Clowns are officially too scary for Halloween.
School districts, counties and spooky festivals across the US of A are banning clown costumes this year, after a summer of panic-stricken hysteria over “killer clowns” and soaring sales of evil clown masks.
The creepy clown craze started in Greenville, South Carolina in August 2016 after unsubstantiated reports surfaced that clowns were spotted trying to lure children into the woods.
The furor has since ignited a nationwide phenomenon, with clown sightings kept happening, across the south in Florida and Kentucky and up to Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.
Here's a sample of hair-raising incidents. An armed clown hoax temporarily put a Massachusetts college on lockdown. Hundreds of students in Pennsylvania State University swarmed surrounding campus streets to carry out a mass clown hunt. And from Rainbow City in Alabama, it was reported that at least seven people faced felony charges in making a terrorist threat connected to “clown-related activity”. In Virginia, police had arrested two teens for wearing clown outfits and chasing children. And police in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, arrested a man for falsely claiming he had seen a clown trying to lure children and chased it into the woods. He had made it all up, he told police.
How grave is this clown threat or is it merely a runaway prank – nobody knows for sure.
The mass hysteria has not yet led to any serious injuries or deaths, likely because most of the clown sightings involved either young pranksters dressed as clowns or callers inventing clown stories.
Anyway, it’s no surprise one of the hottest 2016 Halloween outfits is a clown.
But clowns are turning Halloween from fun-scary to scary-scary.
In fact, in Kemper County, Mississippi, local authorities went a step further, creating a county ordinance to make it illegal to appear in clown costume, mask or makeup until November 01.
McDonald’s in New York had told the Associated Press the company was being “thoughtful in respect to Ronald McDonald’s participation in community events” as a result of the “current climate around clown sightings in communities”.
Clowns have long terrified both children and adults, especially in the 1980s after King created the nightmare-inducing clown Pennywise (left) in the horror novel, "It", which was later turned into a movie.
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.
“The fascination with clowns is really the fact that they’re not real,” says Scott Bonn, a criminologist and professor of sociology at Drew University in New Jersey. “We don’t know what’s beneath that makeup. It could be anyone or anything. They’re actually very frightening”.
David Kiser, Ringling Bros’ clown expert, has this to say: “…clowns hold up a mirror on society, so we can see the absurd in ourselves. So to be afraid of them is ultimately to be afraid of yourself”.
Copy-cat incidents involving clowns have also been reported in the UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and elsewhere.
According to Google Trends, interest in clowns tends to spike each year ahead of Halloween on October 31 but a wave of creepy clowns first spotted around the US of A has brought with it a frantic frenzy of goose-bumpy fear.