They really don’t. And I’m one of those people. Some call it ‘Coulrophobia’, I call it common sense, the will to live. There’s something innately disturbing about clowns (in all their forms). They’re creepy as all hell, and pure horror fodder.
They’ve been well represented in the genre: ‘Pennywise’ from Stephen King’s IT; ‘Twisty the Clown’ from American Horror Story: Freak Show; hell, even the clown doll from Poltergeist gave me the heebie-jeebies. And is it any wonder? All it takes is a smudge of that makeup to have them look as inherently evil on the outside as they are on the inside. I mean, what lies behind the mask?
So when Halloween came around this year, I thought it about time I wore the mask myself. As my daughter was Trick or Treating with friends (I didn’t cry, I swear), and my boy was Halloweening as a mercenary (casual clothes and an array of weapons – most underwhelming), it was up to me to carry the Halloween flag this year. I wasn’t going to let the side down; I was going all out, determined to bring at least one child to fearful tears (What? Everyone needs a hobby.)
The suburbs in my area have embraced Halloween quite spectacularly, and there’s a fantastic feeling of community as parents walk the streets with their little witches, skeletons, zombies and reapers. There’s been nothing quite like this since our government legislated against Guy Fawkes night in the late 1970s. Man, someone loses an eye, a couple of fingers and ruins it for everyone (this is why we can’t have nice things).
So while there are those in Oz who boo-hoo Halloween (“Americanisation”, blatant consumerism, blah, blah, blah), for those of us in and around my neighbourhood, it’s fostered an even greater sense of community.
Except for clowns.
From the response to my Halloween “mask”, clowns are the sewer dwellers of the monster hierarchy – pariahs amongst the ghosts and ghouls of All Hallows Eve. Children stared, pointed, then veered very much away from me (not my own kid and his friends – these boys are a special kind of awesome), while parents voiced almost identical responses to the mask: “Everyone hates a clown.”
I asked a couple of parents why, wanting to know if their response mirrored mine, and most just pointed to the mask, “that’s why.” With ghosts and demons, witches and zombies, you know what you’re getting, what you’re up against. With clowns, you don’t know what lies behind the makeup – there’s no honesty in who and what they are, and it’s all hidden behind a too-wide smile.
I found only one other clown wandering the streets… well, not quite wandering. I noticed him from a distance, deathly still, head cocked just so. Children crossed the street rather than approach. He played his part beautifully.
Clowns. I hate them. But they’re the perfect Halloween mask. Both parents and children have an automatic distrust of them. Even those in the circus (another pet hate), who are supposed to bring laughter and joy engender a sense of something not quite right, of unease, disquiet.
It’s what I brought to Halloween this year, if the faces of those I passed were anything to go by.
As for reducing a child to tears… Achievement unlocked.