I can remember a fair bit about my early childhood.
I remember the house we lived in, I remember the schools I went to and I can remember playing with my mates from dawn to dusk during the school holidays. I remember the empty, car-less streets and I remember the choking filth that the coke ovens spewed over our back yard, twenty-four hours a day. I vividly remember the day the street flooded and we had to be rescued by the fire brigade. I can remember Christmases, birthdays and visits from my Grandparents (the only occasions when we actually used the front room.)
I also remember that I was terrified of clowns.
There was a series on TV back in 1961 called, ‘The Mask of the Clown.’ It was on at tea time which meant that it was made for family viewing. I can’t remember anything of the plot, who the characters were, who starred in it or which channel it was on, (there were only two in those days.) I do know it was filmed in glorious black and white and during the opening credits a grinning clown’s face flashed onto the screen. I have no idea what happened after that because I was behind the sofa, in bits for the next thirty minutes.
Ever since then I’ve studiously avoided clowns. I avoided their puny attempts to bribe me with a free balloon; I steadfastly refused to fall into the trap of laughing along with the unwary as they slapped custard pies into the faces of their stooges.
Even when I reached adulthood and worked out that these foul creations were made of nylon hair and makeup, I still refused to drop my guard; I knew there was something evil about them. Even the cartoon Krusty the Clown of The Simpsons freaked me out, and I deliberately steered clear of MacDonald’s restaurants.
I was an adult when I read Stephen King’s most terrifying work; IT, and it scared the poop out of me. It was a tremendously scary book, but the ending was a huge disappointment. How could this malevolent, evil being, have morphed into a giant spider? Surely it should have remained as a clown. I was seriously hoping to see the evil so and so get burned alive or sprayed with Agent Orange. It deserved a bad end.
Clowns are a creation of the Devil.
From Grimaldi in the seventeenth century to Charlie Cairoli in the 1960s, these evil men have been allowed to terrify our children. There was a serial-killer-clown in the states called Pogo (John Wayne Gacy,) who killed 33 boys and young men. Also in the states, father and son clowns were both divorced by their wives after the clown characters had taken over their husband’s personalities.
My daughter inherited my clown allergy though I think my son is fine with them. My wife didn’t particularly like them but she wasn’t a fan either. For years, I thought I was the only one that had a problem with pernicious Pierrots, but apparently, there is a recognised phobia called Coulrophobia, and people have suffered from it since the days of the court jester.
I’m not really sure what causes my unease. Maybe it’s the mad, painted grin or the sad teardrop. Maybe it’s just that you can’t work out what they’re about because of that unchanging expression. Maybe it’s just the makeup itself.
To be honest, I can’t see it being as simple as that. I’m not scared of human street statues and I sometimes wear a red nose for charity every other year. I’m not even put out by Great Aunt Mabel, when her inch-thick foundation cracks under the strain at a family wedding.
I was delighted to discover that Coulrophobia existed. It’s nice to know I’m not alone in my loathing of clowns and that there are millions of people who feel exactly the same as I do. I only have one question.