You’re on an evening jog or drive, quietly minding your business, when out of the shadows jumps a creepy-looking clown. This is the scene that has been spreading across the country, especially on the Internet, the past couple months. It has already been dubbed by many as the “Creepy Clown Phenomenon.”
The first confirmed sightings started in August in South Carolina. One woman reported to police about a creepy clown staring at her as she exited a laundromat, but no other actions were taken. More seriously, children near a Greenville apartment complex reported that creepy clowns were trying to lure them into a forest with money. The Greenville County Sheriff’s Department looked into this report, but no arrests have been made.
After this disturbing incident in August, more sightings and encounters started to appear in other Southern states, reports of his trend spread across the nation. By October, in total of about 25 states have reports or sightings of these creepy clowns.
Some of these incidents have been terrifying for those involved. There have been more police reports about creepy clowns in other states trying to lure children into the woods, or claiming online that they would kidnap or harm children at schools. There has also been many reports about prankster creepy clowns that jump out from behind bushes to scare people.
In Mississippi, a creepy clown wielding what appeared to be a machete was chased by police, but has disappeared since. Florida children getting off a bus were chased down the street by a creepy clown. An Ohio woman reported to police seeing a creepy clown with a knife. A creepy clown was reported to New Jersey police to have looked through a window into someone’s home. Bank robbers dressed as creepy clowns in Tennessee, carried explosives and got away with money. Most horribly, in Pennsylvania, a 16-year-old boy in a clown mask was fatally stabbed by a neighbor and in California, a creepy clown attempted to abduct a baby from their mother’s arms.
In several states, schools have gone either into partial, or full lockdown following alleged nearby sightings or online threats from creepy clowns. In a good many of these incidents, they were very young students of the school, and arrests were made. In some instances, creepy clowns have allegedly been charged with disturbing the peace and even terrorism, due to the mass amount of panic and paranoia they have caused. Though it should also be noted that many online threats have been proven not to be credible threats, even though they were taken seriously.
In addition, law enforcement has also been bombarded with dozens upon dozens of creepy clown reports, many that have proven to be false. Usually in those instances, they have arrested the reporting party, because filing a false police report is a very serious crime. As well, it prevents them from responding to real crimes. Though due to increased public worry, police and private security guards across the country have escalated their patrols around schools, parks, neighborhoods and campuses.
The police in many of these jurisdictions caution would-be prankster and disturber creepy clowns. Lieutenant Mike Bandish of the Palm Bay, Florida Police Department stated that, “the problem is that someone dressed like a clown could scare someone and there’s a possibility…you could end up with someone getting shot. A person could think that they’re about to get robbed.”
The police also caution people not to form “clown hunting” vigilante mobs, which has happened in some parts of the country. The Nampa, Idaho Police Department for example stated online that “we are taking precautions, but the large number of Nampa residents who are out looking for the clowns is making this more difficult to deal with. Please don’t participate. Whether you are out trying to help or looking for an adventure, we ask that you go home.”
Law enforcement in the area also noted that it’s technically not illegal to dress as a clown in public, and cannot do much unless the creepy clown is threatening the peace or the public. They also urged anyone who witnesses a threatening clown to get away and call the police, and take a photo or video if safe.
Real life clowns that are hired for birthday parties and other events, have expressed their disappointment online about how their passion and jobs are being threatened by the creepy clowns. Especially since many parents have expressed their concern about their children’s safety outside, or that they are afraid of clowns and have taken to hiding inside. Professional performers at haunted houses and corn mazes have also expressed their dissatisfaction with creepy clowns scaring people outside of controlled entertainment venues.
All this begs to question, what exactly is going on with these creepy clowns? Obviously, Halloween is fast approaching, a time of year when people like to dress up in scary costumes, and mischief makers or attention seekers like to wreak havoc. Not surprisingly, clown costume sales have skyrocketed across the country. But if this is a prank, organized or not by copycats, it has gone way too far. Others have suggested it started as a publicity stunt for an upcoming movie, such as the It remake and The Night Watchmen. There are even conspiracy theories that this is all an experiment on creating mass panic and hysteria through social media.
Benjamin Radford, author of the novel Bad Clowns, spoke online about his theories behind the creepy clowns. He claims that creepy clown sightings date all the way back to the 1980’s, and that sightings tend to be “more common during periods of social uncertainty.” If there’s anything that people can agree upon, it’s definitely that 2016 has been tumultuous for society. Radford also stated that in the social media era, “this level of panic [and] concern would not exist without the Internet.” Because of this, Radford urges the media and the public to approach every alleged creepy clown report with skepticism, until facts can be proven. Finally, Radford feels that eventually this “clown panic” will die down, but could come back again in a few years.
Whatever the case is behind this phenomenon, America is still very much on edge about the creepy clowns. Stay calm, but keep vigilant.
Nick Corbin is a filmmaker and writer who hails from Boise, Idaho. When he isn’t busy acting, or writing a screenplay for his own production company, Nick can be found consuming any geek media he can get his hands on. To start a conversation, ask him about the latest cosplay he is working on.