31 Days of Halloween – Day 1 Clowns

Let’s think of things that terrify us. It is October 1st after all and we are now in the greatest month of the year. To celebrate we are aiming to blog about something that terrifies us each day this month.

As a side note, you may have noticed that we have been quiet. This year has been full of a lot of downs for us so we do apologize for any disturbance in postings. Life got in the way. Good news is that things have calmed down a bit and we can return to doing what we love – writing and publishing. Bad news is that, as we had previously mentioned, we will not publish a Blue Book this year. We are hoping that a little luck shines our way and that things do continue getting better. We thank you for your patience.

Now, let’s move along to things that go bump in the night. We plan to blog about things that frighten us, places that are haunted, and just overall strange and terrifying phenomena – in no particular order. If there is something that you would like to see us research and write about please reach out to us on Twitter @burialdaybooks

We are going to start with those clown scares that are sweeping American towns and cities. We would like to say that they are all a hoax, as Rolling Stone (http://www.rollingstone.com/culture/news/killer-clowns-inside-the-terrifying-hoax-sweeping-america-w442649) magazine noted, but are they really a hoax? A man was recently arrested for lurking in the woods dressed like a clown (http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-37455073). So what is going on? Why the mass hysteria?

Clowns are scary. Apologies for anyone who has innocently worked a children’s party or in a circus dressed like a clown, but I suppose sorry for not being sorry. Again, clowns are scary.


Exhibit 1 in scary clowns

The Poltergeist movie



You remember the scene very clearly if you saw this when you were young. To date, this has been my biggest traumatic experience with clowns.


Exhibit 2 in scary clowns


Thank you Stephen King for traumatizing a generation with It.


Exhibit 3 in scary clowns

John Wayne Gacy

John Wayne Gacy was convicted of 33 murders, 26 of those victims were found buried under his home. More on his crimes can be found here (http://www.biography.com/people/john-wayne-gacy-10367544)


Those are just three examples of terrifying clowns, but there’s actually a small bit of psychology behind the fear of clowns. Coulrophobia is a neologism for a specific fear of clowns. Part of the thought as to why people are frightened of clowns, besides their appearance in horror films and a former serial killer who used to dress up as one, is that clowns function off the exaggeration of their features. An exaggeration of their features, large eyes, large mouth, etc., could be interpreted as being monstrous to the human brain and so they enter the realm of the uncanny. This concept was first spotted in 1970 by robotics professor Masahiro Mori. The term uncanny valley was first coined in 1978 in the book Robotics: Fact, Fiction, and Prediction by Jasia Reichardt. This concept is actually linked to Sigmund Freud’s 1919 essay The Uncanny, which we will go into much further later on.

Now, I hope you’re still with me. Mori hypothesized that with a lifelike robot, he found that there is a point where a real human’s emotional response to that robot becomes positive, but there’s a point when that quickly becomes revulsion. This revulsion happens when that robot becomes less distinguishable from that of a human being. This area of revulsion, this point of thinking if it is barely human or fully human is called the uncanny valley. This thing, a robot in Mori’s example, then produces feelings of uncanniness.

So back to clowns. A clown’s wild features are lifelike enough to be disturbing but not real enough for us to feel truly pleasant about them. Also, a clown’s behavior – which is meant to come off as overt and exaggerated, also generates uneasy feelings – perhaps then feelings of uncanniness.

The most important question is ‘Are you afraid of clowns?’ If so, let us know on Twitter. Also, let us know about any other scary clowns in fiction or film.


Categories: Blog

Cynthia Pelayo

Cynthia (cina) Pelayo is the author of short story collection Loteria and the young adult horror novel Santa Muerte published by Post Mortem Press. Her short stories and poems have appeared in DM, Weird Year, Flashes in the Dark, SNM Horror Magazine, Seedpod, Static Movement, and more. Pelayo is the Publisher/Gravedigger of Burial Day Books and is a member of the Horror Writers Association. She is currently at work on two novels and a series of short stories and poems. You can find her on Twitter at @cinapelayo or at cinapelayo.com