Is Playing an Evil Clown Harmful to Your Mental Health?

With their fanciful costumes and comedic personas, clowns look like the epitome of joy. But those figures of a laugh also provoke a horrified response and have even inspired their own phobia. Although it’s not officially diagnosed within the American Psychiatric Association’s DSM-5 categorization of disorders, coulrophobia, the worry of clowns, is one of the most commonly known phobias in the public notion. It’s clean to peer why clowns are now and then considered as icons of worry. Permanent, frozen smiles and uncanny, mask-like makeup inspire nightmarish visions.

Popular tradition helped catapult the clown to a titan of terror. Stephen King’s 1986 book It, and the film remake commencing September 8th, follows seven adolescent buddies as they’re terrorized by way of the evil clown Pennywise who preys on their private fears insecurities. The evil clown had already leaped from fiction pages into a truth inside the overdue Seventies whilst real-lifestyles serial killer John Wayne Gacy changed into dubbed “Killer Clown” after it turned into found he dressed as “Pogo” performing at fundraisers and kids’ birthday events. In 2016, an evil clown craze appeared to spread worldwide with reviews of menacing clown sightings.


Benjamin Radford, the writer of Bad Clown, has stated that the evil clown isn’t a brand new phenomenon: “There’s an incorrect notion that clowns were once usually satisfied and jolly and that the evil clown is a new turn on that. In truth, clowns have constantly been fairly ambiguous characters. Sometimes they’re suitable; once in a while, they’re bad. Sometimes they’re trickster figures. Sometimes they’re making human beings snigger; now and then, they’re scaring the hell out of human beings.”


Rami Nader, a psychologist, and director of the North Shore Stress and Anxiety Clinic in North Vancouver, B.C., advised NBC that perhaps the foundation of coulrophobia comes from the clown’s blurry identification: “You can’t definitely tell who [clowns] are. You can’t genuinely see their face. You don’t honestly realize what that all way in the back of the mask.” what does it suggests whilst an actor takes the role of an evil clown in cinema, where the wicked clown character is more famous than ever? This week on Giz Asks, we talked to numerous specialists—including psychologists informed about overall performance and several actors who played killer clowns—what it approach to transform into an audience’s worst, purple-nosed nightmare.

Sid Haig

Actor Captain Spaulding in Rob Zombie’s House of one thousand Corpses and The Devil’s Rejects. What is the hardest part about portraying a stricken clown? Putting him away at the case of the day. I recognize that sounds a bit bizarre. I paintings organically. Within each and all and sundry is every personality type. There’s Captain Spaulding in you. I needed to pass in and find that Captain Spaulding in me and bring him out. I were given to put him away at the case of the day in any other case bad things can occur. That becomes the toughest work in creating the individual—locating that location in me that would cross there.

I don’t know that there has been a very great deal of education. I had to find the thing inside me that would make me retaliate, hurt humans, be a sociopath. I used that to dig round and locate him. Even the largest pacifist, if you may, ought to find a reason to pick out up a gun and kill anyone. There is some motion that could take place to cause them to do that, even though they might be the maximum peaceful human beings within the world, there’s continually some thing to be able to trigger this sort of conduct. So, that’s what I had to do. How do you sense the role affected your normal kingdom of mind or intellectual fitness? I became ok. I didn’t do whatever sociopathic. We have been all there collectively all of the time, so we were all decompressing after the movie [House of 1000 Corpses] wrapped. It turned into lots of amusing. We had a hazard to do all types of crazy things without certainly hurting each person.

Was it cathartic for you?

Yes, in a manner. You get a chance to release that craziness—and now you’re on top of things of it, and it’s no longer on top of things of you.

Why are humans frightened of clowns?

I desired to mention that from my revel in as a hypnotherapist, I’ve been capable of explaining to people why there is a clown phobia. Mom and a think it’s going to be a tremendous component to take little Billy to the circus while he’s under eight years antique or so. They do, and he’s having an amazing time—till any individual suggests up, and it’s a clown. They’re bizarre-searching; they don’t seem like mother and father, aunt Mary, or all and sundry. They don’t talk. That’s weird. They’ve got the loopy clothes on, and that’s a bit off-putting. And in their act, any individual gets hurt, whether it’s water inside the face, they slip on a banana peel or something. And that’s frightening to a bit childish. Then they go into their primal awareness, that’s where their combat/flight mechanism is, and they run. As a person, whenever they see a clown, the run mechanism kicks in. Those in advance recordings of your unconscious mind live there until you figure via them in remedy and so forth.

Do you recognize horror movies?

I like top horror. Slasher movies showing several types of blood for blood’s sake is sort of silly. But I did a film I was thrilled with called Spider Baby. That was Lon Chaney Jr.’s remaining starring role. That becomes genuinely form of unique, and it became probably the first horror movie that turned into finished with out one drop of blood. It turned creepy. You by no means surely knew what changed into gonna take place. It turned into continually on the edge of something terrible about taking the region. That’s, I suppose, desirable horror writing.

Do you watch that folks who appreciate horror and dark films are extra adaptable to things in existence because they’re now not afraid to stand the dark facet and faucet into that from time to time? They don’t have a hassle with it because actual horror enthusiasts are the youngsters that have been distinct—basically, the outcasts. We assume a little differently. I admire that. In fact, folks who like horror are those who had a rougher time or anything after they have been in school. There are no better lovers in every other style than horror film fans. They are truly brilliant and devoted to what you’re doing.

Naomi Hynd, Ph.D.

HCPC registered Highly Specialist Clinical Psychologist in Neuropsychology, HCPC registered Senior Dramatherapist, Registered with the British Association for Performing Arts Medicine, Spotlight and Equity registered Actress Answering this question relies upon on more than a few of things.

A) Actor schooling and method: Some drama faculties advocate education strategies and strategies in which actors are endorsed to pick out with and come to be the person. The depth with which the actor does this stuff will, in all likelihood, affect whether or not the actor is affected psychologically with the aid of gambling the role. When Heath Ledger performed The Dark Knight, reports claimed that he changed into consumed by the person. Over identity with roles should doubtlessly cause intellectual fitness issues. Roles that can be emotionally annoying can affect the actor and their relationships. For example, Angelina Jolie reportedly mentioned the difficulties filming By The Sea, which probably affected her marriage.

B) Deroling: Dealing isn’t actively taught in drama faculties but is a tremendous part of drama therapists’ schooling. The idea being that positive strategies assist the actor (or client/affected person) in perceiving the differences between themselves and their characters/roles and consequently help separate the actor from the individual they may be playing. The greater the actor takes his work domestically, the more likely they will be suffering from it. Similarly, the volume to which the actor has outdoor interests that permit them to relax and be themselves will probably help repair mental flexibility and well-being.


C) Background of the actor: Does the actor have a history of mental health issues or low mood? The pressure-vulnerability model would possibly suggest that actors that don’t have appropriate coping techniques or have demanding lifestyle events that coincide with gambling this kind of role can be greater affected psychologically. If the actor had bad reviews with clowns when they have been more youthful, playing a function of this type should bring up difficult feelings and reports, making dealing extra crucial.

D) Perceptions: How conveniently do the opposite actors come to be tormented by the clown whilst the actor is in function. Once the film is released, how do others respond? For instance, whilst Rebecca de Mornay starred in The Hand that Rocks the Cradle, public perception of her is modified. People believed she became the character, and each prevented her and attempted to maintain children away from her. How the actor perceives the person is likewise sizeable. Does the actor feel that gambling with an evil character by some means leads them to the same psychologically?

E) Catharsis: Playing this position can be beneficial psychologically. Some actors speak about how playing positive roles permit them to express unwanted feelings or emotions (anger or evil thoughts). Still, they could achieve this safely and distantly, i.E. Via the man or woman. Instead of being negative, playing a position of this type, if controlled appropriately with the actor’s aid, can be fun and useful emotionally.
Cheryl August, Psy.D.

Clinical and forensic psychologist, Adjunct Professor at California School of Professional Psychology at Alliant International University, makes a specialty of creative artist troubles, retired actress Carl Jung considered the shadow aspects of the character to be the seat of creativity, and locating methods to express darkish or primitive impulses in a socially desirable manner, together with pretending to be an evil clown man or woman in a film, permits the actor to sublimate any of his own shadow impulses. Actors are running with imaginary occasions and pretend blood. It isn’t always psychologically negative to painting such characters, and in reality, there may be important mental advantages to playing out those situations in artwork, as opposed to in life.
Harrod Blank

President, Les Blank Films Inc., documentary filmmaker and vehicle artist, actor within the 1988 cult film Killer Klowns from Outer Space I am Harrod Blank, and I played a number of the “Slim” scenes and a lot of the larger Killer Klowns as I am 6’4″ tall. The ironic element changed into that I showed up at the audition with my car, Oh My God!, which became the type of clown artwork automobile. I’ve constantly been an obnoxious and loud kind character—my totem animal is the rooster—but evil became now not something I ever changed into or wanted to be. When I turned into 6 my dad and mom break up up, and my mom’s new boyfriend became a professional clown—Skippy The Clown. They moved to a commune within the Santa Cruz mountains. So perhaps I learned a few hints from him?

When I reunited with [directors] the Chiodo brothers 25 years after the film came out at horror conventions to sign autographs, I became amazed at the severe fear that a few had about clowns. Some people would not talk to me or get very near—and I wasn’t even dressed like a clown. The one clown that I did come to recognize and filmed for my first movie Wild Wheels changed into overwhelmed as a baby. All he desired to do was make children happy, so he protected his vehicle with toys. He turned into well-known in Austin and known as Darrell The Clown. That form made me surprise if other clowns became clowns out of sadness. But then there is Charlie Chaplin, a genius at making a laugh and making people snicker. I am more in choose of that form of a clown.

I suppose what’s thrilling approximately clowns is that behind a mask, nobody is aware of who you honestly are, so evil can greater without problems disguise. This is why I assume the idea of Killer Klowns become so first-rate. And to reply to your one question, I don’t experience that gambling with an evil clown is harmful to your mental fitness. On the opposite, I think gambling an evil clown is a shape of play and play is wholesome for the soul. Without a doubt, I had a blast running on that movie, which I felt became very innovative and effective. Drinking the blood out of the cocoon was the only moment I notion became a piece some distance fetched. However, that is precisely what made it awesome in the long run. I think the Chiodo brothers are incredible and have to receive the whole lot to do a sequel, most significantly the intellectual property they came up with within the first area.

Paula Thomson, PsyD

Professor, Department of Kinesiology, California State University, Northridge, Clinical Psychologist, wrote approximately the mental vulnerability in actors. Our studies do no longer look at this question. We understand that performers tend to have a better distribution of unresolved beyond trauma and loss, but we do not now understand how that impacts them when they’re truely appearing. Our facts suggest that despite beyond adolescence adversity and trauma, acting artists fee innovative reports and are capable of reaping the most beneficial flow reports.

Aaron Mirtes

Writer and director of the 2017 film Clowntergeist

Several human beings on our team have been afraid of clowns, and operating with our demonic clown individual clearly took a toll on them after some days. The rest of us also started to get exhausted with the way scary clowns were dominating our lives. Making a clown movie sincerely takes something out of you that making different sorts of monster films doesn’t.

Doug Jowdy, Ph.D.

Licensed Psychologist, specializes in-game and performance psychology. To answer your question, it depends on numerous different factors. Given wherein we’re in psychology, because of even extra many years of research, “it relies upon” is (or at the least need to be) used greater frequently than otherwise. I say depends in this example due to the fact from a practical perspective the elements to consider include the subsequent — 1) the extent of this performance, i.E. Broadway 2) the quantity of time spent in rehearsal 2) what else is going on in the individual’s life three) what being “evil” could appear like, i.E. The degree to which that man or woman inflicts physical or emotional ache 4) what the person is doing after the production is over and five) the character’s motivations/intentions for taking on that position, each aware and subconscious.

These could be a number of the number one realistic concerns when answering your query. I might need to realize the “potency” of the position and the nice of the person’s lifestyles including their health and nicely-being. The efficiency is vital to realize due to the fact from a mental angle that contributes, as you understand, to the extent of internalization or embodiment of that person. If the “dose” is pretty robust, that is not unusual at better stages in theatre, dance, and music (boarding on having to be pretty compulsive, obsessive and perfectionistic, boarding on or full-blown workaholism), and the individual is just in a horrific space in existence, the result could be dangerous. I see this in high-degree performers in all regions of lifestyles when they are now not taking on the function of an evil clown.

Between the person’s standards/expectation and the interplay with the culture (in sport, tune, commercial enterprise, and many others. — there may be a lifestyle with insane values and beliefs) may be deadly in a few instances as we see, excessive rates of substance abuse, depression, and suicide in certain professions. So it might be essential that the character in that role has what we call “defensive elements” in the area, i.E. Exact support device, feeling loved and safe within the international, right nutritional behavior & sleep hygiene, and possibly a few degrees of spirituality so this position as an evil clown does no longer personal them and define them, which I see all the time in unique arenas.

Then on a deeper, extra psychological degree, it depends on the person’s personality and the way incorporated they may be as opposed to fragmented. Someone who is fragmented has terrible “ego power,” which leads to difficultly with obstacles, both internal and with different humans. They are much more likely to lose themselves in any unique role and feature difficulty isolating the clown from who they’re. People who tend to be higher on scales that degree suggestibility and absorption ( factors correlated with hypnotizability) can be greater at threat for damaging effects of playing this position. Especially if it’s miles a exceptionally robust dose, it’s far like a hypnosis shape for that character.

This will be relatively beneficial in a few situations, but again, it depends on these types of factors. And any other psychological variable might be how “ego-syntonic or dystonic” the position might be. This isn’t exactly an appropriate utilization of these words. However, I use it to make the factor. In easier terms, how constant is that this function of the evil clown with how the person sees him/herself (self-photograph/concept)? We all have an “evil aspect” (aka dark facet, shadow, disowned components, repressed components of ourselves, internalized terrible introjects, etc. In psychology). Depending on the actor/actress’s psychodynamic, this role should ignite regression, destabilization, and/or disassociation. And in that case, it will, in the end, play out each intrapsychically and interpersonally. Thus, given a number of these concerns, a person gambling this role could gain from being in psychotherapy to no longer best promote stabilization/fitness—however, that function presenting the opportunity for a notable non-public boom.

I cherished this query as it has some distance attaining implications for lifestyles as we realize it. As I referred – people over-identifying with what they do (the function they play, following the “script” written for them by dad and mom, coaches, instructors, religion, spirituality, society, and many others.) versus who they’re as a person, and the poor effect “playing an evil clown” could have. I am seeing this with now not best adults, but kids more and more. When we in psychology address the idea of “dangerous consequences,” whether it be a result of drugs/alcohol, cellular phones, exercise, yoga, being a expert musician, and so forth. We consider the impact on a continuum. Similarly to how we think of the “efficiency” that I addressed, i.E. How a great deal alcohol/drug and what type, how much cellular telephone usage, how lengthy being in an abusive relationship, and so forth. Specific to your query, the harmful consequences may be viewed on the subsequent continuum.

On one quit a ONE (minimal impact — the actor/actress would possibly experience some restlessness, discomfort, a dream or about being the evil clown, but it quickly goes away once the production is over), to a TEN (the actor/actress stories change in temper, accelerated tension, excessive insomnia, intrusive mind, the usage of tablets/alcohol to cope, wanting to keep away from going to rehearsal, experiencing somatic signs at some stage in rehearsal, having nightmares) – that if I were to generalize, could involve murder, bodily/emotional violence, annihilation, terror, among different functions that symbolically ought to represent what we name a self country (wholesome, tremendous, prosocial aspect) at war with the other self nation (shadow, darkish facet, disowned parts, repressed parts which are characterized by anger, rage, hostility that has been unexpressed and playing this function triggers the ones feelings which might be “ego dystonic” and a hazard to his/her self (persona) – one aspect might be “killing off” the alternative – and this may cause decompensation, regression, destabilization, and so forth.

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