Growing up I had an antique toy clown named Sherry, she was a wind up toy that played music and her head slowly turned. Sherry was one of my most beloved toys as a young child. However my love for Sherry soon turned to hate as she tormented me with her smile and slow nod. By the time I was five I was suffering from coulrophobia (fear of clowns). My fear was brought on by the 1990 movie Stephen King’s “It”, a movie derived from one of his many novels about an evil clown, Pennywise. My childhood had become tainted with images of this smiling clown who dwelled in sewers and tormented the minds of young children well into adulthood. His twisted face and evil laugh replaced the innocent music of my beloved Sherry.
As I got older and entered adolescents my fear of clowns became even more paralayzing, Bozo the Clown seemed to laugh at me directly, with his red nose and painted smile. Ronald McDonald made me want any kind of meal other than a happy meal, because the truth was I was anything but happy when I saw him. I’m 26 now and a mother, my son doesn’t understand what it is about clowns that his mother is so terrified of, all he knows is that something about the circus keeps me from taking him. To see a picture of a clown or to hear a clowns laughter on television brings on a panic attack. I know that my fear is really just mind over matter, that clowns are a wonderful part of childhood innocence that should make you laugh with their squirting flowers and balloon creations. But for me I am constantly tormented by the laughter of Pennywise and the slow turning of my beloved Sherry’s foam head.
I know that even as an adult I do not fear alone, the fear of clowns is extremely common among both children and adults. I have to ask myself am I depriving my son of the innocence he so deserves? Am I being childish when I ask parents “will you have a clown?” when given an invitation to their child’s birthday party? Or will I ever be able to conquer my fear of those who take pride in making children smile?