Saturday, November 01, 2014

Clowning Around

Originally published in the Miami News-Record, October 12, 2014 (with a few bonus pictures!) 

Krusty the Clown from "The Simpsons"
I was 13 and had just been given the key to Pandora’s Box when my dad took me with him to the college library while he was doing some research for a paper. I sat cross-legged in the floor on the second story of the NEO library and read excerpts and passages of a seemingly endless supply of horror novels, creeping myself out, page by page. I had never had access to such a collection of “grownup” books and I was ecstatic. The book I settled on that night – my very first scary read – was “The Bachman Books”. It was a collection of Stephen King’s first stories when he was writing under the pen name Richard Bachman. And just like that, with those four short novels, I was hooked. Between my scary book obsession and my best friend and I watching low-budget horror films (rented from Showtime Video – anyone remember that place?) virtually every weekend of our adolescence, I developed a bit of a fascination with the horror genre. I love to be scared.

Pennywise. Eek!
I have read virtually every Stephen King book ever published – most of them more than once. I got Mr. King’s book “It” in all of its 1,138-page hardcover glory when I was 14 and began reading it as the family took off for a Branson vacation. I can’t tell you much about our trip to the Country Music Capital of the World that go ’round, but I can probably tell you anything you would want to know about Derry, Maine, where the story took place. I read it so feverishly and incessantly that I ended up carsick on those Ozark Mountain backroad hills. I was also reading it late one night (when I was supposed to be sleeping) by the light of a flashlight while covered up in a blanket. My mom came in to put up some laundry not having a clue that her opening my bedroom door would shave about 47 years off my life. As she stepped into my room, all she saw was a flashlight, a giant book, a blanket, and her daughter shoot straight up into the air followed by a round of nightmarish screams. When I realized she wasn’t Pennywise the clown coming to drag me into the sewers to kill me and she recovered from the heart attack I had just given her, we both busted out laughing.

I have a short list of phobias: water, spiders, heights, sewer grates, and clowns. The last two items on that list are directly because of the aforementioned book. It is the most haunting of Mr. King’s novels in my opinion and has stuck with me well into adulthood. Now, this might seem a bit oxymoronic – the girl who loves to be scared is phobic and terrified of something, but call it what you will. All I know is: clowns really freak me out. Really. Spiders freak me out, too, but after having been bitten by a black widow, I think anyone would be slightly scared of them. But clowns… *shiver* Ronald McDonald is one scary dude in my opinion.


There are different schools of thought regarding phobias. Some say immersion therapy is the most effective way to overcome a phobia or fear. Immersion therapy simply baby-steps a person into different levels of contact/experience with a particular phobia until they have overcome their fear. I’m not 100% convinced. Although I guess I shouldn’t scoff at something that is regarded amongst the psychiatric community as successful.

I guess if there’s a doctor out there willing to set up a scenario regarding a clown who jumps off of a skyscraper into a body of deep water where he water skis on a sewer grate to a pit of spiders, I’d be open to watching that and see where things go from there.

 Twisty the Clown
from "American Horror Story: Freakshow"
Dude is seriously messed up. 

On second thought….nah. I’m okay avoiding clowns for the rest of my life. I’m not a big fan of McDonald’s food anyway.   

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