“It” began with a movie
My aunt was a horror movie freak; she used to watch horror movies all the time.
She was only 11 years older than me, so when I was a young child she was a mere teenager — an age where the thrill of the only-imaginable death, suspense and horror are at its peak.
When I was younger I was very curious, as most children are, always wanting to hangout with the “big kids.” This would lead me to staying up with my aunt while she watched her scary movies.
Photo illustration by: Derek Mange
One of her favourite movies to watch was Tommy Lee Wallace’s “It,” based off the book of the same title by Stephen King.
“It” is the story of an “inter-dimensional predatory life-form” that can become its victims’ worst fear or phobia.
The creature, referred to as “It” mainly takes the form of “Pennywise the Dancing Clown” to lure children and kill them.
My first clown encounter; The Parade of Horror: 1995
Looking back, I was a bright young kindergarten-aged girl. It was summer time; I was at the yearly stampede that takes place in Medicine Hat during the summer.
There was a fantastic parade with marching bands and floats. Back then they still threw candy to all the kids.
Multi-coloured helium-filled balloons were shrinking away into the sky.
Luscious green fake grass covered floats and pink fluffy balls of cotton candy on sticks filled the area.
We watched the parade from the curbside with my cousin of the same age, waiting for candy to fall while clapping at the floats passing by.
Then, out of nowhere, came this hideous creature. His striped neon-pink and light-blue coloured hair practically glowed in all its curly grotesque glory against his white painted face.
He had over-exaggerated bright-red lips, a plastic red nose, and deep blue eye paint of some sort. My living nightmare was dolled up in a yellow and white striped jumpsuit; complete with polka dotted red shoes that were way too big for him.
He was absolutely monstrous.
My body tensed. Shivers ran down my spine. The parade was going onall around me: music, laughter and fun.
My world froze.
It was like one of those horror movies my aunt had watched. In the movie-changing scene at the carnival, the music begins to bend and sway into a horrifying anthem, and lights start to warp and fade into dull oranges.
Slowly, step-by-step, he came closer to me.
My eyes widened and a tear slipped out. Then I broke. The scream I feared I wouldn’t get out finally slipped. I shrieked at the top of my lungs and tears came streaming down my face.
That was my first notable sign of coulrophobia, the title given to the fear of clowns.
From what I’ve read, coulrophobia isn’t that typically used in the psychiatric world.
Apparently the World Health Organization doesn’t officially recognize the phobia and neither does the Canadian Mental Health Association, after I tried searching their websites for more information on the fear, I came up with nothing.
Those with coulrophobia have reactions that, to most people, seem completely irrational. From what I’ve found, there is no known cause for the development of the phobia, just merely suggestions.
The thought is that a traumatic encounter with clowns at a young age may be the cause.
In a traditional setting clowns are found to be humorous — they do ridiculous things in circuses like packing themselves into small cars, or making friendly balloon animals, but to someone with coulrophobia they are no joke.
Halloween 2007: The Black Stage
When I was in high school I spent a lot of time in the school theatre.
I was what one may call a “drama nerd.” It was Halloween and I was 15 or 16, I can’t quite remember.
I was minding my own business when in walked a ghastly figure: shaggy hair painted green, a pasty white face and a huge red smile; completely disgusting.
Instantly, I dropped my book, and scurried away across the stage on my hands and feet, trying to get up, but more worried about getting away.
The thing about a drama stage is that everything is black, from the floor to the ceiling — making it seem kind of like a black hole.
Quite a scary setting for one who fears clowns.
The clown turned out to be a boy who was in my class who thought it would be funny to dress up as the Joker character from Batman for Halloween, while chasing me around the theatre.
He wasn’t exactly understanding of my coulrophobia.
The phobia continues
When I tell people that my biggest fear is clowns, most people laugh hysterically, and though a clown seems somewhat of a silly fear, to me it really is no joke.
In 2008, my fear struck again while I was volunteering at a children’s summer camp. The details were strikingly similar to my previous encounters with clowns — my knees weakened, throat closed yet felt a scream trying to escape.
“Do not scream, you’re 16 years old and there are children around,” I repeated over and over again in my head.
It didn’t work — I had to turn and run.
My fear of clowns may be completely ridiculous. A psychiatrist may think that there’s really no reason to have a name for it because as you grow older it typically goes away.
But I’m not five or 10 or 15 anymore and I’m still extremely afraid of clowns.
There is no treatment for it, no medicines you can take, and though it doesn’t hinder my life like a majority of fears do, it just really sucks when I see a clown.