What is go­ing on with all these clowns?

The Myanmar Times - - The Pulse -

A SE­RIES of creepy clown sight­ings across the United States has caused a wave of hys­te­ria, forc­ing po­lice and schools to scram­ble to con­tain spread­ing jit­ters, and even the White House to weigh in.

The spooky sight­ings were first re­ported in August in South Carolina when po­lice were called in to in­ves­ti­gate what turned out to be bo­gus ac­counts of men dressed as clowns try­ing to lure chil­dren into the woods.

But sim­i­lar sight­ings have since been re­ported in more than a dozen states with au­thor­i­ties forced to re­act to sto­ries of clowns lurk­ing out­side schools or busi­nesses, armed clowns driv­ing around in a van or clowns prowl­ing neigh­bor­hoods.

One school in Ohio even shut down over se­cu­rity con­cerns after a woman said she was at­tacked by a man dressed as a clown. And hun­dreds of stu­dents at Penn State Univer­sity, in Penn­syl­va­nia, went on the hunt for jesters on Oc­to­ber 4 after re­ports of creepy clown sight­ings.

Com­ing just weeks be­fore Hal­loween, when mil­lions of chil­dren across the United States don cos­tumes and go house-to-house trick-or-treat­ing, the frenzy has be­come a so­cial media sen­sa­tion with the hash­tag #IfISeeAClown trend­ing on twit­ter and the @SpookyClowns ac­count at­tract­ing 186,000 fol­low­ers.

Mean­while In­sta­gram has ex­ploded with posts of peo­ple dressed in clown cos­tumes star­ing men­ac­ingly at the cam­era or pho­tos of clowns ap­peal­ing for un­der­stand­ing or of­fer­ing free hugs.

The hys­te­ria spread fur­ther this week with of­fi­cials in Cal­i­for­nia and Oregon forced to re­spond to nu­mer­ous clown sight­ings – largely con­sid­ered to be hoaxes – and so­cial media threats against schools, also con­sid­ered to be pranks.

Sergeant Juan Briseno, of the Los An­ge­les County Sher­iff’s Depart­ment, told AFP that pa­trols out­side schools had been in­creased in the city of Car­son, south of down­town Los An­ge­les, fol­low­ing a threat­en­ing mes­sage on Twit­ter about clowns tar­get­ing an area high school.

“I have sent our school deputy to go speak with ev­ery school within our ju­ris­dic­tion and make them aware of the sit­u­a­tion,” Briseno said.

The city of Lan­caster, north of Los An­ge­les, was also swept into the frenzy this week after men wear­ing clown masks – and pos­si­bly car­ry­ing kitchen knives – were seen walk­ing around in what po­lice said was an at­tempt to frighten peo­ple.

At one school in Oregon, of­fi­cials sent an email to wor­ried par­ents this week re­as­sur­ing them after a ru­mour spread about clowns plan­ning to harm lo­cal stu­dents.

“This ru­mour has sur­faced across the coun­try, mostly due to peo­ple re­post­ing or shar­ing pre­vi­ous [so­cial media] posts,” the email states.

“We are work­ing with our part­ners at Port­land po­lice to mon­i­tor this is­sue.”

The White House weighed in on the phe­nom­e­non this week, say­ing the sin­is­ter sight­ings that have led to about a dozen ar­rests should be taken se­ri­ously and that the FBI and the Depart­ment of Home­land Se­cu­rity had been con­sulted on how to han­dle the scare.

“Ob­vi­ously, this is a sit­u­a­tion that lo­cal law en­force­ment au­thor­i­ties take quite se­ri­ously and they should care­fully and thor­oughly re­view, you know, per­ceived threats to the safety of the com­mu­nity and they should do so pru­dently,” said White House spokesper­son Josh Earnest.

Ex­perts said the epi­demic of real or imag­ined sight­ings and en­su­ing hys­te­ria could be ex­plained by “coul­ro­pho­bia”, a long-doc­u­mented phe­nom­e­non which in­creased in the wake of the 1986 Stephen King novel It fea­tur­ing a malev­o­lent clown, later turned into a hit movie.

“The last num­ber that I have heard is that one in al­most 10 peo­ple re­port a pho­bia of clowns,” said Matthew Lor­ber, di­rec­tor of the child and ado­les­cent psy­chi­a­try pro­gram at Lenox Hill Hos­pi­tal in New York.

“For kids, to not be able to see some­body’s real face is what makes the clown so scary,” he added.

Lor­ber said so­cial media was feed­ing the cur­rent scare, which he warned could cause last­ing trauma and panic at­tacks among younger chil­dren. “Dan­ger­ous fads tend to catch and so­cial media re­ally fu­els them,” he said.

“The idea of scar­ing peo­ple with clowns and post­ing their re­ac­tions on­line is gar­ner­ing so much at­ten­tion that it’s hap­pen­ing more and more.”

Rin­gling Bros. and Bar­num & Bai­ley, which runs a clown school, views the creepy frenzy as no jok­ing mat­ter. “It is trou­bling be­cause it’s a dis­trac­tion for our clowns who just want to make peo­ple laugh and smile,” it said in a state­ment car­ried by US media.

But King, whose cult thriller gave a gen­er­a­tion the hee­bie jee­bies, has de­cided to laugh it off.

“Hey, guys, time to cool the clown hys­te­ria – most of em are good, cheer up the kid­dies, make peo­ple laugh,” the nov­el­ist tweeted this past week.

Photo: AFP

Sight­ings of creepy Bo­zos from South Carolina to Cal­i­for­nia have put the US on edge, with Hal­loween – and the en­su­ing slew of cos­tumed teenagers – com­ing up fast.

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