Stephen King is probably very happy at the moment. The new film version of It is doing very well indeed. It’s been winning critical acclaim and so far the film has made $198million at the box office (in the USA alone) on a $35million budget. Not bad going.

However, people suffering from coulrophobia are no doubt having much less fun.

Coulrophobia is the fear of clowns and it affects about 12% of the population.

With the success of It those people are seeing clowns at every turn. On billboards, on public transport, outside cinemas. Wherever they go, It’s Pennywise The Dancing Clown, played by Bill Skarsgård is never far behind.

Now, if you don’t suffer from coulrophobia, you might find the idea pretty silly. You might even laugh at those who are afraid of clowns. However, let’s be real: if you want to pay money to go and see a horror film about a scary clown, that’s all well and good. But why should people who did not ever wish to see that horror film have their deepest fear brought to life wherever they go? How’s that fair?

Can you cure coulrophobia?

To help coulrophobics at this difficult time, a Harley Street hyponotherapist named Adam Cox has created an audio download. The guide, which will help coulrophobics manage their fears, is free to download from his website. Speaking about his creation, Cox said that most people ‘treat’ their coulrophobia just by avoiding clowns. However, a his plan claims to be able to help when this strategy is impossible thanks to It‘s marketing campaign:

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“There will be more images of clowns in the media over the next few weeks which can create issues from mild anxiety to full blown panic attacks.

“Clowns are one of those phobias that people can manage by simple avoidance. For most people with coulrophobia they can simply choose to avoid places such as the circus where clowns may be seen. With ‘It’ being such a popular film those that are afraid of clowns will see more images of clowns than normal which can cause unnecessary anxiety.

“Just as the film Jaws was responsible for many people developing galeophobia the original 1990 mini-series of ‘It’, featuring Tim Curry as Pennywise, was responsible for many people developing coulrophobia. It’s my belief that the popularity of the latest version of ‘It’ will see Pennywise create a new generation with a fear of clowns.”

The idea is that you listen to the audio guide while you sleep. We already know listening to something in your sleep can help you learn. Hopefully it can help you conquer your fears too!

Why are people afraid of clowns?

Considering coulrophobia afflicts 12% of the population, one has to wonder, what’s so scary about clowns?

It could be that Cox is correct. It has already seen two very scary adaptions, maybe that prompted people to fear clowns. On the other hand, it’s odd to think that one scary clown could freak out so many.

After all, we see scary things on the news and in films all the time. Most of those things don’t cause us to develop phobias.

Coulrophobia can trace its roots all the way back to Medieval and Shakespearean times. Andrew Stott, an English professor at Buffalo University discussed why we find clowns so scary:

“The medieval fool was continually reminding us of our mortality, our animal nature, of how unreasonable and ridiculous and petty we can be…

“Clowns have always been associated with danger and fear, because they push logic up to its breaking point. They push our understanding to the limits of reason and they do this through joking but also through ridicule.”

Stott explains that clowns were often seen as ‘reckless, anarchic’ figures.

Another explanation could be the Freudian concept of the ‘uncanny’. This is the sight of something which is both familiar and just a little bit ‘off’. Harvard Medical School psychiatrist and horror-film fan Steven Schlozman explained to Vulture.

“The uncanny explains a lot of horror tropes, where you look at something and it’s not quite right — like a human face that’s decomposing. It’s recognisable, but just enough away from normal to scare you.

“In fact, clowns in the Middle Ages, if they didn’t make the king laugh, they paid a pretty steep price. A lot of the jesters were mutilated to make them smile all the time. They would have the muscles cut that enabled the mouth to frown.”