If you have coulrophobia, turn back now. If you haven’t already, that is.
Pennsylvania State Police are doing their best to get ahead of any repeats of 2016’s clown hysteria. On August 30, 2017, they issued a Community Awareness Bulletin regarding what they call “creepy clowns,” warning against any copycats or even false reports, which they had to deal with last year.
“With the fall of 2017 upon us, it is anticipated that similar ‘creepy clown’ sightings could be reported starting as soon as September, in part due to the fact that the movie IT will be released in theaters on 09/08/2017.” – PSP
We All Float
For a quick recap, in 2013, people began reporting a number of odd and terrifying clown sightings. The encounters began in Europe, and eventually spread into the United States and Canada. They reached their peak in the fall of 2016, becoming a worldwide phenomena.
People were allegedly sighting these creepy costumed clowns – sometimes wielding knives, bats, or chainsaws – randomly out on roads, in forests, and around cemeteries.
Many were just YouTube pranks (because of course). One of the very early cases, which happened in Northampton, England in 2013, involved a mysterious red-headed clown that looked very much like Pennywise from Stephen King’s IT. That clown, however, turned out to be part of some kind of viral marketing film project for a Facebook page (because of course).
Other cases actually ended up being false reports.
Before 2016, a few other confirmed sightings occurred, such as one at Rosehill Cemetery in Chicago back in July 2015. Two people saw a clown scaling the cemetery’s main gate at around 10:00 p.m. Once inside, the clown turned and waved, then ran into the darkness.
The two witnesses got him on video. CBS Chicago covered the story:
“I just think it’s creepy and wrong.” – Julia Graham, after witnessing the clown at Rosehill Cemetery
In 2016, things reached a fever pitch. That year’s first major sighting happened on August 21 in Greenville, South Carolina. Children living at the Fleetwood Manor Apartment complex began to complain about a clown (or several) whispering to them from within the nearby woods at night. They would ask the children to follow them back to their abandoned house by the lake.
The children would, of course, refuse.
According to another CBS News report at the time, one boy reported the sound of “chains and banging” near their apartment’s front door. There were other sightings, as well, of clowns outside the complex as late as 2:30 a.m. When spotted, they’d run back into the woods.
When police investigated the abandoned house by the lake – which did exist – they found nothing.
Creepy Clowns, Inc.
All told, the clown hysteria reached across nearly every state in the U.S., most of Canada, and something like 19 countries in total. The Russian embassy in London issued a safety warning, and some stores even pulled clown masks and costumes from their shelves. More than a few schools banned them. One village in Canada outright asked their residents to avoid dressing up as clowns for Halloween.
On October 3, 2016, the Pennsylvania State Police issued a cautionary Community Awareness Bulletin about the clown situation, similar to the warning they issued just recently.
The most absurd and terrifying clown encounter happened in Orange County, Florida on October 31, 2016. Halloween night. A man and his family were driving down a road when something hit their truck. They stopped to see what it was, only to be attacked by a group of 20 people wearing both clown and The Purge masks. One of the victims was stabbed in the head, another hit with a hockey stick.
Clown Sightings Worldwide
Some of the international sightings were just as bizarre, and dangerous. Here are just a few of the more intriguing 2016 clown sightings from around the world:
October 2, 2016 – Some people were slowly driving down a dirt road in Quebec when a clown approached them from an adjacent field. At first, the clown stood there motionless, watching them. It then stepped away from the road — and returned with a chainsaw. The ordeal was captured on video:
October 8, 2016 – Two young girls were trying to buy ice cream at around 9:30 p.m. in Adelaide, Australia, when a clown attacked them and tried to steal one of their cell phones.
October 12, 2016 – A man almost ran over a clown standing in the middle of the road in Denmark. The clown was holding an axe, and (plot twist) it turned out to be a 13-year-old boy.
Another alleged sighting occurred in Scotland. A group of children claimed to see a clown at a park in Inverness. Frightened, they ran home to tell their parents. One of them, a young girl, had left her scooter at the park, but when they later returned to get it, it wasn’t there. They believe the clown took it.
Wikipedia has a very extensive list of reported incidents if you’d like to see more.
Stephen King’s IT, giving clowns a bad reputation since 1986
Needless to say, actual professional clowns aren’t very happy about this modern creepy clown phenomenon. Apparently, something similar happened back in the 1980s, spurned on by, you guessed it, the release of Stephen King’s novel IT in 1986, and the subsequent miniseries adaptation in 1990.
Even if you’ve never seen or read IT, you’re likely familiar with the iconic image of Tim Curry as Pennywise the Dancing Clown, with his sharp teeth and bright red hair. If not, feel free to play the above 10-minute video.
Now, we can look forward to it (IT?) all over again, as the remake is set to release later this week. As I mentioned at the top of this article, that’s one of the reasons the Pennsylvania State Police issued their warning.
Professional clowns, meanwhile, are worried that, once again, IT will cast them in a bad light. According to NY Daily News, the World Clown Association feels that the movies take something “innocent and wholesome” and turns it into something to be feared.
Reported clown attacks and sightings aren’t exactly helping, either, to the point where some clowns are actually fearing for their own safety.
Just remember, folks: Don’t attack someone just because they’re dressed as a clown. Clowns are people, too, and violence is never the answer.
What can explain the growing number of creepy clown sightings? Are some of them viral marketing for IT or some other as-yet-unknown project? Is it some kind of hysteria that began with one or two sightings, but snowballed into so many more? Or is it an antediluvian evil returning to Earth in the form of circus clowns?
I suppose that would also be IT, come to think of…it. Well, one thing is certain: With all these fun goings-on, everyone with a fear of clowns is sure to have a good time.