Creeped Out by Clowns

As I kid, clowns scared the crap out of me. Whether I encountered them at the circus or at a peer’s birthday party, there was something mighty strange—even a little sinister—about their getup of wigs, gaudy make-up, ill-patterned baggy jumpsuits and shoes more suitable for the mythical Bigfoot.
So it pleased me yesterday to learn that I am not alone in finding clowns creepy. In an interview with National Public Radio’s Michele Norris on “All Things Considered,” Paul Carpenter, a clown from John Lawson’s Circus in the U.K. said that coulrophobia, or fear of clowns, ranks as the third most common phobia in the United Kingdom (after spiders and needles).

Photo courtesy of Flickr user _gee_ (CC)

In an effort to tackle this PR challenge, Mr. Carpenter and some of his fellow clowns recently began hosting pre-show therapy sessions, inviting circus attendees to help people overcome their fear—a classic form of exposure therapy. “We put on our makeup very slowly, and then we put on our costumes,” explained Mr. Carpenter (aka Popol when he’s in clown mode). “And if that goes well and they haven’t run for the door, we then try and get them interacting with us in the circus ring. We go through a few clown routines, getting them involved. And if that goes well, our ultimate aim is to get the person themselves dressed up in costume and makeup, and then we help them find their own inner clown.”

Me? I’d be running for the door. But according to Mr. Carpenter, this form of exposure therapy appears to work for some circus fans. This might be a remedy to suggest to your patients who have a fear of clowns.

To listen to the interview or read a transcript of the conversation, click here.

— Doug Brunk (on Twitter@dougbrunk)

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1 Comment

Filed under Family Medicine, IMNG, Primary care, Psychiatry, Uncategorized

One response to “Creeped Out by Clowns

  1. Michelle Rizzo

    Why get over an antipathy for clowns? It’s not like they’re a necessary evil that you simply must learn to tolerate, like a fear flying or of swimming. They’re disgusting, ugly, not funny, downright freaky. John Wayne Gacy was the ultimate in proving that.

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