© 2024 WRVO Public Media
NPR News for Central New York
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Coping with the fear of creepy clowns this Halloween

Ludovic Bertron

Halloween 2016 may be mostly remembered as the year of the creepy clown in upstate New York and across the country. But experts say clown phobia is nothing new.

There’s a word for it -- coulrophobia. That’s the fear of clowns. And this year, it seems to be running rampant with complaints of clown sightings all over central New York. In Syracuse, Utica, and other communities. Just this week, police were called about a clown siting early in the morning near the middle school in Carthage in Jefferson County.

A rash of costumed clown calls at Syracuse University earlier this month prompted the school to issue a response from the Department of Public Safety. It suggests that students immediately report any creepy clown sightings to

DPS, taking a picture if possible. The response also points out that while wearing a clown costume for Halloween isn’t illegal, revelers should consider carefully what they wear given the current circumstances surrounding clown costumes.

Dr. Viral Goradia, a forensic psychiatry fellow at Upstate Medical University, says while fear of clowns is simply another item on a long list of phobias, there is also research that shows there could be something deeper going on. Something called the uncanny valley theory.

“And they found that human beings are most afraid of something that is almost human being, but not quite there. So if something is completely machine, or completely human, we don’t react very adversely to it. But if something is almost human and has something missing that we can’t quite place, it engenders a very huge fear response in us,” the doctor said.

Guardia advises parents dealing with creepy clowns this halloween season to follow advice for dealing with any kind of phobia.

“If you have a young kid or someone you know who’s suffering from a phobia. The idea is to not invalidate them. Taken them seriously, but also set an example to them, and say there’s nothing to be afraid of.”

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.