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4 reasons you shouldn't freak out over the creepy clowns

Posted October 13

Clowns are no longer a laughing matter in America.

Over the past few months, the United States has seen a troubling trend of creepy clown sightings and reports. It began in South Carolina, when community members received word that clowns had been running around a nearby forest, trying to lure children into the woods, as I wrote previously. Police found no evidence of these clowns, but the children insisted the clowns were real. Soon, there was a report of a clown in North Carolina.

USA Today recently detailed several reports of clown sightings across the country, asking if it was "serious or a sick joke." On Monday, Merrimack College in Massachusetts temporarily shut down after reports came to police that a creepy clown was walking through campus with a rifle, according to CBS Boston.

When reports surfaced in western Massachusetts that a clown was loitering around the University of Massachusetts Amherst, students went outside with weaponry to chase down the clowns, CBS reported. Their attempts proved worthless, though, as no clowns were found.

Clowns also allegedly popped up at neighboring schools, like the University of Connecticut and the University of Pennsylvania, according to CBS News. Utah has also seen the clown craze creep up, as our own Pat Reavy reported this week. Social media posts caused police in the valley to investigate potential sightings. According to the story, "several police departments have been forced to issue statements to reassure members of the public who are on edge because of the clown hype."

And the "clown craze" continued Wednesday, according to another Deseret News report. But "the high publicity of the situation and a school's encouragement for parents to talk to their children about harmful pranks vs. practical jokes has resulted in a student stepping forward," according to the report. A student at Eastmont Elementary School in Sandy confessed to posting a picture of the school and a threatening message.

Needless to say, the clown craze is everywhere.

But parents who may be afraid that clowns will scare their children into hysteria need not worry, as law enforcement officials and those associated with Halloween are looking to make sure your child stays safe this fall.

Here are some reasons why you shouldn't freak out about the clown craze.

Police in high-profile areas say it’s all hype

New York Police Department Deputy Commissioner John Miller told reporters that the clown craze is mostly just a social media story that’s been hyped because of the Halloween season, according to NBC New York. So far, there have been very few violent incidents to warrant concern from citizens, he said.

“We’re tracking it, but we don’t see any real threat here,” Miller said. “We have tried to avoid falling into the trap of putting extra police protection or presence in places where we’ve had these. Our main message is don’t believe the hype and don’t be afraid of the clowns.”

Creepy clown sightings are nothing new. They’ve happened before and will happen again.

It’s not like this is the first time that clowns have been reported in nefarious ways. As the Deseret News reported back in 1991, similar clown crazes popped up in the late 1980s and in the early 1990s.

"Although no police authorities anywhere have verified the existence of the phantom clowns, some people take the threat seriously," according to Deseret News. "A warning circulated in a 1986 newsletter claimed that clowns were responsible for children being 'spirited away to join the throngs of missing children whose pathetic faces peer at us from milk cartons, shopping bags and telephone bills.'"

In fact, researcher Loren Coleman, a cryptozoologist who studies the folklore behind mythical creatures, found that people are actually terrified of clowns, which usually perpetuates the hype around these crazes of clown sightings, according to The Daily Beast.

In his “Phantom Clown Theory,” he posits that clown sighting horror starts trending because people are naturally scared of clowns.

“There are certainly other types of people who creep us out (taxidermists and undertakers made a good showing on the creepy occupation spectrum),” The Daily Beast reported. “But they have their work cut out for them if they aspire to the level of creepiness that we automatically attribute to clowns.”

People are still approaching the clown issue with levity

Social media users appear to be taking matters into their own hands, laying out their plans on Twitter about what they would do if they were attacked by a clown.

Basically, some users say they're going to run away.

You'll probably see fewer clown costumes at Halloween

Costume shop employees and police officials alike have warned those celebrating Halloween not to dress up as clowns for the holiday, given all of the recent concern over clowns. Violence could erupt, as we’ve seen previously at the University of Massachusetts. A Connecticut public school district also banned clown costumes from its Halloween celebrations because of the heightened worry, according to Fox News.

Garth Harries, New Haven's school superintendent, told Fox News that the social media posts about clown costumes have made schools worried about potential clown disturbances.

"There is no question that whoever is promulgating this is making threats," Harries told Fox News. "We don't believe there is any credible threat of violence, but they are still making people uncomfortable."

That’s why Halloween store employees are taking the issue seriously, too.

"Some people probably think it's really funny, but again, I don't think it's intelligent to do something like that," costume shop customer Chase Pennycuff told ABC-13. "Standing in street corners with clown masks, it's not a very smart thing to do."

Customer Hunter Sanders told ABC-13 something similar.

"You come out of the woods dressed like that, come out on the wrong person, they have a gun, could be your life in danger," he said. "It’s not worth your life for a simple joke."

Herb Scribner is a writer for Deseret Digital Media.

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