Are Clowns Funny or just plain scary?

Two pumpkins with faces carved into them lit up on a dark night.

Halloween is upon us…

In just a few weeks time Halloween will once again be upon us and kids all over the country will be dressing up as ghouls and ghosts, skeletons and clowns etc.

For most children – little ones as well as teenagers, Halloween is a fun time – they can go out trick or treating, collecting sweets as they go and generally having a great time but for some children (and adults of course) it can be a miserable and scary event.

Some people suffer with “Coulrophobia”

The word Coulrophobia means a persistent and irrational fear of clowns. (It possibly originates from Greek Kolon meaning stilt or stilt-walkers which are often used by clowns).

This fear is so strong that the child or teen can’t go anywhere near a clown, or even look at pictures of them! So what is it about clowns that some of us detest? Some psychologists say that the fear is probably due to the fact that we cannot read genuine emotions and feelings on a clown’s face.When you take away our ability to read someone’s expression, it’s quite worrying because we don’t know what they’re feeling —are they happy, are they sad -angry or what?

We don’t know what to expect, or how to react. Clowns are also often manic, and a bit unpredictable which can generate fear and anxiety particularly in children.

Where does the fear of clowns come from?

Fear of clowns usually starts at a very young age, as young as four or five, usually what happens is, a child is invited to a birthday party, and when they get there, with no preparation from parents, they see a weird freaky looking person wearing a wig, and big shoes, and a crazy outfit, and a big nose, talking in a weird way, doing stupid things.

Some kids love it of course but some get really scared, they have been thrown into a situation with no explanation and expected to think it’s funny! Those children who are already prone to anxiety will have an even stronger reaction. In fact, fear of clowns is one of the most common phobias in children.

Of course, recently with the introduction of scary films about clowns murdering people etc, this hasn’t helped the reputation of clowns has it? In some places, especially in the US there have been reports of gruesome attacks by people dressed as clowns, so it’s no wonder the poor kids are becoming even more fearful.

Out of interest, are clowns something that frighten you as an adult?

What can parents do to help their fearful child?

  1. However you decide to talk about clowns, anxiety and fear, and the hysteria that surrounds us today, it’s much better for the child if you’re the one who talks to them about it. You want to be able to get the facts across and set the emotional tone, and pass on any information in a calm way
  2. Invite your child to tell you anything they may have heard about clowns, and how they feel. Give them as much opportunity to ask questions. Be prepared to answer questions. You want to avoid encouraging any frightening ideas they may already have !
  3. Be realistic. Clowns aren’t real and they’re not dangerous. A clown is usually someone simply dressed up in a costume with the intention of doing his job and entertaining children and families.
  4. Children are likely to focus on whether something frightening or bad could happen to them. So it’s important to reassure your child that it’s highly unlikely anyone will try to scare or hurt them.
  5. If you have very young children say 2-4 year olds it would be a good idea to buy and prepare them with some books with pictures of clowns. You can read them a story of a clown and them some pictures, if and when they do go to a kid’s birthday party and a clown turns up – they will already know what it is and so the fear hopefully won’t be there!

Other phobias

But there are other phobias lurking at birthday parties too aren’t there?

What about balloons ? Or a magician with his collection of birds and rabbits? A lot of these phobias start because a child has been to a party and encountered a magician with a bird flying out of his jacket sleeve!

Guess what happens – the next day the child walks down the street and sees a bird. Fear comes back and the child now has a phobia for birds. It happens so quickly – almost without us knowing but it’s then much harder to get rid of that fear!

Could hypnotherapy be an option?

At my two clinics I see children, teens and adults with fears and phobias every single day – some are very easy to treat but others may take a bit more work but sometimes parents are quite worried about their child being hypnotised.

Children actually live in their subconscious minds until about the age of nine years old. So, they are great hypno-tees!

I just chat to them, play some games, tell them a story with subliminal words that get straight to their subconscious minds and voila!

Hypnosis is – as they say – child’s play. If you are worried that your child’s phobia is getting out of control do contact me by phone on 02038887173 or email at

Thanks to David Menidrey on Unsplash for the image used in this post.

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