Tuesday, June 2, 2009

why I don't like clowns

I wouldn't say I have coulrophobia, the abnormal or exaggerated fear of clowns, but I have a strong dislike for them. Ronald McDonald, Bozo and Krusty have never been, let's say, entertaining. The same goes for mimes. I realize Marcel Marceau was a talented artist, but mimes, to me, are smack dab in the clown catagory, with Bozo. I'm sure it's the painted face thing, and here's why.

My clown aversion began many years ago when this particular "paint by number" picture (shown above) hung in my bedroom as a little girl. Remember this craze from the 1950s? I could never understand this mindless pastime, or jigsaw puzzles, for that matter. But everyone seemed to enjoy it, especially my mother.

Anyway, this creepy clown painting was even scarier at night. In the dark, it would silently morph into a sinister version of my mother; the same short, wispy haircut, eyebrows and even dark red lipstick she always wore. Okay, well, not the cigar. But, she did have white gloves and a red hat.

Those little beady clown eyes would follow me around. No matter where I would hide, under the covers or not, that clown would be staring at me. You know the old saying, "mothers have eyes in the back of their heads"? Well, this clown had those same psychic eyes, only worse.

I hated that picture, and it's safe to say, it's most likely the reason I don't care much for clowns today. But, I must not be the only one, because evil clown characters are some of the most frightening in fiction and film. Here's just a few examples:

The Joker, Batman
Pennywise, Stephen King's It
Konrad Beezo, Life Expectancy
Doink the Clown, WWF
Killer Klowns from Outer Space, 1988
Jack the Clown, Universal Studios Horror Nights
National Lampoon's French the Clown
The Clown, Star Trek
Gurdy the Clown, 100 Tears
Obnoxio the Clown, Marvel Comics
creepy clown doll, Poltergeist
clown costume, film Halloween

turn your volume way up
for a blast from the past!

The Tears of a Clown
Smokey Robinson & The Miracles

Now if there's a smile on my face
it's only there trying to fool the public
but when it comes down to fooling you
now honey that's quite a diff'rent subject.

Don't let my glad expression
give you the wrong impression
really I'm sad
oh sadder than sad;
you're gone and I'm hurting so bad
like a clown I pretend to be glad.

Now there's some sad things known to man
but ain't too much sadder than the tears of a clown.
when there's no one around.
just like Pagliacci did
I try to keep my sadness hid;
Smiling in the public eye
but in my lonely room
I cry the tears of a clown
when there's no one around.

Oh yeah baby
now if there's a smile upon my face
don't let my glad expression
give you the wrong impression

don't let the smile I wear
make you think I don't care.
Now if I appear to be carefree
it's only to camouflage my sadness

in order to shield my pride I try
to cover this hurt with a show of gladness
but don't let my show convince you
that I've been happy since you decided to go.

Oh I need you so.
I'm hurt and I want you to know
but for others
I put on a show.
Now there's some...


  1. I hear you on the clowns, Willow! I had a similar experience, only with a clock that was one of those cat clocks--the eyes moved left to right as the tail moved below, and at night, the eyes were so bright and scary to me. I see photos of retro-clocks like that now and I just shudder.

  2. I loved King's "It." I like to watch spooky movies in the dark with fresh popcorn (I can cook popcorn), and a blanket on hand to cover up my face if I get scared.

    “To me, clowns aren't funny. In fact, they're kind of scary. I've wondered where this started and I think it goes back to the time I went to the circus, and a clown killed my dad.” ~ Jack Handy quotes

  3. I am completely in agreement! Clowns give me the willies (always have). Thank God my parents weren't into paint by the numbers!

    Tears of a clown - what a great song! I love the English Beat version, too.

  4. I share your fear...Mimes, Jokers, clowns and harlequins... creepy!

    Peace - Rene

  5. Cruel and unusual punishment, putting that picture in a child's bedroom! That smoldering cigar would really give me nightmares ...

    I had a paint-by-numbers of a St. Bernard and her puppies -- begun by me and finished by my mother. It was considerably more comforting though still pretty tacky.

  6. I dunno, I have no problem with clowns ... as a kid, their crazy act at the circus was always fine with me. I loved when the clown car arrived and dozens of clowns poured out of it. Bozo and Clarabell were OK and Krusty personifies more about Hollywood superficiality than an indictment of clowns.

    What scares me? Not much. Maybe having to walk through a gaggle of teenagers hanging out in the city after dark.

  7. My oldest daughter would not even be able to read this post. Every now and then I used to get her a little something "clownish" because that's my twisted sense of humor.

    But the older I get the more clowns are starting to creep me out. huh?

  8. Creepy, scary, shudder-inducing...just a few words to describe what I think of clowns. My daughter is scared of them too. You just have to mention the movie "It" and she cringes.

  9. it was creepy being a clown, the make up, the whole not talking thing...the picture sounds quite creepy as well. i promise i have left clowning behind...for the good of all of us. (smiles)

  10. I'm with ya on the whole paint by number thing....I wouldn't want that hanging in my bedroom.

  11. Question....is that the actual painting?? If so, I'm surprised you still have that! But I know exactly what you mean!!! I'm less wary of clowns than mimes, however. I really do get that!!

  12. I hate clowns and mimes too! They are just creepy! Why didn't you just tell your Mom to take that picture down?

    I do like the Smokey Robinson song though.

  13. Mimi, yes, this is copy of the exact painting, I found online.

  14. Yes, creepy. Nice to have control over what you hang in your own rooms as an adult, isn’t it? And you have such exquisite taste!

  15. Willow, that is interesting.
    I too hate clowns
    and circuses

    but have no experience to relate back to as you do.

    I also hate mime artistry although it is clever and most cartoons. Now in NZ we didn't get TV til the mid 60s (or when I was 10 or so) so I can't blame TV for those dislikes.
    I wonder where it comes from. I had nightmares as a kid which included cartoon characters...
    After having this discussion I hope I won't tonight!!!

    Happy Days

  16. My husband is clown phobic. I have no love for them after King's 'It' That movie and book scared the beejezus out of me.

  17. Almost nobody likes clowns, me included. I was terrified of them. Creeeepy. But having that picture on your wall...You are surely going to heaven! I can't even look at it after you told that story. Don't look at it Willow!

  18. Not big on clowns one way or the other. I think a clown smoking a cigar would be a lousy choice for a little girls room...scary...those paint by number subjects were limited.
    As a girl I painted a gift of peacocks by the number with big black plastic frame...dreadful!

  19. I have mixed reactions with clowns because I do remember the sweet clown Emmett Kelly who worked at the Nugget in Reno. He did a nice show which ended with him sweeping the spotlight on the stage into nothingness. However Bozo...that's a whole other story.

    As a child my Brownie troop was on the local Bozo tv show. As the troop stood in the foyer of the tv station I wandered away from the group to look down a hall and lo and behold I saw Bozo come walking around the corner in full costume smoking a cigarette. He looked ticked off, stopped at an ashtray and put the cig out, then came down the hall with his big feet slapping the linoleum, then turned on the phony smile and laugh as he came around the corner to greet the squealing little girls. I remember him giving me a look like "You didn't just see me smoking, did you kid?" He and I didn't get along on the show.

  20. Hi! Willow,
    I must admit that I'am not afraid of Ronald McDonald and pagliacciThe former, for obvious reasons and the latter,...because he hid his sadness from the public.
    (Which I found extremely sad!)
    Now...When it come to being afraid of an image...I have to say that the Burger King Man "thingy"...he wins hands down!...and the man behind the mask in X for Vendetta.
    "creepy."Thanks, for sharing!...
    DeeDee ;-D

  21. I'm totally with you on this - I don't like clowns because they try too hard! same with mimes

  22. OH, I just love the movie IT! Fictional characters are just that though; and with enough people in fear of clowns as it is...well, makes for an easy target, not to mention it's the 'good gone bad' theory...

    One thing to know. Clowns and Mimes are people too. Just like you and me.

  23. I was fine with clowns until my early twenties. . . I don't know if it's because I saw the "person" behind the clown and they weren't the most wholesome.

    The other is they can have a sad demeanor but a joyful expression painted on their face which is quite disconcerting.

    Thanks for stopping by today - if you still haven't listened to the post, it may be just as well as you may find it somewhat offensive - good to hear from you. I've been out for a bit but know am back with a vengeance.

  24. i Willow.

    A good many years ago I went to California on a fly/drive and stayed at a few 'Vagabond' motels. These places were plastered with awful paintings of, well, vagabonds, who looked like a cross between a hobo and a clown! Liked the motels; hated the paintings!

  25. I find clowns sad rather than scary but my partner finds them creepy as well. You're not alone! I loved Picasso's clown series. There's a mood to clowns that I quite enjoy.

  26. willow,

    ok, this is too weird, my mom painted a freak of a clown too.
    and yes, hung it in my room.

    i hate clowns , and the tiny cars they drove into town in.


  27. Interesting to note here, how many people don't love clowns! I also find them creepy and scary, always have..

    I think it was even before watching the Stephen King movie featuring the clown. That really gave me the worst kind of nightmares!!

  28. Even if I did like clowns or I didn't I would care at all because your post, as usual, was great. So well-researched and yes, you're right, there's a peculiar sinister streak to them. In my case it was clowns on stilts that gave me the creeps. I remember going to the Havana carnival when I was little, with my parents, and freaking out the minute I saw clowns on stilts. My parents had to take me out of the crowd immediately.

    And that Smokey Robinson is a top tune by a top artist. Many thanks.

    Greetings from London.

  29. Willow,
    I like Bobby Goldsboro's "Funny little Clown."
    Oh, and I loved Emmett Kelly.
    Just sayin', don't ya kno?

  30. Not too sure about clowns myself. Have never been to a circus, I just don't find clowns funny. Nicely written post.

    CJ xx

  31. Hi!Oh me too I dread clowns!I wouldn't have one in my house,sorry!lol.
    Have a nice day :)

  32. Yes.It's "The Painted-On Thing".Slap Some Makeup On Hitler & suddenly youve got a cuddly-street-entertainer!
    People Love Surfaces,So People Love Clowns I Guess...........
    oh...........before I forget to say it.....Smokey Rules!

  33. Hello Willow,

    I once bought a cheap oil painting of a clown and had it nicely mounted in a pale green shiny frame. A friend hated it! Some clowns can have a sinister look but I was never bothered by them in my childhood.

  34. hey willow,

    great post! i agree, clowns make me uncomfortable. there's this idea of a man hiding behind a face, a costume and then what? he suddenly becomes who he truly is? he snaps? what will he truly be after all the face paint and clothes are gone?
    however, "tears of a clown" well there's a wickedgood tune and reya's right - the english beat's version is also worth checking out!

  35. You know my feelings on this one.
    As my daughter said
    John Wayne Gacey too.
    Maybe it is the idea of the make-up hiding something.

    I had a real fox's mask on my bedroom wall as a child.
    Why, I ask myself . No one in my family hunted.
    Sunny day here.

  36. Unlike Jack Handy, I've never been able to pin down my dislike of clowns. I was at a writer's conference once, and the entertainment during the meal was a troupe of Christian clowns. I had to walk out, because they made me physically ill.

  37. “If you can find a greasier sandwich, you’re in Mexico!”
    (Krusty the Clown)

  38. I dont mind clowns in theory, but would not care to have that picture looking at me as I slept either. I am not a fan of circuses, as they always seem pathetic and shoddy to me. (the main place I have seen clowns). But I do think the irony of the clown, the fake emotions painted on the face vs possible true emotions within the person, make them heartbreakingly poignant. then of course there are all those horror movies which i dont watch so thanks for the heads up on which ones to avoid.

  39. Wasn't there two of them? The second one wasn't quite as scary as this one, at least in my memory.

    I've never watched "It"...now I'm curious!

  40. I confess, I've never liked clowns either, although not due to any resemblance to my mother.

    I think it was because I found their humour cruel and pushy.

  41. I don't blame you a bit. I'm not really terrified of clowns, but I'm not a big fan of them either. :/

  42. My grand daughter is scared to death of clowns. We took her to the circus four years ago and a clown came up behind her. She turned around to look and literally climbed up my leg.

  43. Personally, I LOVE paintings of clowns but I can understand how a child can misinterpret the exaggerated facial expressions and colors. So sad.

  44. NO CLOWNS !! I have never liked clowns and would not let my children interact with clowns.

  45. Clowns don't really fascinate me like they did when I was little. I friend of mine's daughter is still terrified of them( and she's going on 21 ).

    I can see your dis-association, Willow. What's more...they are still churning out these paint-by-numbers sets...

  46. I read somewhere that clowns are the second most common phobia. I wonder why, though? Is it the implied contrast between the painted on smiling face -- and what's underneath? Is it the artificiality that is so menacing?

  47. They're just
    funny ... .

    or even mildly amusing.

  48. LOL...I am in the minority, I love clowns.

  49. It is the mask they wear, like what is wrong with being themselves? What are they hiding? The fact I wear makeup may make me appear "clown-like" if I don't blend it in. Depending on how rushed I am, I suppose the better the blending. It is synchronistic that I wrote about a clown poem last month, Emmett Kelly Sad Day Clown. His less freaked out makeup was a little more comforting, somewhat. Yes clowns are freaky, I totally agree Willow.

  50. CLOWNS YARRRRGHHH I hate clowns- they are scary unpredictable in your face psychotic abominations. My Dad had a thing for clowns and had them all over the house- terrifying!Your painting definately ranks among the top of list of frightful insanity. My Dad would have paid a lot for it and probably would have hung it in his den of dementia.

  51. My phobia started with this scary loud clown at a supermarket opening when I was 6 or 7 ...

  52. I knew that flying doll on the roof thing would come back to haunt you...ha!

  53. I don't care for clowns either and I can only imagine that little kids are scared of them with their lugubriously painted faces and that red hair. It's not normal to find something as hideous as that lovable. Imagine meeting one in a dark alley. I don't think they are meant as amusement for children, but as characters for grown ups to reflect their less than perfect sides. I've never laughed about the antics of a clown.

  54. I was on another blog this morning all done in white and light colors and had your name. I assumed it was you and you had changed things, but here you are talking about clowns.

    Who was that killer of boys -- John Wayne Gacy -- the clown that killed. I don't like clowns either. I think they are frauds trying to portray someone they are not.

    Voices from the past > http://bing-it.blogspot.com/

  55. I should have tried to find an e-mail and sent this by mail.

    I'm sure there is an easier way to show you this, but I don't know computers.

    When I showed this to my daughter (not the one who hate clowns) she was as amazed as I was, she had never seen anything like this technology before either.

    Maybe there is some of this photo tech out there that doesn't involve clowns.

    You are my go to girl for "what's up" to ponder.


  56. Did someone tell Smokey "Whatever you do,Don't. Look. At. The. Camera.!" I think there was a special on high-sheen patterned fabric that week and the Miracles thought "Hey, we could get us some of that cheap, what a good look... and maybe if we do a bit of fancy footwork and waddle like a duck, the price will come down even more!" I've been scared of clowns ever since I had to take my class of six year olds on a school excursion. They enjoyed the clowns at the venue, but I was waiting on an important phone call from my husband about a stressful real estate nightmare that was threatening to go horribly wrong, with all sorts of legalities looming. The clowns just added to the panic, the piercing noises, brash music, and the looming "in-your-face confrontation" of everything.I wanted to run away, but hey, who's the adultin charge here! Everything returned to normal eventually, all was O.K., but my horror of that day and clowns still remains.

  57. he is a little creepy. i never felt anything good or bad about clowns until i read stephen king's it. now it's a whole new story when it comes to clowns. too scary!

  58. I agree, Willow. Clowns are scary. It seems so natural when they are used that way in fiction. Though my heart also responds to the "sad clown" motif from - what? the 1930s?

  59. Clowns certainly are polarizing, aren't they? In a way I'm not sure I fully understand.

    I do remember, though, that every year driving home in the car from the Barnum & Bailey show, reading the programme, the stories of Clown College always stuck with me. I wanted to go there so bad!

  60. I agree. Clowns are just bizarre. But about Marcel Marceau: I met him and spoke with him (yes, he actually has a voice) and he was absolutely lovely.

  61. I never liked clowns much either and still hate masks of all descriptions, even pretty ones, and as for ventriloquist dummies, ahhhh!

  62. Hi, me again.. just to say - You have been "splashed" (visit my blog!)

  63. I still remember my sister crying everytime she saw a clown.

  64. willow,

    love your banner and think of your blog presence often, though have been slow these days---yes, the only clown I really liked was Patch Adams for the obvious reasons- salut

  65. I'll take a clown over a ferret any day. They usually smell better also.
    Even drunk clowns smell better. I like the older female clowns, irrepressibly matronly.
    I hopped over from Tony's blog.

  66. For me, Smokey's the only clown presentation I can take..I think it's the false painted gaity, but what's the reality underneath?
    And I don't want to find that, especially in the dark..
    To me they are all written by Stephen King...

  67. I'm pretty ambivalent about clowns. But I love Smokey Robinson!

  68. Why is it that we are delighted and scared by clowns?
    Thank you for sharing! I personally am afraid of clown dolls more than real clowns!

  69. The first time we ever took our daughters to the circus was a big event. But the moment the clowns came in Catherine burst into tears and didn't stop crying until the show was over!

  70. I simply loath clowns. I do not find them funny at all, in fact I think they are obnoxious and rude. I don't even like the little ones that come out of a tiny volkswagen by the dozen. Now, that felt good. Thank you for the opportunity to share my thoughts. :-)

  71. Dear willow, i am soo with you on clowns!! NVER liked them even as a kid. you defintely don;t want to see the campy "Killer clowns from Outter Space" movie then! (Yes, it's real) They capture peeps with these candy floss (cotton candy) guns that spurt out the gooey mass and then they wrap them up in it to pick up, hang in their spaceship to eat later (its implied!) Very weird movie indeed. What can I say? It was raining and I was very bored at home one day when it came on the tellie.

  72. I had a clown pic too whose eyes followed me around.one day, in utter bravery, i tore it down! At elast though it didn't remind me of my mother. :( Hang tough.

  73. So many people hate clowns, including myself. Does ANYONE like them?

  74. This is so bizarre! Yours is the third post I've read today stating that someone doesn't like clowns.
    I'm in the same camp as you, Willow. I have always dreaded them and they have kept me from enjoying parades and circuses.
    I think the reason lies in a clown-mask that my dad once wore which he used to frighten some neighbours when I was very little. Scarred for life, I was.


  75. WILLOW! You will think I'm STALKING you when I tell you we have yet ANOTHER thing between us. I HATE CLOWNS and for much the same reason you do. Mine's a little different. I had a wind up clown that they sat by my crib and in went round and round and played Brahms' Lullaby. That stupid thing FREAKED me out in the dark but why don't I hate the song? No idea but clowns put me over the edge. One of these days girl, we just gotta get together!

  76. I agree, I think clowns are creepy. And little kids are tortured by them in the guise of entertainment. heyharriet had some reallly sinister clown pics on her blog a few weeks ago. I think Clarabell was the only clown I liked. Love Smoky Robinson,though!

  77. My daughter has it and l think I am to blame... when decorating her nursery we added a clown freeze, musical mobile above her bed (though she never slept in it she slept with us)..i cut up more and splattered her furniture with them...little did l know she must have been frightened by them..when she was 4 we took her to a circus..she hates them as do I, but one tires everything yeah?!

    and when the clown picked her out of the audience and preferred a red rose to her, she screamed go away!! and cried...oh dear!! So sorry dear!!

  78. Clowns are the work of the devil as far as I am concerned. They throw things, drop things, fall over, crash into things and all to try to make us laugh. It may have worked when the first Jesters endeavoured to crack a smile on the face of a King, but oh they are scary inventions.
    Once, my son smacked the face of a clown who was in his face.

  79. If you go to my sidebar, you'll see I have a little thing about this...it reads Is it me or are clowns scary? I think I still have it there, at any rate...maybe I'm having a senior moment and this is just a trap to get some unsuspecting person to visit my web(site)...didn't know I was a clown in a past life, did you now?

  80. I'm totally with you on the whole clown thing... how terrifying to have that awful painting (can we really call it a painting?) in one's bedroom! I think I'd have slept in the closet!

    however, I do enjoy jigsaw puzzles.... not that I often sit down to do one, but if someone has one up - it will draw me in....

  81. Congrats on POTD! This was a terrific post!!!!! ~Janine XO

  82. I came over from David's authorblog. Congrats on the Post of the Day Award!

  83. Congratulations on the post, Willow!! I feel the same way about clowns.

  84. My dad was a clown, so they've never affected me one way or another. But I understand how that painting could affect a child. Gads! Who'd put that in a kid's bedroom?

    I believe the reason clowns are disturbing to a lot of people is because as children, we rely on people's expressions to let us know if things are all right. By trying to read a clown's face it would be impossible to analyze a given situation.

    Great post as always!

  85. I love jigsaw puzzles but I'm with you on the clowns. Just creepy!

  86. Actually, this picture would be a great avatar for you.

  87. I love this quote from Jack Handy that about clowns..

    "To me, clowns aren't funny. In fact, they're kind of scary. I've wondered where this started and I think it goes back to the time I went to the circus, and a clown killed my dad."

  88. totally creepy.
    i am sure it was the same painting in my room by MY MOTHER!!!!

    i hate clowns too!!


Inject a few raisins of conversation into the tasteless dough of existence.
― O. Henry (and me)