As Halloween approaches it appears reports of menacing clowns terrorizing citizens in the US have reached epic proportions.
The dozens of sightings across the country have continued unabated since clowns were first spotted in Greenville, South Carolina, in August. That’s where clowns reportedly tried to lure children into the woods, police said.
Since then, the creepy clowns have been seen roaming around more than 20 states and almost 30 people have been arrested in clown-related crimes, according to BuzzFeed News.
Most of the scary encounters involving bozos have either been harmless or unfounded, but one incident involving a dispute over a clown mask led to the fatal stabbing of a 16-year-old teenager, The Associated Press reported.
So far, police have arrested perpetrators on charges of harassment and making “terroristic threats.”
The problem has been exacerbated by a series of false reports that have spread on social media, some of which turned out to be either pranks or hoaxes. As is the case with popular crimes, media reports may have led to copycat occurrences.
On Monday, Merrimack College in North Andover, Massachusetts, was put under lockdown and students sheltered in place after a report of an armed clown on campus. Officials later concluded the unsubstantiated report originally came from a Twitter account that posts user-submitted reports of clown sightings that are unverified.
Although police have been taking the claims seriously to keep residents safe, they are growing impatient with pranksters who are taking advantage of the hysteria to scare the unsuspecting public.
“This is like pulling a fire alarm on a wide scale. It’s really irresponsible. It’s disruptive to hundreds of lives and puts everyone in a dangerous situation,” Merrimack College spokesman Jim Chiavelli told the Boston Herald.
The creepy clown problem has even caught the attention of federal authorities when the issue was brought up during a White House news conference.
“Obviously, this is a situation that law enforcement is taking quite seriously,” White House press secretary Josh Earnest told a reporter when asked if President Barack Obama had been briefed on the clown problem.
Pennsylvania State University students took matters into their own hands on Tuesday night when hundreds gathered to go “clown hunting,” despite Pennsylvania police insisting there were no credible reports of clowns on campus.
3 Clowns spotted at PSU allegedly. So naturally 6,000 kids mob the streets to hunt it down. I love Penn State http://pic.twitter.com/P4xYx0nVhs
— Addison Carson (@AddiCarson) October 4, 2016
Professionals who dress up as clowns for a living have been caught in the middle as they appear to be taking the brunt of public frustration.
Sara Moore, director of the Clown Conservatory, a school for clowns in San Francisco, told the Oregonian that the negative media coverage on clowns is tarnishing the image of the comedic performers.
“The people perpetuating this are sick individuals in masks who are playing off a spate of clown images being used for horror purposes,” Moore said.
The uproar over clowns has spurred a Clown Lives Matter march scheduled for Oct. 15 in Tucson, Arizona, that aims to show “clowns are not psycho killers.”
With a few weeks left until Halloween, more clown sightings are possible.
Here is a map of where clowns have been spotted in the US: