Clowns, mimes, magicians, Manilow – rate your creepiest

Even before serial killer John Wayne Gacy dressed up as Pogo and stuffed the corpses of young men and boys beneath his porch, many of us have been terrified of clowns.

Some won’t even attend the circus because of them, while others harbor their fear in secret, quietly trembling at the sight of bright red afros and oversize shoes.

MarcyMom up close and personal with a clown/Photo Ryn Gargulinski

MarcyMom up close and personal with a clown/Photo Ryn Gargulinski

Clowns may not be the only creepy performer – they share the stage with mimes, magicians and Barry Manilow – but, at least for me, they are at the top of the heap.

Why do we find these things creepy?

Clowns – The main reason folks fear clowns has to be their makeup. Unless it’s their billowing costumes, seemingly unwashed hair, boat-size shoes or bulbous red noses.

Clowns are hiding behind a hideous façade where, dressed like that, they can only be planning hideous actions. They are also quite invasive and may not go away even when a kid – or adult – bursts into tears.

We must wonder how McDonald’s overcame such a barrier, or why it made a clown its spokesman in the first place. Not that a giant purple thing or cheeseburger thief are much better choices.

A Nursing Standard magazine survey found 250 kids, ages 4 to 16, said clowns were “universally scary.”

So let’s send them to children’s hospitals.

While not many of us run across clown in our daily lives, except when we’re stuck in Tucson traffic, coulrophobia is not a fear that can be rationalized or made to disappear. It is so widespread that entire websites, blogs and T-shirt lines are devoted to the fear and loathing of these creepy things.

Mimes – Mimes can be seen as clowns with more form-fitting clothing and no voices. The lack of speech is a good thing, for you can block them out by simply turning around.

But mimes still may follow you around unless they are confined to their invisible boxes.

Dance of Illusion's Susan Eyed/Ryn Gargulinski

Dance of Illusion's Susan Eyed/Ryn Gargulinski

Magicians/Illustionists – Why some folks loathe magicians is an easy one – magicians mess with our reality. They make us see things that are not there, pull stuff from our ears and rearrange New York City landmarks.

I’ve not had a problem with magicians or illusionists, except when they move the Statue of Liberty.

One Tucson duo, Dance of Illusion’s Roland Sarlot and Susan Eyed, is a major exception to the magician creepiness rule. They rule. Their Club Congress New Year’s Eve bash included Eyed levitating several feet in the air.

The two spend their summers performing their recreated parlour shows in Coney Island, but also tour internationally. They were just in town this weekend and I meant to plug their show but I was too busy fearing clowns to remember in time.

Barry Manilow – The main reason some may have an aversion to this Brooklyn boy is because, with that nose and hair he could, perhaps, resemble a clown.

Others just think his music is lame. I’ve not really had a problem with him, other than the fact “Copacabana” tends to run endlessly through your head.

One of my friends adores Manilow so much she only stops short of having a full-length poster of him above her bed. Another so despises the chap that he threw a brand new Barry Manilow CD out of a speeding car window.


Eek!/Ryn Gargulinski

Eek!/MarcyMom photo

Which performer do you find the creepiest? Why?

Are you one of the few who actually likes clowns?


About Rynski

Writer, artist, performer who specializes in the weird, wacky and sometimes creepy. Learn more at
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19 Responses to Clowns, mimes, magicians, Manilow – rate your creepiest

  1. A.Farley says:

    Some of the best times of my life has been the Mime at Fourth Ave St. Fair and it gives me a chance to to be a real ass to mankind. I don’t know why I do it, I just have this “need” to get back at humanity. Nobody is allowed to kill the Clown, it’s a fundamental rule. But isn’t it true the Clowns face is peeled off the loser of the wars King and paraded around on the face of the winning Kings Court jester? Hence the red lips and eys? Talk about creepy.

  2. ldonyo says:

    I have always loved clowns. Circus clowns, rodeo clowns, the clowns that do children’s birthday parties. I have never understood how anyone can be afraid of clowns. A fear of Barry Manilow I completely understand, but not a fear of clowns.

    The only clown I ever found even slightly disturbing was Pennywise from Stephen King’s “It” and he wasn’t really a clown, but a malicious and ancient entity.

  3. radmax says:

    Mornin’ Rynski! First, a hearty ‘well done’ to the guy who chucked the cd. Clowns have always freaked me out, couldn’t tell ya why. I do remember having a dream about one in my bedroom as a kid. I kept seeing the thing all night, even when I woke up. Must have awaken my parents ten times. Sure wish I had a clown avatar at the OFFICE Rynski… 🙂  PS-Mimes suck, especially when looking for a handout. I ‘mime’ giving them a buck.

  4. Rynski says:

    Very funny, to both A. Farley and Idonyo!
    A. Farley – I can definitely see the fascination with BEING a mime – or being a clown or the person with abilities to move major landmarks. That puts you on the flip side, safe from others of the same type. Just like being a killer makes you safer, to a degree, from other killers. Does anyone scream in terror when you come at them as a mime? I never heard the dead clown loser face theory but, yes, that makes it creepier by a boatload!
    Idonyo – Good for you that you can actually enjoy clowns. It seems like they were intially made for that purpse – unless we believe the face-peel theory – yet so few people do enjoy them.

  5. Rynski says:

    Mornin’ Radmax – yes, that guy had a lot of guts to throw the barry manilow  CD from a speeding car. it could have hit someone and sliced open their eye or windshield. i never had clown nightmares, although i did have a recurring one about falling beneath a hole in a piano, which could be related to a manilow thing. i’m GLAD you don’t have a clown avatar to share – it might scare away too many readers!

  6. pitchfork says:

    This is a no-brainer: Burger King Guy is the creepiest freakin’ thing of the 21st century.  Killer Klowns lost their edge when Insane Clown Poseurs started their ‘schtick’ and mimes- well they’re just actors without jobs, really.

  7. Rynski says:

    Pitchfork – I didnt’ know there WAS a Burger King Guy. I looked him up and, yes, you’re right, you’re right, he’s not only creepy but he’s a troublemaker. but it also looks like he is TRYING too hard to be creepy. that negates it.

  8. Tami says:

    The Burger King character IS absolutely the creepiest thing in the world. My kids collected all the bobbleheads of this torturous creation and whenever I find them laying around, I check to see if any of them are looking and I throw them in the trash! They don’t miss them and I don’t have to look at them.

  9. Marie says:

    Add to ‘evil’ clown list, the toy clown from ‘Poltergeist’.   I still shiver at the thought, but otherwise, I love clowns too.  

    If DeMille’s ‘The Greatest Show on Earth’ is on, I’ll stop whatever I’m doing to watch it.  Many fans of the movie may sigh over Betty Hutton or Charleton Heston.  Me, I’m just darn happy to see Lou Jacobs and  Emmitt Kelly.  

    I’ll ditto everyone else in terms of the Burger King..   thing.   I cringe when the commercials are on.    Also on my creepy list –  hairy spiders with multiple shiny eyes staring at me and  the flying monkeys from the ‘Wizard of Oz’.

    • Rynski says:

      the Munchkins from Oz are no walk in the park, either…but at least they are not orange and bloated like the uber-CREEPY Oompa-Loompas from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

      • Marie says:

        I had forgotten about the Willy Wonka movie.   Yikes! That movie has  creepies galore.  First there is that sinister fellow who manages to get to each of the kids, just after each has found his or her own respective golden ticket.  He whispers in their ear.   You later learn he is Wonka’s competitor, but still, his mannerisms creep me out.   Then there is that creepy boat ride where Wonka starts to lose it, and the imagery gets “flying” past the boat gets very strange.   I seem to recall chickens, though I can’t remember if they are bloody chicken or dead chickens.   Anyway, very off putting.   And, finally the oopma loompas are the ultimate creep factor.   As strange as they were in the original, the updated computer-generated version of the oompa-loompa (singular) was even more frightening.       

      • Rynski says:

        you are absolutely correct!
        movie was one big creep-o-rama…prob. why i loved it so! never saw the new one as I’m afraid it will wreck the old.

  10. bjay100 says:

    I’ve tried emailing you and Mark Evans using the addy’s you have here, but they keep bouncing back.  Is there an alternate?

    • Rynski says:

      Hi bjay, if you are still having troubles e-mailing…our e-mails seem to be down for the count for the moment. someone else just had a problem with them. I say wait a bit and try again. you can also try, which also gets to both of us. if not, feel free to call citizen office at 573-4614.

  11. Ado says:

    That fat, matronly Linda Ronstadt gotta be near the top of the list.  Some singers just don’t seem to realize when they are over the hill and way past their prime, their voice is all but gone, and they should do everyone a favor by sitting down, shutting up, and letting  the new generation take over. Maybe if someone showed her a video of herself she would get it? 

    Sorry, but Linda creeps me out every time she comes back around here to pick up a bit of home town adulation from the local Mariachi crowd that she no longer can muster up croaking out songs over there in Tinseltown.

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