Why Kids Hate Clowns: 20 Good Reasons

A 2008 study showed that children pretty much universally hate clowns. Honestly, most of the adults I know aren’t huge fans, either. So when Yahoo! Shine recently asked, “why do kids hate clowns?” all I could think was, “how is that even a question?” The real burning question here is, is there anyone who actually likes clowns? They’re freaking hideous.

The only upside to my clown phobia (scientific name: coulrophobia) is that it’s a nice bonding experience with my six-year-old son, who hates clowns as much as I do. His fear is made even more extreme by certain aspects of his autism, which make it difficult for him to understand that the clown is only a regular person in make-up. I try to explain it, and he just looks at me doubtfully, as if to say, “why would any regular person possibly want to look like this?”

An added problem for my son is that clowns often have balloons with them, otherwise known as Balloons of Doom, another fear of my son’s. Balloons are unpredictable; they make horribly loud sounds when you least expect it. Clowns, likewise, seem unpredictable to my son: the squirting flowers, the large motions, the the horror of the bicycle horn. There’s just way too much sensory input going on there, and the blurring of the line between reality and fantasy is not helping.

But fear of clowns is certainly not an autism thing. Alex Anderson, a Fort Collins, Colo. counselor, told Yahoo! Shine that popular culture has a lot to do with instilling a fear of clowns. And that fear — from a movie, say, 30 years ago (Poltergeist, anyone?) — can be passed from parent to child. So if you’re freaked out, your kid likely is, too. (See Strange Childhood Phobias: Is Your Child’s Fear Normal? for more on childhood fears.)

Anderson adds that the whole clown persona, from the makeup face to the outlandish costumes, can raise kids’ defenses.

“It’s the unknown,” he says. “They don’t know who’s behind the makeup, and kids are taught to be wary of strangers.”

Uh, not to mention the freakishly large feet. Those are not helping the situation.

Anderson advises that your best bet in beating your kid’s clown phobia is small exposures, leading up to personal interactions. Frankly, my son has bigger fish to fry in the therapy department than getting over a fear of clowns. But for me? I’ve gotten through 38 years successfully avoiding clowns, but perhaps it’s time for some “small exposures.”

Let’s start with these images: 20 excellent reasons everyone can hate clowns. Feel free to share your own personal reasons for hating clowns in the comments! And if you’re that one person who actually likes them, please explain why. Do you have some kind of gene mutation that makes you fearless? I’m jealous.

  • The clown toy from ‘Poltergeist’ 1 of 20
    Carol Ann's clown doll is pretty much the origin of my clown fear. I'm not saying I was the biggest fan of clowns before that, but after seeing Poltergeist, it was all over. Oddly enough, Poltergeist didn't make me afraid of TV.
    (Photo Credit: It's A Sickness)
  • Every birthday party clown, ever 2 of 20
    Note to parents: you've spent years teaching your children not to sit on the laps of strange men. Let's not confuse them.
    (Photo Credit: Wanna Smile)
  • Stephen King’s ‘It’ 3 of 20
    People that are too young to have seen Poltergeist in their formative years were instead traumatized by Pennywise the Clown in Stephen King's It.
    (Photo Credit: Suspensedra)
  • John Wayne Gacy 4 of 20
    John Wayne Gacy was a serial killer whose alter ego was Pogo the Clown. He performed as part of the "Jolly Jokers Club" of his local Moose Club, appearing at parades, parties, and charitable events.
    (Photo Credit: Weird Scenes and The Smoking Gun )
  • The Clown Ghost from Scooby Doo 5 of 20
    Back in the olden days, we didn't have five hours of complicated homework in first grade. Instead, we rotted our brains with after-school television. Remember that? If you do, perhaps you'll recall the Clown Ghost from 1969's "Bedlam in the Big Top" episode.
    (Photo Credit: Cartoon Network)
  • The Joker 6 of 20
    You can take your Jack Nicholson and Heath Ledger. My Joker will always be Cesar Romero. Kapow! Bam!
  • Billy from ‘Saw’ 7 of 20
    To be honest, I've never seen any of the Saw movies. I took one look at this puppety clown guy and knew I couldn't handle it.
    (Photo Credit: Thus Magazine)
  • Mimes … they’re irritating. 8 of 20
    Okay, fine. Mimes aren't nearly as creeptastic as regular clowns. But seriously, dude, we get it. You're behind a glass wall. Mimes are so annoying that when I tried to find a stock photo of them, I found this one. Of business people around a conference table. I have no idea what the stock photo people were going for here. Is it Enron's Accounting Department, pretending to care? Stop confusing me, mimes/stock photo companies!
    (Photo Credit: iStockphoto)
  • Oh dear, there’s that birthday party problem again. 9 of 20
    This little girl was probably totally stoked about her pretty princess dress, and then this happened.
    (Photo Credit: DoobyBrain)
  • Clowns invade your dreams. 10 of 20
    In one of my all-time favorite episodes of The Simpsons, Homer builds Bart a Krusty the Clown bed. "Can't sleep, clowns will eat me."
    (Photo Credit: The Simpsons, FOX)
  • Unhappy Meal 11 of 20
    "I just wanted the toy!"
    (Photo Credit: Random Funny Picture)
  • Run away! 12 of 20
    Worse than regular clowns are the ones who apparently pop out from nowhere.
    (Photo Credit: Tumblr)
  • Circus clowns and their posters 13 of 20
    This clown looks like he's screaming in pain. This does not make me want to go to the circus.
    (Photo Credit: Why I Fear Clowns)
  • Clowns are overly persistent. 14 of 20
    OMG DUDE GET THE HELL AWAY FROM ME! This poor little girl! Is she--wait, is she in a hospital bed? Jeez, Ronald, give her a break. She's been through enough.
    (Photo Credit: Very Demotivational)
  • Yeah. Even SWAT teams are afraid of clowns. 15 of 20
    Look at these guys. They have full SWAT gear and they're still terrified. Can't say that I blame them. What's in that water gun, anyway? Tap water? Seltzer? Hydrochloric acid? There's just no telling what a clown is capable of.
    (Photo Credit: Cheezburger)
  • Antique stabbity clown dolls 16 of 20
    Was there ever, in the whole history of time, an era in which this toy would have not scared the bejeezus out of children?
    (Photo Credit: Antiques.com)
  • Antique stabbity clown dolls that move on their own 17 of 20
    What's worse than a stabbity antique clown doll? One that moves on its own. This delightful little number is a "ramp walker" that apparently waddles down ramps of its own accord.
    (Photo Credit: Ruby Lane)
  • Clown tattoos are OMG WHAT THE HELL IS THAT? 18 of 20
    Holy Mother of God. What the hell? Like clown tattoos aren't disturbing enough? How does this even happen? Was there a morning this chick woke up and thought, "gee, you know what? I'm thinking some sort of evil clown baby head nestled inside a shark mouth would look totally sweet in my pit." I can only imagine how this looks with stubble.
    (Photo Credit: TattoologyArt)
  • Hobo clowns make me uncomfortable 19 of 20
    I don't get the whole sad clown / hobo clown scene. Maybe because in this economy I know I'm about one COBRA payment away from being a hobo clown.
    (Photo Credit: Pix Mule)
  • You know who liked clowns? 20 of 20
    A young Michael Myers, that's who. 'Nuff said.
    (Photo Credit: Halloween Movies)

Read more from Joslyn at her blog stark. raving. mad. mommy. You can also follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

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