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Creepy clown fears scare up business for some, scare it off for others

Posted October 18
Updated October 19

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— The "scary clown" tales that have spread nationwide in recent months are starting to affect the bottom line for some businesses.

The phenomenon started when police in South Carolina got a report that someone in a scary clown mask tried to lure several children into the woods. Similar reports then started springing up in North Carolina and other states.

"It's kind of creepy," Cori Payne said Tuesday. "We've heard a neighborhood near us had spotted one at 6 in the morning, and that's how the rumor goes."

Gunmen in clown masks have since robbed fast food restaurants and gas stations. The Wake County Public School System and Johnston County Schools both reported incidents where students used the "scary clown" anxiety to play pranks that school administrators called "poorly executed." Some schools have banned clown costumes altogether.

Despite the vast majority of the clown-related threats being ruled hoaxes, police say they're taking each one seriously.

"You never know who's disguised themselves and come into our neighborhoods that we feel are safe," Payne said.

Target announced it plans to pull clown costumes from its shelves this Halloween season, and McDonalds is limiting Ronald McDonald's public appearances to be "mindful of the current climate around clown sightings in communities."

For specialty retailers, however, the fright-inducing trend is boosting business.

"There's an increasing number of people that think its going to be illegal to have a clown mask for some reason, ... (and) people want to have whatever they don't think they can get in the future," said Eli Brightvill, co-owner of Halloween Alley in Cary, who estimated a 25 percent spike in clown mask sales this year.

"Most people's goal on Halloween is to scare somebody, and a good way to do that this year is to have a good clown mask," Brightvill said.

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