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True Trick or Treat Terror

Sep 28, 2015 01:28PM ● By Julie Ross

by Julie Ross

It’s almost Halloween again, so maybe you and your family have already been thinking about costume choices.

According to the National Retail Federation, last year’s most popular costumes for kids, aside from characters from Disney’s Frozen and The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, were “princess, animal and Spider Man.” 

None of those is particularly scary. What house is haunted by a fairy, ladybug or superhero? Perhaps your taste runs to the more frightening on this ghostly night and you are trying to come up with the scariest, most scream-worthy costume of all. What will strike the highest level of fear into the very souls of your friends and neighbors? Will it be a zombie, ghoul, demon, goblin, witch, vampire – or clown? 

The obvious answer, of course, is clown. Is that painted carnival dweller a purveyor of slapstick hilarity or a violent psychopath? 

You just can’t tell by looking, and that’s why clowns scare the bejesus out of us. Years ago when we lived in Washington, D.C., I was shopping in Georgetown, when suddenly, walking straight toward me on the crowded sidewalk was a clown in full white-faced regalia. I, of course, immediately took evasive action by quickly crossing the street, whereupon the clown flung his arms wide and shouted out, “HEY, everyone, that lady is AFRAID OF CLOWNS!” This clown was not only terrifying, but also I think quite rude to call me out like that. I am not saying all clowns are homicidal maniacs, but I do feel it’s prudent to exercise caution.

I’m not alone in my opinion of the Bozos of the world. In 2008, Nursing Standard magazine and the BBC reported on the results of a research study by Sheffield University in the United Kingdom conducted to help select cheerful décor for children’s hospitals. Among the 250 children surveyed, clowns were “universally disliked.” Not surprising.

At my younger son’s preschool, the children had a visit one morning from a fairly ordinary looking middle-aged woman. She introduced herself as “Feather the Clown,” and proceeded to transform herself, step by step, until she was indeed a full-on clown character, complete with bulbous nose, giant shoes, big red wig and all. Horrifying. The idea was, of course, for the children to lose their fear of clowns by seeing it was just a regular person under all that makeup. What sort of thought process is behind that bit of twisted logic? How about this instead – just don’t put on all that weird stuff in the first place! Seriously.

There is a scientific term for those with a major aversion to clowns – coulrophobia. It is defined as “an abnormal fear of clowns.” How can a fear of clowns possibly be abnormal? Seems to me to be more a mainstream state of mind than a psychological aberration. Just type “I Hate Clowns” into your search engine and the first thing that pops up is the “I Hate Clowns” website,, sponsored by the (clearly rational) anti-clown community. 

I dare you to go to YouTube and watch the “Top 10 Scariest Clowns in Movies and TV.” I made it not quite 20 seconds in before I had to squeeze my eyes shut and click the stop button. Beyond chilling.

The choice is yours. Will you dress as a mummy, gorgon, banshee or clown? We all know which will inspire the most terror. Send in the clowns! Just not to my house, please. It’s a no-clown zone. Year-round, not just on Halloween.

You can reach Julie at julieak[email protected]