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Fear of Clowns: No Laughing Matter

Bad news for Patch Adams: A medical study says kids overwhelmingly hate clowns -- even when they're not getting doused over the head with a bucket of confetti.
Nursing Standard magazine interviewed 250 young patients (ranging in age from four to 16) and found clowns to be "universally disliked."
"Some found them quite frightening and unknowable,"researcher Penny Curtis told
BBC News. Even older kids seemed spooked by an unnaturally wide greasepaint smile.
The Greasepaint Ghost of John Wayne Gacy
Sure, we've all heard the horror stories of
serial killer John Wayne Gacy, who tortured and killed 33 young men and boys. In his spare time, Gacy strapped on oversized shoes and performed as "Pogo the Clown" at kiddie parties.
Still I've seen clowns perform at New York's
Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, and anyone who's made a kid on chemo laugh deserves a trophy in heaven -- or at least a lifetime supply of oversized shoes.
More Suction, Dr. Stubbs?
Clown legend "Dr. Stubbs" (a.k.a. Michael Christensen of the Big Apple circus) is actually on staff at Sloan-Kettering. He co-founded the Big Apple Circus Clown Care Unit.
Under the program, more than 90 Clown Doctors make 250,000 one-on-one bedside visits each year, serving intensive care units, bone marrow transplant centers, burn treatment centers, pediatric AIDS units, and emergency rooms.
I once asked Christensen if convalescing kids get a freaked out by his hairy-legged, hobo clown.
"It happens," he told me. "The key is to wait at the door for the child to invite you in. It sometimes helps to let the child watch the clown put on his makeup."
Then again, I once tangled with a bad clown pretending to be the
original Bozo, got him thrown out of the International Clown Hall of Fame, and he threatened to sue me. Colorophobia -- the fear of clowns -- is no laughing matter.