Why are we afraid of clowns? Local counselor weighs in

MADISON, Ala. --  Halloween seems to be here early this year as the creepy clown craze continues. One town after another all around the country continue to report sightings of the costumed figures.

But why are we so afraid of clowns?

"As infants what we go through in our development is something called face recognition-- we know the two eyes, nose, mouth, we learn that pattern, it becomes familiar and comfortable to us. Then we see something like a clown that is close to that pattern recognition, but not enough and it's not safe...it's not familiar," explained licensed professional counselor Charlotte Baldwin.

Baldwin said Hollywood films turning clowns into monsters are also to blame for the widespread fear.

"Clowns used to be fun, they weren't thought of as frightening...but Hollywood has taken them and made them dark characters," Baldwin said.

Recent creepy clown sightings are perpetuating the distress. The mysterious figures often lurk outside in the dark and thanks to social media and a 24/7 news cycle, if you weren't afraid of clowns before seeing the images, you probably are now.

Baldwin said if you have young children it's best to keep them away from these images and scary movies so they won't develop life-long fears.

"Particularly really young children have a difficult time understanding the difference between real and make believe and don't always have the expressive ability to talk about it," Baldwin said.