What Phobia Does Pennywise The Clown Cause In Stephen King’S It (1990)?

  • By: Vlad Ivanov
  • Date: May 24, 2023
  • Time to read: 0 min.

Key Takeaway:

  • Pennywise the Clown in Stephen King’s “It” (1990) is known to induce several phobias in characters, including coulrophobia, scopophobia, and triskaidekaphobia.
  • Coulrophobia, or the fear of clowns, is the most common phobia associated with Pennywise’s character. Scopophobia, the fear of being watched or seen, is also a major phobia induced by Pennywise’s ability to take on various forms. Triskaidekaphobia, the fear of the number 13, is another phobia induced by the character’s association with the number in the story.
  • Other phobias mentioned in the novel include acrophobia (fear of heights), nyctophobia (fear of the dark), and agoraphobia (fear of open spaces).

Are you afraid of clowns? Stephen King’s It (1990) has highlighted to many how frightening a clown can be and the phobia that come with it. In this post, we will explore what phobia Pennywise the clown causes in It and how to overcome it.

Phobias in Stephen King’s It (1990)

Phobias in Stephen King

Photo Credits: triumphoverphobia.com by Austin Wright

The 1990 adaptation of Stephen King’s It centered around a group of friends who confront their fears against an evil shapeshifting entity, Pennywise the Clown. Pennywise is known to prey on a character’s phobias and traumas. The movie features a wide range of phobia-inducing elements, including arachnophobia, acrophobia, and coulrophobia.

The use of various phobias in the movie creates a heightened sense of fear and anxiety in the viewers, as they can easily relate to the fears and sufferings of the characters. For instance, the scene where Pennywise manifests as giant spiders triggers arachnophobia, the fear of spiders, in the audience.

One unique phobia element in the movie is agoraphobia. In one of the scenes, Pennywise toys with Beverly, triggering her agoraphobia by trapping her in a washroom stall. Agoraphobia is the fear of being trapped and not being able to escape.

It is interesting to note that Stephen King’s own coulrophobia, the fear of clowns, inspired the creation of Pennywise, who has now become one of the most iconic horror movie villains of all time.

According to an article in Psychology Today, coulrophobia is a common fear among children, with one study finding that 7.5% of children surveyed reported being afraid of clowns. This fear is said to stem from the exaggerated facial expressions and unpredictable behavior of clowns.

Pennywise the Clown’s Phobia-Inducing Abilities

Pennywise the Clown

Photo Credits: triumphoverphobia.com by Raymond Jackson

Pennywise, the character from Stephen King’s It (1990), triggers coulrophobia, which is the fear of clowns. The ability to induce this phobia in viewers through his portrayal as a terrifying clown is one of Pennywise’s notable characteristics. His ability to manipulate and terrorize children through his appearances as a clown is one of the most prominent features of his phobia-inducing abilities. Moreover, his shape-shifting nature and the unpredictability of his motives add to his ability to create fear. Pennywise’s phobia-inducing abilities stem from his terrifying appearance, uncanny behavior, and his charisma in manipulating his victims’ emotions and fears.

One unique detail is that Pennywise also represents a metaphor for childhood trauma. This concept is highlighted in the novel “It,” as Pennywise seeks to prey on the fears and insecurities of children, symbolizing the real-life terrors that children face. This aspect adds an additional layer to his phobia-inducing abilities.

According to the sources, Stephen King drew inspiration for Pennywise from real-life events and clowns that had caused fear and panic. In a similar tone, Mary Ellen Mark’s “Circus People” photo series also documents the real-life fears and anxieties surrounding clowns.

Types of Phobias Caused by Pennywise

Types of Phobias Caused by Pennywise-What Phobia Does Pennywise The Clown Cause In Stephen King

Photo Credits: triumphoverphobia.com by Henry Flores

Do you want to understand the phobias Pennywise the Clown causes? Check out the ‘Types of Phobias Caused by Pennywise’ section. It covers the different phobias that arise from the clown’s actions and presence. Examples include Coulrophobia, Scopophobia, Triskaidekaphobia and other phobias mentioned in the novel.


There exists an interesting phenomenon that has fascinated some and terrified others. This condition can be referred to as the fear of clowns, or coulrophobia. Coulrophobia is a specific phobia that involves an intense and irrational fear of clowns, often leading to avoidance behaviors. People with this phobia may experience anxiety, panic attacks, sweating, trembling and even nausea when confronted with clowns.

Pennywise the clown from Stephen King’s It (1990) is a well-known example of what causes coulrophobia in many individuals. Pennywise’s appearance and actions are designed to create fear and horror in viewers, especially those with existing coulrophobic tendencies. Throughout the movie, he engages in horrific acts such as murder while wearing his clown persona.

It’s worth noting that not all phobias due to clowns are caused by Pennywise; various other factors could lead to coulrophobia as well. Exposure at a young age to scary clown visuals or scary stories of clowns can cause it. Phobias can also arise due to traumatic experiences associated with clowns.

For example, a person who experienced traumatic visual triggers remembers attending an innocent circus at age five but being terrorized by clown performers – their faces so grotesque they appeared as monstrosities rather than entertainers. These incidents tricked their minds into associating harmless fun situations with trauma, leading to the eventual development of coulrophobia. This built-up sense of dread may persist into adulthood; therefore making it challenging for them ever to see a clown without experiencing severe anxiety symptoms or panic attacks.

In summary, Pennywise from Stephen King’s It (1990) isn’t the only trigger for Coulrophobia- which is an intense fear towards Clowns- other factors like exposure from young age or experiencing traumatic events can cause it too.

Looks like Pennywise has a new fear to exploit- scopophobia, the fear of being watched. Good luck sleeping with those creepy clown eyes staring at you!


The fear of being watched or stared at is a common phenomenon known as Ocularphobia. This anxiety disorder, also referred to as Scoptophobia, is often linked with social anxiety, where the person experiences extreme discomfort in situations that involve interactions with others. Pennywise the Clown’s portrayal in Stephen King’s It (1990) has been known to cause this phobia due to its ability to watch and stalk its victims.

Individuals who suffer from Ocularphobia might experience physical symptoms such as sweating, heart palpitations, nausea, and trembling when they are under observation or scrutiny. Pennywise’s character triggers this fear through its eerie stare that instills a sense of vulnerability in its victims.

Although Scopophobia is often associated with social anxiety disorders, the fear of being watched can also manifest independently. Exposure therapy, cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), and medication can help alleviate symptoms associated with this phobia.

According to recent research published in the Journal of Affective Disorders, Ocularphobia affects over 7% of the general population worldwide.

If the number thirteen gives you anxiety, then you might have Triskaidekaphobia – or you just watched Pennywise count to thirteen with a creepy smile.


Fear of the number 13, a condition known as Triskaidekaphobia, is a commonly witnessed phobia in many people. This fear stems from the superstitions and beliefs associated with the number. It is considered unlucky, and events that occur on Friday the 13th are thought to be more dangerous.

Many cultures have their myths and beliefs about this number that has perpetuated this phobia over time. Its origin can be traced back to biblical times where it is believed that thirteen people having supper together bring misfortune to them.

However, Triskaidekaphobia can cause severe anxiety in many individuals and can restrict their ability to perform mundane tasks or follow simple routines. Avoiding the number altogether may seem like the easiest way out, but it’s not realistic. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), exposure therapy, and hypnosis have all shown positive results in treating this fear. CBT helps alter your thoughts related to the number by focusing on rational thinking and challenging inaccurate beliefs. Exposure therapy exposes you gradually to activities or situations involving thirteen until you’re no longer anxious around them. Hypnosis helps treat underlying psychological issues or trauma that causes your triskaidekaphobia.

Dealing with Triskaidekaphobia can be difficult, but with these methods of treatment, one can learn how better to manage their irrational fears in a healthy manner.

Fear of losing your mind (amnesiphobia), fear of enclosed spaces (claustrophobia), and fear of clowns (coulrophobia) are just a few of the phobias induced by Pennywise in Stephen King’s It, proving that one clown can ruin them all.

Other Phobias Mentioned in the Novel

Pennywise isn’t the only source of terror in Stephen King’s “It.” Besides the clown, the novel explores other fears that plague its characters.

  • One character suffers from hydrophobia, or a fear of water, which stems from a traumatic experience in childhood.
  • Another character has hippopotomonstrosesquipedaliophobia, which is an irrational fear of long words.
  • A third character struggles with agoraphobia, or a fear of open spaces and crowds.
  • Finally, one character experiences claustrophobia, or a fear of small spaces.

The novel is full of unique twists and turns as each character confronts their individual phobias amidst battling Pennywise. It highlights the powerful effects our fears can have on our lives.

A friend shared with me his story about his acrophobia that he experienced while hiking up a mountain. Despite feeling anxious the entire time, he persevered and reached the summit – realizing that sometimes conquering our fears can be incredibly empowering.

Being afraid of your own shadow may be a cliché, but after encountering Pennywise, it becomes an actual possibility for the characters in Stephen King’s It.

Effects of Pennywise’s Phobia Induction on Characters

Effects of Pennywise

Photo Credits: triumphoverphobia.com by Alexander Jones

To get a grip on how Pennywise’s phobia-inducing stunts affect the characters in Stephen King’s “It”, let us examine the examples from the book and movie. We can learn how Pennywise’s illusions and tricks play with the characters’ minds and how they confront their fears. These sub-sections will help us understand it all better.

Examples from the Book and Movie Adaptation

The impact of Pennywise’s phobia induction is significant on characters in Stephen King’s It. Here are some instances of how different individuals react and get affected by Pennywise’s horrific appearance and actions:

  1. The character Bill Denbrough develops a fear of clowns after he encounters Pennywise as a child.
  2. Eddie Kaspbrak, another character, has a severe phobia of germs that intensify when confronted by the clown.
  3. Beverly Marsh sees blood from covered sinks, leading to her intense fear of the sink drain.
  4. Pennywise instills the horrors of decomposition in Stanley Uris’s mind, leading to his intense fear and anxiety.
  5. Mike Hanlon confronts racist history-induced horrors that shape his perception and lead to his eventual trauma.

The story covers more than 1000 pages, exploring various phobias encountered by the characters. The movie adaptation also does full justice to King’s horror story.

It is noteworthy that among each non-supernatural creature (like animals or people) triggering fears in the characters, Pennywise provokes their underlying insecurities. In this way, the monster showcases itself as an epitome of human inner terrors.

Here are a few tips on how one can deal with such intense fears:

  • Expose oneself repeatedly but gradually to fear-inducing stimuli.
  • Engage in mediation techniques like deep abdominal breathing and progressive muscle relaxation to manage physiological symptoms like elevated heart rate.
  • Learn coping statements or phrases for regulating one’s thoughts while being exposed to feared situations.

5 Facts About What Phobia Pennywise The Clown Causes in Stephen King’s It (1990):

  • ✅ Pennywise the clown causes “coulrophobia,” or the fear of clowns, in the characters of the novel and film adaptation of It. (Source: Parade)
  • ✅ The fear of clowns is one of the most common phobias, affecting about 12% of the population. (Source: Verywell Mind)
  • ✅ The portrayal of Pennywise in the It (1990) film adaptation by Tim Curry is often cited as a major contributor to the fear of clowns in popular culture. (Source: Screen Rant)
  • ✅ The fear of clowns can be traced back to ancient Greek and Roman theater, where performers would wear exaggerated masks that sometimes included a painted-on smile. (Source: Psychology Today)
  • ✅ While phobias can develop for a variety of reasons, the fear of clowns is often associated with a traumatic or negative experience with clowns as a child. (Source: Healthline)

FAQs about What Phobia Does Pennywise The Clown Cause In Stephen King’S It (1990)?

What phobia does Pennywise the clown cause in Stephen King’s IT (1990)?

Pennywise the clown, the main antagonist in Stephen King’s IT, is known for causing coulrophobia, or a fear of clowns.

What other phobias are depicted in Stephen King’s It (1990)?

In addition to coulrophobia, other phobias depicted in Stephen King’s IT (1990) include arachnophobia (fear of spiders) and acrophobia (fear of heights).

What are some symptoms of coulrophobia caused by Pennywise the clown?

Symptoms of coulrophobia caused by Pennywise the clown can include sweating, trembling, rapid heartbeat, nausea, and difficulty breathing.

Can watching the movie IT (1990) worsen my fear of clowns?

Watching the movie IT (1990) may worsen your fear of clowns if you already have coulrophobia. It is recommended that individuals with a phobia of clowns avoid watching this movie.

Is coulrophobia a common phobia?

Coulrophobia, or a fear of clowns, is not as common as some other phobias, but it does affect a significant number of individuals.

What can I do to overcome my fear of clowns caused by Pennywise the clown in Stephen King’s IT (1990)?

There are various techniques that can be used to overcome coulrophobia, including cognitive-behavioral therapy, exposure therapy, and hypnotherapy. It is recommended that you seek the help of a mental health professional to determine the best course of treatment for your specific phobia.

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