What began as a spattering of sightings in South and North Carolina has become a disturbing trend stretching right up the coastline into New England. Creepy strangers dressed as clowns attempting to lure children into the woods with promises of candy and money, social media threats and even actual attacks.
Did it all begin as a joke that has inspired bored copycats? Is it a Hollywood stunt to generate hype for one of the upcoming clown-based horror movies scheduled for release? Whatever the motive behind the trend, the most important answer that citizens are demanding is – are these people really a threat?
Coulrophobia is the clinical term for the fear of clowns and it is one of the most widespread phobias in the world. Classic clowns like Annabelle, Bozo and Ronald McDonald used to dominate the airwaves delighting children, but somewhere along the line these colorful jesters took on sinister undertones.
Movies like Killer Clowns From Outer Space, Clownhouse and Stephen King’s It have definitely added to the creepy crawly sensation we get whenever someone in white grease paint and a smeary artificial smile passes our way.
Rob Zombie’s latest film, 31 premiered at Sundance this past January and started with a limited theatrical release on September 16. The movie centers around 5 carnival workers kidnapped and forced into an insane funhouse of horrors, hunted by killer clowns on Halloween night. When the clown sightings first began this summer many people questioned whether it was a stunt by Zombie to raise publicity for the film.
Another anxiously anticipated horror film is the remake of Stephen King’s It set for release September 7, 2017. King’s fans have clamored for sneak peeks and photos from the set with teasers appearing on social media. Again, horror fans wondered, could these sporadic clown sightings be a ploy to generate more hype?
The Hollywood publicity stunt theory was quickly ruled out when the sightings went from unsettling to downright frightening. A woman in Ohio was attacked on her front porch in the early morning hours of September 30. The assailant was dressed in a striped outfit, a red wig and a white clown mask. He allegedly told her at knife point that he planned to harm students and teachers at the local junior and senior high schools.
Social media threats involving clowns attacking high schools in New Jersey and New York forced several districts into lockdown over the past few weeks. It seems that “clown threats” are the new “bomb threats” on campuses across the east coast.
An incident just this week involving University of Connecticut students converging on the campus cemetery armed with bats and other weapons has not been confirmed by police, but is rumored to be connected to more clown sightings/threats.
The New Haven Public School District announced this past Monday that all clown costumes, masks and any other “symbols of terror” are banned from school grounds until further notice. As Halloween approaches we can likely expect to hear of similar restrictions across New England.
As of this post, clown sightings have been reported as far south as South Carolina, as far north as New Hampshire and as far west as Oregon.