People are afraid of clowns not because of what they see, but because of the unsettling familiarity one may get from a clown, according to Psychology Today. It is the fact that a clown appears both normal and different at the same time that triggers negative feelings and sometimes fear.
Such an irrational fear is called a phobia, specifically coulrophobia when it involves clowns, according to Psychology Today. Clowns are able to mask themselves from the rest of society in a way some people interpret as being wrong. This feeling of wrongness stems from the characteristics of the typical clown, which are big, floppy shoes, face paint and bright colors. However, a clown still appears to be a normal human, triggering the feeling that something is wrong. Usually, this only results in the feeling of awkwardness, but to others, the wrongness can be terrifying. One study suggests that clowns limit the feelings a person is supposed to feel. In other words, a clown insists that people be happy when around it. If an individual doesn't want to be happy, the same feelings of wrongness can result and sometimes lead to the feeling of fear.
Many people can be cured of phobias, according to the American Psychiatric Association. Through the use of cognitive behavior therapy, medicine or both, many people are able to overcome phobias and remain symptom free for the rest of their lives.