I despised clowns years before I knew it was a common phobia. I blame the start of this hatred on the movie “Killer Klowns from Outer Space.” When I was a kid, I lived in a house where cooked carrots were considered candy and I had to eat my crust. My best friend Colleen’s house had unlimited TV, which was forbidden in my home, as well as white bread and sugary cereal. It was here that I first got to watch R-rated movies.
Colleen saw the movie “It,” and told me how scary it was. I was excited to see something that would certainly be prohibited at home. “Before you see this, I have a different movie we should watch,” Colleen told me. “If you can handle ‘Killer Klowns from Outer Space, then we’ll watch ‘It.’”
So she started the movie. It was an 80’s B movie, classified as a comedy horror flick, but at my young age I saw nothing funny about it. I watched the clown-looking aliens walk around earth attacking people with silly string, wrapping them in pods, and sucking their blood out of curly straws. The whole thing was creepy, but what made me lose it was the unforgettable image of a clown hand reaching out of a tent (spaceship) and grabbing a lost dog.
Ever the animal lover, I could no longer focus on the plot of the movie. “What happened to the dog? Is the dog gonna be okay?” I asked Colleen. I could care less about the dog’s elderly owner who became alien clown food, or any of the humans in the movie. The clowns took a dog and I was traumatized.
The creepy hand snatching the dog would become a memory that would frequently disturb me as I tried to fall asleep at night.
When we finished the movie, I told Colleen that couldn’t handle “It.” Years later I became a book worm. And though I devoured all of Steven King’s novels, this story remained one that I would avoid.
I was a pre-teen the first time I remember seeing a clown in real life. My mom had founded an organization to help single mothers, and they hired a clown to come to their Christmas party. While other kids happily approached the clown to watch her squeekily twist long balloons into animals and hats, I stayed on the other side of the room. If she moved right, I moved left. I kept my eyes off of her hands too.
She sensed my distance, and at one point started following me. I jogged away, zigging and zagging through the rows of tables. I was running from a clown. She quit chasing me when she found a less new balloon-less victim: Colleen. From a distance I watched Colleen standing still and glaring at me as the clown sized her head and twisted up a latex hat. Payback, I thought.
Soon after this I started meeting people who had a fear of clowns. At first I thought it was all a coincidence. “Did you see ‘Killer Klowns’ as a kid too?” I’d ask. Then I realized that there are many reasons why clowns are unlikable: the painted smiles, the real eyes beneath the makeup, the red noses and white gloves.
As an adult, I rarely run into clowns. The one exception is Halloween. Some idiot decided to market the whole creepy-clown thing by making masks for the demented and lazy. So every Halloween, I’m bound to see a clown or two with a twisted rubber face.
I’ve learned from my experiences though. The thing about clowns is they can sense your fear. So if they see you shudder, they’ll want nothing more than to be near you. So now when I see a clown, I take a deep breath and turn away slowly, pretending not to be afraid.