Despite its unusual nature, the fear of clowns affected thousands of people, with A-list celebrities among them. Actor Johnny Depp, rap star P Diddy and even Harry Potter star Daniel Radcliffe are all said to be coulrophobia sufferers. According to US tabloids, P Diddy, who was scheduled to appear in the NBC show Fear Factor even demanded a special “no clowns” clause in his contract. Hollywood idol Robert Pattinson, who is famous for his vampire roles in Twilight saga also admitted that he’s afraid of circus comedians. He says it’s because he saw a clown burn to death when he was a kid:
“The first time I went to the circus somebody died. One of the clowns died. His little car exploded. The joke car exploded on him. Seriously. Everybody ran out. It was terrifying."
For other patients the nature of this dreadful antipathy is irrational. Here is Haydon Lynch talking about what exactly terrifies him about clowns in a short YouTube documentary called “Coulrophobia”:
I don’t like any of it, but there’s no one thing that I can pinpoint about them that I hate besides… them.
The depictions of clowns in mass culture and the advertising industry range from funny to kind to scary. Fast-food chain McDonalds has been capitalizing on clown characters for years, with Ronald MacDonald being the company’s primary mascot.
Others, like master of horror Stephen King made clowns look menacing. In King’s novel and TV-miniseries “It” there is an evil being that appears in form of a clown to terrorize a group of kids by exploiting the fears and phobias of the victims.
Here’s Stephen King telling talk show host Conan O’Brien about his own personal scary clown experience:
As a kid going to the circus there would be like 12 full-grown people who would all pile out of a little tiny car. Their faces were dead-white, their mouths were red as though they were full of blood, they were all screaming, their eyes were huge, you know – what’s not to like?
Even though Coulrophobia is not too common (it’s at number 88 on the list of phobias collected by a website called FearOf), with so many celebrity sufferers, it’s likely to remain one of mankind’s most talked-about fears.