old, donning a costume should be done in fun. And for entertainment, scary, funny or not.

Just like reading “It” or watching “American Horror Story.”

April E. Clark probably is a clown in her own right. She can be reached at aprilelizabethclark@gmail.com.


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