In mid-August, a little boy in Greenville, South Carolina spotted two clowns lurking around his apartment complex, and these clowns didn’t look happy like Ronald McDonald. Both were brightly dressed and wore clown masks. They whispered something to the boy before he ran in the opposite direction, according to The Guardian newspaper.
Since then, at least 40 different states have reported clown sightings. These reports, which seemed somewhat harmless at first, have now turned fatal. A man in a clown mask stabbed one teen to death in Pennsylvania, and several other areas have reported serious threats from “clowns” online, according to Fox news.
In upstate New York alone, there have been over 30 clown sightings, according to newyorkupstate.com. These crazy haired, red-nosed, creepy-masked individuals have even been spotted on school campuses. Syracuse University, SUNY Cortland, Binghamton High School, Herkimer College, Shenendehowa Central Schools, and the S.S. Seward Institute all reported clown incidents this month.
Some students at Plattsburgh State are worried that this “creepy clown craze,” as it’s being called in the media, may make its way to the North Country.
PSUC senior public relations student Kaila Young has faith in the campus security.
“I’m hoping that with how active the police are on and off campus that they would immediately take care of an issue like this if it did occur,” Young said.
Her trust in the safety of PSUC might put her at ease, but it doesn’t lessen her phobia of clowns.
“This recurring issue is definitely worrying me,” Young said. “When I was younger, I would have panic attacks and cry when I saw clowns, so the fact that I might come across one in the streets definitely worries me.”
One popular department store took initiative in the wake of these recurring clown threats. Target announced they would be pulling a variety of clown masks off the shelves in many stores, according to USA Today.
Young interned at Target this summer, and will be working for the retail giant after she graduates in the spring.
“As a Target associate, I can say Target always keeps its guests best interest in mind when making business decisions,” Young said. “The company does not want to associate itself with anyone trying to cause harm to innocent lives.”
Young believes this was an excellent business decision and that Target is trying to protect people from further threats and harm. Whether she thinks other companies will follow suit, she strongly feels that they should.
McDonald’s own popular clown has kept a low profile amid the creepy clown craze.
The fast-food chain told the Associated Press the company was being “thoughtful in respect to Ronald McDonald’s participation in community events” as a result of the “current climate around clown sightings in communities.”
PSUC senior business administration major Ryan Sienkiewicz thinks these companies’ decisions will result in positive outcomes.
“People were starting to become really anxious about the clown problems, and the matter has really gotten serious,” Sienkiewicz said. “I can’t imagine that not selling clown masks will cause too much loss of revenue.”
As far as what caused this issue to spread across the country, and even globally, Sienkiewicz believes social media played a part.
“I feel like it blew up because of the influence of social media. I think something that started as just some weird guy trying to cause a scene turned into much more than that because of hype created by Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook,” Sienkiewicz said.
As far as whether all of the clown sightings are threatening, Sienkiewicz said not entirely. He felt that some are definitely menacing while others have just been kids looking for some laughs.
So what caused this creepy clown craze? Many are looking to the man who instilled a fear of clowns into society, novelist Stephen King. The sinister clown, Pennywise, who lived in a storm drain, has terrified readers since his appearance in King’s novel, “It” in 1986.
But despite his contribution to coulrophobia, the fear of clowns, King took to Twitter to urge his millions of followers not to worry about the clown sightings across the US.
King tweeted: “Hey, guys, time to cool the clown hysteria – most of ‘em are good, cheer up the kiddies, make people laugh.”
How did his followers react? Many were unconvinced according to The Guardian newspaper. One follower replied, “Except the ones that live in storm drains, right?”
And another wrote, “This is exactly what Pennywise would’ve said if he hijacked your account, Stephen.”
Despite the supposed causes of this creepy clown craze, it’s proven to be more than just a fun scare tactic for a few laughs. Halloween’s around the corner, and whether you plan to avoid the storm drains, or anyone wearing a mask, be safe and don’t travel alone.
Email Ashleigh Choppa at firstname.lastname@example.org