Just imagine you're walking down the street, minding your own business, when a creepy clown (or group of clowns) jumps out of the bushes with a buzz saw. Creeped out yet? Police all over the country are asking citizens to remain calm.
But how do you stay calm when some creeper in a clown getup is chasing you with a knife?
Even Stephen King, master of horror and all things that go bump in the night, took to Twitter to tell everyone to stop giving clowns a bad name.
Hey, guys, time to cool the clown hysteria--most of em are good, cheer up the kiddies, make people laugh.
— Stephen King (@StephenKing) October 3, 2016
Where Did The Clowns Come From?
The clowns, in all their creepy, weapon-wielding glory, started popping up in South Carolina this past August. These clowns were supposedly trying to "lure children into the woods." While these reports were "unsubstantiated," they are creepier than Freddie Krueger.
Yeah, we went there.
Since these reports, clowns have begun showing up all across the country, sparking what Time refers to as "a national phenomenon." People have claimed to see these red nosed creepers "in more than two dozen states from Alabama to Wisconsin."
According to Rainbow City Police Chief Jonathon Horton, at least seven people in Alabama are facing felony charges for making terrorist threats.
Where Have They Been Seen?
Just this last week, Pennsylvania State University students (over a hundred at last count) orchestrated a "mass clown hunt" through the surrounding campus and city streets.
Another school district in Connecticut in "banning clown costumes" and any other similar "symbols of terror."
A school in Massachusetts went into lockdown after receiving reports of "an armed clown" on campus. This later turned out to be a hoax.
Even the White House is concerned after press secretary John Earnest spoke about it in a conference on Tuesday.
“I don’t know that the president has been briefed on this particular situation,” Earnest said, according to The Hill. “Obviously, this is a situation that law enforcement is taking quite seriously.”
How Far Will It Go?
Clowns have been a source of laughter and terror for years. It wasn't until Stephen King's It in 1980 that clowns became more associated with the "nightmare-inducing" Pennywise.
Criminologists and psychologists "agree the root of the fear lies in the fact that clowns wear heavy makeup and paint extreme emotions on their faces that hide their true identity and feelings."
While the majority of these clown sightings have involved young pranksters, it is only a matter of time before someone else decides to put on a mask. Police around the country are trying to keep the public calm, but with each new sighting this is becoming increasingly difficult.
“It’s an adrenaline rush. It’s a party. It’s a game,” Scott Bonn, a criminologist and professor at new Jersey's Drew University, says. “My gut reaction is that this is going to eventually burn out. Could someone get hurt along the way? Yes, if it got out of hand, especially if alcohol is involved. But I don’t necessarily think it’s going to lead to a clown killer.”
Who Is Being Affected?
When American Horror Story: Freak Show aired, members of the clown community were upset at the horrific portrayal of their profession. These sightings and creepy encounters are causing a similar effect, and many fear for their lives.
“At the end of the day, people look at me like I’m a clown trying to hurt them,” Jordan Jones, a 22-year-old who works part-time as Snuggles the Clown, says. “I feel that people are out clown hunting because they think it’s cool now. I’m scared that someone might take a swing.”
Snuggles is a well-known figure at the Screamland Farms Haunted House in Maryland. But, while people within the community may know who is behind the clown mask and face paint, not everyone outside state lines will take the time to distinguish fact from fiction.
“This is very serious for me. I put a lot of time and effort into this,” he says. “It’s not a game anymore. Teenagers going around thinking it’s funny. I think it’s cruel. I think it’s a sickness.”
Professional clowns have since come together to form the Clown Lives Matter movement. They have planned a march for October 15 in Tuscon, Arizona to show the community that a little bit of face paint does not make you a scary person.