In Vendargues, a small French town near Montpellier, there will be one classic costume conspicuously missing this Halloween. Under order of decree by Mayor Pierre Dudieuzere, no resident age 13 or above shall wear a clown costume or clown makeup in public this October 31.
So what are we looking at here? An extreme case of coulrophobia? Au contraire! It seems nearby cities and towns have been terrorized by evil teenage clowns for the past several weeks. Dudieuzere said he's merely aiming to "avoid confusion and eventual disruption on the occasion of the feast of Halloween."
Vendargues' ban on clowning around in public lasts through November 30, 2014, although an extension is possible if "the evolution of this phenomenon" of menacing clowns continues. Those who break the clown ban will be arrested and prosecuted, though the decree does not say what the punishment is. Also no word on whether mimes are prohibited.
According to the BBC, French police have recently arrested more than a dozen teen clowns who were "frightening passers-by" with weapons and sometimes physically assaulting people. "The incidents appeared to be fuelled by a clown craze on social media," the BBC article reports cryptically.
A story from earlier in the week elaborates on this alleged evil clown "social media craze", which apparently is not just a phénomène français but an "international trend."
"Earlier this month in the US, there were several reports of scary clowns in California, Florida and New Mexico," the BBC's Anne-Marie Tomchak reports.
Photos of clowns were shared on social media accounts using the name "Wasco Clown". The Wasco Clown was was originally an art project featuring photos of an anonymous clown in the town of the same name. It inspired copycats, with some sharing disturbing images of clowns in intimidating scenarios. Social media accounts using the Wasco Clown name built up a following on Twitter and Instagram. There was also on a tribute Facebook page.
Yes, folks, anyone in the whole world who posts clown photos to the Internet is clearly part of this global violent clown conspiracy. Don't worry, though: "Social media is also being used as part of a counter movement. In France, police say groups are organising online to track down the clowns and they're taking the matter very seriously," Tomchak notes.
According to the French Ministry of the Interior, several clown hunters were arrested carrying batons and brass knuckles. "Possession of a weapon on a public road is an offense punishable by imprisonment," says the Ministry in a statement. "Everyone, aggressive clowns clowns or hunters, discovered in possession of a weapon … on the highway will be arrested" and taken into police custody. The statement also urges French citizens to report "aggressive clowns" to authorities immediately.