That unsettling sensation of feeling like someone is watching them is a familiar one. Walking home after dark, sometimes we can’t help but glance around for no reason but to reassure ourselves that there is nothing there to see. The residents of Wasco, California, however, encountered a surprise.

Instead of finding the usual stray cat or small suburban critter, they saw the trademark red nose, painted-white face and manic grin of a clown.

The Wasco clown soon became popular, but was there more than one?

Clowns soon began popping up all over, mainly in Kern County, where the clown population has reached epic proportions. There have been urban legends about a clown chasing people with an axe for years, but now, actual clowns are starting to turn up, though most seem completely harmless. The Wasco clown, who owns a Facebook page, even poses for pictures.

As it turns out, the first clown was actually a husband and wife duo, where he would dress up as the clown and she would take pictures. They wanted to stir things up a bit for Halloween but have started a trend instead.

Even here in Plattsburgh, there have been students who dress up in costumes, such as Slenderman, a mythical being that originated on the Internet, to walk the campus grounds at night, looking for an innocent person to scare.

Unfortunately, some people take things too far. In Kern County, there was a report of a clown wandering with a gun, but he was never located.

One clown was even arrested for chasing a group of teenagers and charged with annoying a minor, which is a bit of a stretch for an arrest charge, but I suppose the police wouldn’t want this to escalate to violence. Catching minor offenders early might keep others from going too far.

There have been more than 20 reports of residents being chased with machetes and baseball bats, though, so why was the only clown to land in cuffs a 14-year-old chasing another group of teens?

With any mask comes the chance of something worse than a harmless scare. There are popular videos of a person dressed up in a clown costume with a giant mallet, waiting around a corner with a fake person lying on the ground. When unsuspecting people turn the corner, the clown smashes the fake head, sending red goo splattering everywhere as the clown chases after terrified people.

The trick to keeping this trend from escalating is finding a line to be drawn. There are funny scares, harmless pranks and little tricks to frighten people, but then there is chasing after them while armed.

Even if the intent wasn’t to hurt, chasing someone with a blade or blunt object crosses the line. Getting caught doing so would certainly land you in jail. Getting caught in a creepy clown costume walking around at night probably wouldn’t. Perhaps the clown would be put on a watch list, but nothing more.

Having your own late-night monster lurking around town seems like a story you would hear as a child. Now we get to take selfies with it instead of being chased down and hacked to bits.

Although, depending on the clown, you might get chased down anyway. Let’s hope that if this trend does make it to Plattsburgh, our clown is cool and takes photos. Maybe someone will even take it a step further and dress up as our own urban legend, Champy.

Halloween scares might be tempting, but sometimes they’re capable of getting a little too out of hand. If you are going to scare somebody, know who they are first.

Email Amanda Little at amanda.little@cardinalpointsonline.com.

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