ByJancy Richardson, writer at
To avoid fainting, keep repeating 'It's only a movie...It's only a movie...'
Jancy Richardson

Let's face it, clowns are creepy. Whether you personally have a specific phobia of clowns or not, you're unlikely to think they're lovely, pleasant individuals to leave your children alone with.

I mean, who wasn't terrified of this guy as a kid? I still am, to be honest.

Now our new Pennywise for the upcoming It reboot has been announced, it seems a good time to get to the nitty gritty of what scares us about those painted clown freaks.

We know we're freaked out by clowns, but WHY? What is it about these painted fools that has us running for our lives? Here's five reasons that clowns why scary.

1. Unpredictability

Clowns transgress over social boundaries, acting "oddly" and unlike a regular person. Many people are creeped out by mimes for the same reason; they pull strange faces and often cause moments of embarrassment or confusion for people watching.

2. Face Off

The clown has only one, or very limited expressions. Like an automaton, we are freaked out because we can't use our everyday skills of facial recognition to sense the subtleties of what the clown is feeling. A paralyzed, constant smile is downright disturbing.

Psychiatrist Steven Schlozman says:

You recognize a smile, your brain registers that smiles are largely good things — and yet you can’t smile all the time, because if you’re smiling all the time, something’s not right.

3. The Uncanny Valley

This psychological principle outlines the chilling feeling you get looking at something that is like a human face — but different. Sometimes you can't quite put your finger on what it is that disturbs you about this face, you just feel that something is wrong. It's nearly normal, but not quite.

4. Stranger Danger

Modern media reports crimes against children — including molestation and murder — more frequently and efficiently than in the past, when sexual abuse was swept under the carpet, too taboo to speak of. Nowadays, society's fear of pedophilia is nearer the surface and our deep fears of clowns are bolstered by real facts — John Wayne Gacy, Klutzo — societal paranoia persistently whispers in our ear: "Just what kind of weirdo hangs around making faces at kids all day, anyway?"

5. A Horrible History

The roots of the clown are in the jesters of the past, who lived in a brutal world where tyrant kings were able to severely punish his servants on a whim. As Schlozman says:

Clowns in the Middle Ages, if they didn’t make the king laugh, they paid a pretty steep price. A lot of the jesters were mutilated to make them smile all the time. They would have the muscles cut that enabled the mouth to frown.

Ghastly. If you haven't been put off by all of this, check out five truly obscure creepy clown horror movies here!


Are you afraid of clowns?

Source: Vulture, User Testing, Smithsonian


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