By MICHAEL WRIGHT, Tampa
National Clown Week is celebrated the first week in August and on this
day, clowns will be holding events at malls, nursing homes, schools, hospitals,
and educational events in order to make us laugh, smile and feel good.
But the holiday is about as popular among coulrophobics as is the Fourth
of July in England. “Coulrophobia,” with the prefix “coulro” comes from
the ancient Greek word for “one who goes on stilts.” It has come to mean an
irrational fear of clowns.
This is serious and is more widespread than I’d ever imagined.
Symptoms can include sweating, nausea, feelings of dread, fast heartbeat, crying
or screaming, and anger at being placed in a situation where a clown is present. I
learned about this the hard way.
I married a coulrophobic.
Before Legoland, there was Cypress Gardens. It was Florida’s first
commercial tourist theme park, known the world-over for its massive botanical
gardens, its Southern belles, and especially for its waterski shows. My wife and
I, along with our best friends spent many an enjoyable weekend
day at the park.
On one such day, I had a not-so-brilliant idea. The water ski performers included a stunt-skier dressed up as a clown. His name was “Corky”. At the
conclusion of each show, all of the performers gathered for photographs
and a meet-and-greet with those in attendance. After one particular show,
our ladies had dismissed themselves to go to the powder room. I suggested to
my friend: “Let’s go see Corky!”
I greeted him as we approached with a “Good afternoon Corky! Great
He responded in a high-pitched Mickey Mouse-like voice: “Thank you very much, I’m glad you enjoyed it.”
“Corky, could you do me a favor?”
Pointing towards the restrooms, I said, “In just a moment, two ladies will
be coming out of the restroom. One will be wearing a yellow jumpsuit. Could you
go up and give her a hug?”
“I’d be happy to!”
And he did.
She let out a bloodcurdling scream: “Get away from me! Get away from me!” which left Corky twisting a gloved forefinger in his ear, and an elderly
bystander doubled-over with laughter, literally slapping his legs.
The rest of my day was not the most pleasant. It didn’t help at all
when I laughed, while pointing out the wet clown hand print on her rear
Two years ago, I purchased a Red Nose from Walgreens Drug Store
showing my support for non-profit organizations that help lift young people
out of poverty.
I’m proud of it, even though I have to wear it in private.