Send in the clown com­plaints: Spate of re­ports raises alarm

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - NEWS - By Joe Man­dak

PITTS­BURGH >> Po­lice are en­cour­ag­ing cau­tion amid a rash of pub­lic com­plaints and so­cial me­dia re­ports in a num­ber of states of peo­ple dressed like clowns and act­ing sus­pi­ciously, even if they think many are knuck­le­head pranksters or sim­ply bo­gus.

Real clowns are just plain miffed.

Au­thor­i­ties in Greenville, South Carolina, were among the first to re­port a clown-re­lated in­ci­dent in re­cent weeks. Late last month, some chil­dren re­ported clowns try­ing to lure them into the woods with money. Sher­iff’s deputies found no ev­i­dence, how­ever, not even a prankster in a clown suit.

But for what­ever rea­son, since then, peo­ple in Alabama, Ge­or­gia, Mary­land, North Carolina and now, Penn­syl­va­nia, have re­ported scary or sus­pi­cious en­coun­ters with peo­ple dressed like clowns.

“When peo­ple re­port th­ese things it should be ‘some­one dressed like a clown,’ be­cause a real clown would never dress or do any­thing to scare any­one,” said Tri­cia Manuel, 55, who runs Moose­burger Clown Arts Camp in Buf­falo, Min­nesota. The camp, named for her al­ter ego, Pri­cilla Moose­burger, trains about 100 clowns each year.

She said she has been fol­low­ing the re­ports closely be­cause they are hurt­ing busi­ness.

“In South Carolina, two of the clowns were afraid to go out and per­form, and they’re two of my cus­tomers,” said Manuel, whose two chil­dren are also clowns. “If they don’t per­form, they don’t need sup­plies.”

Some of the re­ported sight­ings have been hoaxes, like the four young chil­dren who told po­lice they made up sto­ries about spot­ting clowns in un­usual places in and around An­napo­lis, Mary­land, or the 24-yearold man whom po­lice in Win­ston-Salem, North Carolina, charged with falsely re­port­ing that a clown knocked on his win­dow.

Other re­lated cases weren’t so harm­less and have re­sulted in crim­i­nal charges.

The sher­iff in Es­cam­bia County, Alabama, last week ar­rested a 22-yearold woman and two ju­ve­niles af­ter Flo­ma­ton High School was locked down and searched when stu­dents were threat­ened on “Flomo Klown” and “Shoota Cl­lown” so­cial me­dia ac­counts. And in Athens, Ge­or­gia, an 11-year-old girl was ar­rested for tak­ing a knife to school on Fri­day be­cause she was fright­ened by so­cial me­dia re­ports and other ru­mors that clowns were pre­par­ing to at­tack chil­dren.

The Penn­syl­va­nia re­ports and law-en­force­ment re­sponse have, so far, been more low key. Po­lice want to en­cour­age peo­ple to re­port sus­pi­cious be­hav­ior with­out ag­gra­vat­ing mat­ters.

Al­bert Walker, the po­lice chief in north­east­ern Penn­syl­va­nia’s Hanover Town­ship, has stepped up pa­trols along the Sans Souci Park­way af­ter Face­book posts about a clown in nearby woods.

But the chief chose his words care­fully in de­scrib­ing his depart­ment’s con­nec­tion to any other clown sight­ings.

“Pe­riph­er­ally we’re con­nected to it, but not di­rectly,” Walker said. “It was a so­cial me­dia post that iden­ti­fied the pos­si­bil­ity of an al­leged sight­ing of an in­di­vid­ual dressed as a clown along one of our main high­ways.”

Pottsville Po­lice Chief Richard Wo­j­ciechowsky said there ap­peared to be more to a clown-re­lated in­ci­dent re­ported Mon­day even­ing in his bor­ough, about 90 miles north­west of Philadel­phia — but still no cause for alarm.

“Two knuck­le­heads with clown-like clothes on” hopped out of a pickup truck and yelled at a group of young chil­dren and teenagers, the chief said.

“It wasn’t a phys­i­cal threat or a vi­o­lent act. At best, (it’s) a mis­guided ju­ve­nile prank,” the chief said. “Some of the older kids weren’t even fright­ened.”

The Penn­syl­va­nia State Po­lice are in­ves­ti­gat­ing re­cent un­spec­i­fied clown sight­ings in the towns of Hunt­ing­don and Ebens­burg, where a woman said a clown peeped through her win­dow. Trooper Adam Reed said cit­i­zens should “not con­front the in­di­vid­ual but rather gather in­for­ma­tion and re­port it to your lo­cal po­lice.”

Manuel said the pub­lic’s per­cep­tion of clowns has been go­ing down­hill since Stephen King’s 1986 novel about a child-killing clown, “It,” be­came a TV minis­eries four years later. But the lat­est in­ci­dents take the cake.

“We are used to ‘Killer Klowns from Outer Space’ and Krusty the Clown, but this has taken it to another level,” Manuel said. “It’s another thing to have peo­ple act out th­ese sick fan­tasies. This is like, ‘Are you kid­ding me?’”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.