According to McAndrew, what really makes clowns creepy is that they are ambiguous characters in so many ways. “If a person is willing to flout the conventions of society by dressing and acting as they do,” McAndrew says, “what other rules might they be willing to break?”

That tracks with what McAndrew found in his study, where he surveyed more than 1,300 people to figure out what behaviors and physical characteristics people find creepy. The common factor was unpredictability.

“It is only when we are confronted with uncertainty about a threat that we get the chills,” he writes in an article about psychology. “It would be considered rude and strange to run away in the middle of a conversation with someone who is sending out a creepy vibe but is actually harmless; at the same time, it could be perilous to ignore your intuition and engage with that individual if he is, in fact, a threat. The ambivalence leaves you frozen in place, wallowing in discomfort.” –The Real Reason Clowns Creep Us Out by Erika Engelhaupt

Fiction Writing Prompt: Write a story featuring a creepy clown.

Journaling Prompt: How do you feel about clowns?

Art Prompt: Creepy clown

Non-Fiction / Speechwriting Prompt: Are clowns really creepy? Take a stand and persuade your audience to your point of view.

Photo Credit: Donnie Nunley on Flickr

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