As I may have mentioned before, as a lad, I was terrified of clowns (truth be told, to this day I am not really too comfortable around them). Unlike many irrational fears, however, I know the exact source of my phobia.
When I was about 2 years old, my Mother took us to Woolworth's. I was still in a stroller. There was some sort of family promotion going on, so there was all sorts of cheesy entertainment like jugglers, fortune tellers, monkeys and of course, clowns. I had never seen a clown before, so when this huge, white faced creature with a red nose and yellow teeth approached my pram, giggling and twisting balloon animals, I was terrified. I began shrieking and crying, and the clown, as they always do, tried to make things better by getting in my face to show me how "nice" he was.
This of course, made things much worse, and we left Woolworth's posthaste. It was too late though, the damage had been done, and every future encounter with clowns resulted in an awkward public spectacle for my entire family.
Naturally, my older sister, age 7, with her "puckish" sense of humor, found my aversion to clowns amusing, and she soon found a way to heighten her enjoyment of my phobia. One day, she came bursting into my room and announced, "Billy! Hide! The Mean Clown is coming!" I did not hesitate to question her. All I needed to hear were the words, "Mean", "Clown" and "Coming". I was immediately in panic mode! I had to hide, but where?! "Under the covers!", my sister suggested, and it seemed as good a place as any, so I dove under the sheets, my heart racing.
Under the darkness of the covers I heard a voice growl, "WHERE"S BILLY?!" "He's not here, Mean Clown", my sister responded. "I bet he's under these covers!", I heard the Mean Clown say, and I began to feel a finger poking the covers of my bed.
If it were possible for a 3 year old could have a coronary, I certainly would have at this point.
Eventually, my sister persuaded the Mean Clown that I wasn't there, and he left. I was eternally grateful to my sister for saving me from the Mean Clown.
Of course, my sister actually WAS the Mean Clown, and if you think I must have been a pretty naive kid to think a seven year old girl was a Mean Clown, you would be correct.
The Mean Clown popped up a few times more, before my sister tired of the game, and came up with a new way to amuse herself, by telling me the "Bus to Disneyland" was coming, and I should pack a bag and go wait for it on the front steps.
But that's a story for another day.