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Clowns gather
Reuters/Tomas Bravo
Professional clowns are being hit by this.
NO FUNNY BUSINESS

Police are investigating a bizarre wave of reports of creepy clowns scaring people around the US

By Ananya Bhattacharya

There have been reports since this summer from around the US of people dressed in clown costumes yielding weapons and trying to lure children. They struck in South Carolina in late August, where authorities were on high alert after some children said clowns were trying to lure them into the woods. Investigations haven’t turned up suspects yet.

Now, in the last month, complaints about clowns staring people down, knocking on windows, or hanging out of pickup trucks have left people shaken in a number of states. Reports have come in from Alabama, Maryland, North Carolina, Alabama, Pennsylvania, Georgia, Tennessee, Virginia, Indiana, and Florida. An 11-year-old Georgia girl was arrested earlier this month for bringing a knife to school after she had heard rumors that clowns were going to attack children.

Police suspect many of these clowns are harmless pranksters and some of the reports are hoaxes. Four children admitted to lying about seeing clowns in and around Annapolis, Maryland. A 24-year-old North Carolina man was charged with fabricating a story about a clown knocking on his window. On Sept. 20, the police department in Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia, warned people that false reports could lead to prosecution.

The Brazil, Indiana police department wrote on Facebook today that it had investigated several reports of people dressed as clowns, but that there weren’t any crimes connected with them.

“Police are ‘NOT’ asking people to stay inside their homes (as was posted on Facebook) or to keep their children inside. This is a Facebook scare that is blown itself out of control and continues to grow with each post and has the city in a panic for no reason.

We do however believe that since the ‘Clown’ has been getting so much Facebook attention, there may be those in the community who will think it would be funny to copy this behavior and start running around town dressed as clowns to perpetuate the myth.”

The police department asked residents not to share any rumors connected with “Clown Mania” on Facebook, so as not to contribute to further frenzy. Broadly speaking, pop culture and social media are being blamed for the spate of clown sightings. There’s a film remake in the works of Stephen King’s book It, with its child-killing clown protagonist. From Jigsaw in the horror franchise Saw to Joker in Batman, creepy clowns proliferate in American culture. People wear scary clown costumes at Halloween, but that’s still a month off.

With this latest wave of creepy clown sightings, real clown businesses are being hurt, the AP reports. ”In South Carolina, two of the clowns were afraid to go out and perform, and they’re two of my customers,” said Tricia Manuel, owner of the Mooseburger Clown Arts Camp in Buffalo, Minnesota. “If they don’t perform, they don’t need supplies.”