Clowns: Why Do We Fear And Mistrust Them?

closeup of a scary evil clown

By Anthony McLennan / Truth Theory

Clowns are contradictory characters in that they’re supposed to be funny and entertain children but instead come across as creepy and untrustworthy.

Horror movies have perpetuated the perception of evil clowns, but where does this fear originate from?

Firstly, clowns have been around for centuries in the form of jokers, jesters and harlequin. From the ancient Egyptians and Chinese to Ancient Rome, clowns then became the iconic jester of the Middle Ages.

Since then, there have been a handful of individual clowns who have impacted on our collective consciousness.

The curse of a clown families

One such clown was Joseph Grimaldi, who performed in theaters in England during the late 17th and the 18th centuries.

Grimaldi took the profession to the next level and introduced the white-painted clown face which remains today, together with bright costume and blue hair.

What marked him out further was the contradiction between his stage persona and his real life character. At work he got people to laugh and have fun. But in reality, he suffered severe depression.

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When you hear his life story its easy to see why. It began at the age of two when Grimaldi’s authoritarian father forced him into a life of performing. The curse continued when his wife died at childbirth and then having pushed his son into life as a working clown, the son died from alcoholism at the age of 31.

Grimaldi later suffered from pain which left him disabled to a degree. He subsequently died after his own battle with alcohol.

Later, author Charles Dickens, allegedly inspired by Grimaldi’s son, furthered the myth of the miserable clown when he wrote The Pickwick Papers in 1836.

At a similar time in history in France, another infamous clown emerged called Jean-Gaspard Deburau, or more commonly known as Pierrot.

The story went that Pierrot, enraged by a rude child, picked up a stick and delivered a fatal blow. Pierrot was later exonerated, yet the story still added to the theory of nasty clowns.

Pogo the serial killer

It was  taken to a completely terrifying new level in the 1970’s in America with Pogo the Killer Clown.

The American serial killer performed at children’s hospitals and charitable functions, calling himself ‘Pogo the Clown’ or ‘Patches the Clown’. He subsequently raped, tortured and killed at least 33 young men in the Chicago area.

It’s therefore no surprise that there have been numerous clown-themed horror movies since then. There have also been several real-life copycat clown killers.

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