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Lit Up: On ‘Bad Clowns’

Lit Up: On ‘Bad Clowns’

As an actual cause of coulrophobia and a pop culture trope, clowns are deeply ingrained in our collective American consciousness. Author Benjamin Radford delves into why we fear these characters from circuses and birthday parties.

‘Bad Clowns’

BY RENE THOMPSON

Irrational fears can be both silly and overwhelming, and creepy clowns are no exception.

UNM Press

UNM Press

As an actual cause of phobias and a pop culture trope, clowns are deeply ingrained in our collective American consciousness. Author Benjamin Radford delves into why we fear these characters from circuses and birthday parties in “Bad Clowns” (UNM Press; paperback; $24.95).

Coulrophobia is the fear of clowns. While there isn’t any hard data on the subject, coulrophobiafacts.com estimates the phobia affects approximately 12 percent of U.S. adults. In “Bad Clowns,” the causes of coulrophobia aren’t taken too seriously. The phobia isn’t prevalent enough to research or deemed an ailment by most who suffer from it. Yet it still fascinates the masses.

In “Bad Clowns,” the author examines the psyche of real-life cracked clowns such as serial killer John Wayne Gacy and English entertainer Joseph Grimaldi, whose tormented memoirs were edited by Charles Dickens. From lyrics to film and TV, our society’s fascination with scary clowns forms a feedback loop.

Radford explains why we let ourselves be afraid of clowns depicted by movies such as “It” or “Poltergeist.” Radford, a supernatural skeptic and science-based paranormal investigator, researches subjects such as mass hysteria and critical thinking while debunking urban legends and other bizarre phenomena.

The author will read from “Bad Clowns” at Bookworks (4022 Rio Grande NW) at 3 p.m. on Saturday, April 16. For more info, visit bkwrks.com/ben-radford

Rene Thompson is a staff writer at ABQ Free Press. Reach her at rene@freeabq.com.

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Rene Thompson is a staff reporter at ABQ Free Press. Email her at rene@freeabq.com.

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Sara MacNeil is an editorial intern at ABQ Free Press Weekly.

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