Friday, April 8, 2016

Lit Up: On ‘Bad Clowns’

‘Bad Clowns’

BY RENE THOMPSON Irrational fears can be both silly and overwhelming, and creepy clowns are no exception. 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, 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 Gramaldi, 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 Rene Thompson is a staff writer at ABQ Free Press. Reach her at

Lit Up: On ‘Bad Clowns’ is available on ABQ Free Press

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