Love them or hate them, some people just can’t bear the sight of clowns.
The painted smile, strange costume and even the big feet can put people of f, while some even have a real and recognised fear of the party entertainment icon.
Part of the reason behind why people are so scared of clowns may be their use in popular culture. Perhaps most famously, the Joker in the Batman series dons a painted clown face. Clowns have also fronted some of the best-grossing films ever made.
The 2017 move IT, starring Bill Skarsgard as Pennywise The Dancing Clown brought in a whopping £570 million worldwide and is sure to have raised the hair on the back of some viewer’s necks.
Pennywise became a notorious and iconic look after first appearing on-screen in 1990, inspiring countless copycat Halloween costumes.
Some consider him to be the scariest of them all, his sharp teeth top a Digital Trends list of the evilest red-headed monster around, but there are other clowns considered equally terrifying.
Tobe Hooper’s 1982 film Poltergeist features an attack by a clown doll widely considered one of the scariest horror movie scenes of all time and reminded audiences visiting a haunted house to check under the bed once in a while.
John Carroll Lynch’s portrayal of ‘Twisty’ on American Horror Story isn’t one for the faint-hearted, but scary clowns are not necessarily confined to our TV and cinema screens.
Perhaps the scariest clown of all was a real-life serial killer by the name of John Wayne Gacy.
The brutal rapist and murderer regularly performed for children, but was convicted of a shocking spree of crimes dating between 1972 and 1978.
Executed by lethal injection in 1994, his crimes included the murder of 33 people, with 29 of them found buried under his house.
The 2019 documentary ‘Wrinkles the Clown’, meanwhile, is based on a real-life man in Naples who is hired to scare kids back into line, or just prank them a little.
So common is the fear – estimates put the figure at around one in 10 people – that hoaxes are a quick way of alarming people online and causing unnecessary panic.
In 2016, a “killer clown” craze was eventually revealed to be far less of a problem than it actually was after people were reported to be dressing up as clowns with the intention of scaring members of the public.
‘Coulrophobia’ is the official name given to the fear of clowns and it isn’t just scary movies that appear to be the root cause.
Health experts Healthline say early traumatic experiences can cause a lifelong fear of the big-footed jokers and “our brain and body would be wired from that point on to flee any situation involving clowns”.
The fear is also so common that some may suffer from a ‘learned phobia’. That is people have learnt to have a specific fear “from a loved one or trusted authority figure”.
Nottingham Trent psychologist Professor Mark Griffiths told the Mail that “exaggerated features” are part of the reason behind people’s fears.
He said: “Clowns have exaggerated features, particularly the face, hair and feet — huge noses, scary mouths, huge elongated shoes, and wildfire hair which can also be scary to some people.”