Clown Scare

Can Creepy Clowns Be Stopped?

A brief recap of maudlin (and often imaginary) clowns haunting U.S. towns recently-and why police can't stop them.

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They're roaming the streets, stalking our farmer's markets, diminishing our helium supply…and yet police say there's no way to stop the nomadic, peaceful-but-creepy clown menace.

One serious hindrance to law enforcement has been the fact that these clowns, often, do not literally exist. Or, if they do, no tangible evidence of their existence can be found. But that doesn't make them any less real to the residents of places like Greenville, South Carolina, where media is now warning that candy-bearing clowns are trying to lure children into the woods.

Several children, teens, and at least one mother living at the town's Fleetwood Manor Apartments claim they've spotted a "clown or person dressed in clown clothing" in woods near the complex, sometimes doing things as benign as standing alone and waving hello while other times gathered en masse waving knives, chains, candy, money and green lasers. As clowns do.

The Greenville County Sheriff's Office said Friday that "as of today's date, there has been one incident report filed with our office regarding" the clowns, and "there were two other calls related to this. One call was regarding the clown sightings and the other call was in reference to gunshots being heard in the area. In both calls, the complainants refused to give their names and no incident report was filed. Our deputies did not locate anyone matching the description when they responded." Fleetwood Manor resident Donna Arnold told WYFF4 that "like 30 kids" other than her two boys said they saw the clowns. "The children said they think the clowns live in a house near a pond at the end of a trail in the woods," the local TV station reports. But a Greenville "deputy walked the trail to a house near a pond in the woods behind the apartment. The deputy said there were no signs of suspicious activity and found no one dressed as a clown."

YouTube

Could it be that the menacing clown hordes have simply gotten craftier, however, in the wake of recent high-profile outings? Since 2013, an array of creepy clowns—sometimes solo, sometimes in packs—have allegedly been spotted from France to Florida, New Mexico to Northampton, England…inspiring similar waves of panicked parents, fearful Facebook posts, and faux-concerned reporters.

In those instances, police were largely unable to condemn the clowns because they weren't actually doing anything wrong. Dressing as a creepy clown is not, in itself, a crime. Maybe some of these clowns were just on their way to costume parties when spotted, or fetish balls, or whatever. Maybe some were earning a living, like Wrinkles, the Florida clown who's invited by parents to scare misbehaving children for a fee. ("I'm just a good old-fashioned clown," Wrinkles, anti-safe-space warrior, told The Washington Post last year. "When I was a kid, it was okay to scare kids and now they're all whiny and scared. I want to bring scary back.")

Maybe some were working on an art project, like the husband and wife behind the Wasco Clown spotted in California in 2014…or like the teenagers copying the Wasco Clown after learning about it from social media, breathless broadcasts, and Uproxx listicles.

During the 2014 Wasco Clown fiasco, copycat creepers were spotted in Bakersfield, California (where the news warned of scary clowns clamoring about town with baseball bats and knives but the only clown was caught was an unarmed 14-year-old who told police he was participating in a prank); Albuquerque, New Mexico; and Fishers, Indiana. Police in Fishers asked residents to report clown sightings but stressed that walking around in a clown costume wasn't, on its own, against the law.

Police in Green Bay, Wisconsin, echoed this sentiment in early August after receiving several calls about a menacing clown carrying black balloons through the city. Police Captain Kevin Warych explained that there was nothing they could do about "Gags" the clown because "a person can walk down the sidewalk dressed however they want as long as they're in a place they legally can be."

Not so in France, where some towns banned clown Halloween costumes in 2014 after their own Wasco-Clown copycats emerged. France, however, has problems with fashion policing more broadly. Americans towns, too, can sometimes move to micromanage clothing (hello sagging pants, miniskirt, and tight pants bans). But good on us, I guess, that we're still tolerant enough to let creepy clowns be.

NEXT: 'Pre-Search' Is Coming to U.S. Policing

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  1. There were some vids of people pranking at gas stations by coming up on people dressed as Creepy Clowns.

    The last one I saw ended when the driver being pranked reached into his car for . . . something. And I nver saw one after that.

  2. “I want to bring scary back.”

    I like this clown.

  3. “In other news, Clown Journalism has made a surprising comeback in unexpected places. We caught up with a Reason commentator, who goes by the name pseudonym Tony. ‘I just can’t handle seeing my people misrepresented like this. I for one, am outraged.’ More on this, at 11.”

    1. Hiibel and Scalia’s war on the exclusionary rule make a lie of that.

        1. No, no, it works. Just go with it.

          1. Scalia was kind of a creepy clown.

  4. The adjective “creepy” is unnecessary here. Clowns are inherently creepy.

    1. It implies the possibility of a non-creepy clown.

      1. Rodeo clowns aren’t creepy.

        1. Then they’re not really clowns.

        2. Clowns aren’t creepy when they’re drunk.

          1. And cowboys aren’t creepy, so cowboy clowns aren’t creepy.

            . . . especially when they’re drunk.

      1. These euphemisms…

        1. I liked ‘fetish balls’.

  5. “The children said they think the clowns live in a house near a pond at the end of a trail in the woods,” the local TV station reports.

    Sounds like a crappy Scooby-Doo episode.

    1. The police pull the clown mask off the dude and it’s… the mayor!

      1. No, it’s the old man who runs the old local amusement park. Because it’s always the old man who owns the old amusement park.

        1. No, sometimes it’s the museum director, or the realtor who’s trying to scare people off the land so he can buy it cheap for his parking lot.

      2. “And I would have gotten away with it, if not for those meddling kids!”

        (And their dog.)

  6. Can Creepy Clowns Be Stopped?

    Hell no. We can’t even keep ’em from getting presidential nominations from both major parties.

  7. Crusty Juggler is strangely absent from this discussion.

    1. He does everything strangely, doesn’t he.

      1. He was probably voted Most Likely To Molest the Class Clown

      1. Uh oh…Crusty got Hihnfected!

  8. There is a local clown in my area that has been active for years, doing birthday parties and local fairs and such. This weekend as I was driving out into the country to visit my parents, I saw her on the side of the road, in full clown costume with a large amount of cages. I was well along into my trip, so we pretty far out in the middle of nowhere, the closest “town” of about 300 people being over five miles away. She had her van pulled over to the side of the road, and the back of it was open; I could see a few dozen cages in there, along with the ones she had outside of the van itself. As I got closer, I could see that the cages were have-a-hart traps, full of live squirrels. I have no idea why she was on the side of the road in full clown regalia with a large amount of live squirrels in cages, I don’t know if she trapped them elsewhere and was preparing to release them, or if she had caught them there and was loading them them up to transport them elsewhere. Perhaps to release them into the Reason server farm.
    I didn’t stop to ask her to explain what she was up to, because it was so strange that the idea to do so didn’t occur to me until about half an hour later. So, there really isn’t a point to any of this, as nothing really happened, but it was weird, recent, and clown related.

    1. Did you hear Rod Serling narrating in the background?

    2. OK, that’s pretty creepy.

      1. I think that one leaves creepy behind in the rearview mirror, and is barrelling toward bizarre, with a possible final stop at full-on lunacy.

        1. Well, my father works at a prison, dealing with the inmates that are deemed unfit for gen-pop due to mental issues, so the final stop at my parents house involved full on lunacy.

      2. When SugarFree describes something as “creepy,” you know you have gone way the hell too far.

    3. No peaceful night’s sleep has ever followed a story that begins with “a local clown in my area.”

      1. That is now my Quote of the Day.

    4. Not creepy. Women who do clowns are generally just women who like children.

      She was releasing squirrels she had caught, that is all. Of course, even if it was ten miles from where they were caught, they just went straight back to where they came from.

      1. I didn’t find it creepy; like I said, she’s been doing the clown thing for years and I know who she is and she isn’t creepy at all. It was just the fact that she was doing in her full clown getup, make up and big shoes and giant pink wig, the whole nine yards, at 4:30 on a Sunday afternoon that makes it very weird. She wasn’t coming off a job and didn’t have time to change before hand, because she is devoutly catholic and refuses to work on Sundays.

        If she was releasing squirrels that she caught, assuming she caught them by her house, she was about thirty miles away. So they should resettle.

        1. What you didn’t know was that the cages were actually to catch children Chitty-Chitty Bang Bang style and she had used her black magic to turn them into squirrels. She was now releasing them in coyote-infested areas…

      2. Women who do clowns are generally just women who like children.

        Ew.

        1. Women who do clowns… EW.

          FTFY.

    5. OMG, she turned the children into squirrels?

      She turned the children into squirrels!!!

      And now you know. And now she knows you know.

      OMG.

      Is she always chewing on acorns?

      Tell me the clown isn’t always chewing on acorns!

  9. There is a local clown in my area that has been active for years, doing birthday parties and local fairs and such. This weekend as I was driving out into the country to visit my parents, I saw her on the side of the road, in full clown costume with a large amount of cages. I was well along into my trip, so we pretty far out in the middle of nowhere, the closest “town” of about 300 people being over five miles away. She had her van pulled over to the side of the road, and the back of it was open; I could see a few dozen cages in there, along with the ones she had outside of the van itself. As I got closer, I could see that the cages were have-a-hart traps, full of live squirrels. I have no idea why she was on the side of the road in full clown regalia with a large amount of live squirrels in cages, I don’t know if she trapped them elsewhere and was preparing to release them, or if she had caught them there and was loading them them up to transport them elsewhere. Perhaps to release them into the Reason server farm.
    I didn’t stop to ask her to explain what she was up to, because it was so strange that the idea to do so didn’t occur to me until about half an hour later. So, there really isn’t a point to any of this, as nothing really happened, but it was weird, recent, and clown related.

    1. Looks like the squirrels were safely delivered, so I guess that mystery’s solved.

  10. a “clown or person dressed in clown clothing”

    A subtle, yet crucial distinction.

    “What are you in for, Kid?”

    “Impersonating a clown.”

    1. Don’t piss off the professional clowns. They will come for you.

      1. You don’t want to cross Dr. Whiteface.

  11. Don’t be pulling that clown shit on MLB’s Michael Young.

  12. a large amount of live squirrels in cages, I don’t know if she trapped them elsewhere and was preparing to release them

    A reminiscence:

    I had a friend in Colorado Springs who would “thin the herd” once in a while. He was too kind-hearted to just execute the squirrels (his wife probably forbade it), so he’d take them to some other neighborhood and release them. One day as he was freeing the prisoners, a guy came running out of a house nearby and started yelling, “YOU MOTHERFUCKER!”

    He started taking the someplace else after that.

    1. Now that’s funny. Probably because I can imagine myself as the guy running out the house.

    2. A neighbor of mine in the Wisconsin countryside had running battle with raccoons. He used a havahart trap. I was visiting with him and his wife and he had a raccoon in the trap. He mentioned that he was going to relocate it, and his wife was nodding approvingly. When she looked away, he looked at me and did the finger gun thing at the raccoon, dropping his thumb to let me know that raccoon was getting “relocated” all right,.

      1. “We have work for you, in the East. But first, you must be deloused….enter these showers right over here.”

    3. Old Man Gillespie then went to grab his gun, grumbling that they were going to get into the servers again.

  13. This is so passe’. Interdimensonal, child hating clowns have been documented for centuries.

    “Sometimes doing things as benign as standing alone and waving hello while other times gathered en masse waving knives, chains, candy, money and green lasers.”

    The ones with the green lasers are actually the good guys. They were probably trying to warn them about something.

    Only a bad guy would carry a red light saber. Everybody knows that.

    1. while other times gathered en masse waving knives, chains, candy, money and green lasers.

      Bah, that is just a bunch of Juggalos.

  14. What the fuck did you just say to me, you little bitch? I’ll have you know I graduated top of my class at Clown College, I’ve been involved in numerous seltzer sprays, and I have over 300 pies-to-the-face. I am trained in mime and I’m the top animal balloonist in the entire US. You are nothing to me but just another fair-goer. I will wipe you the fuck out with juggling – the likes of which has never been seen before on this Earth, mark my words. You think you can get away with saying that shit to me? Think again, fucker. As we speak I am contacting my fellow clowns across the USA and your IP is being traced right now so you better prepare for the storm, maggot. The storm that wipes out the pathetic little thing you call your life. You’re fucking dead, kid. I can be anywhere, anytime, and I can pratfall in over seven hundred ways. Not only am I extensively trained in riding tiny bicycles, but I have access to the entire arsenal of the Barnum and Bailey circus and I will use it to wipe your miserable ass off the face of the continent, you little shit. If only you could have known what unholy retribution your little “clever” comment was about to bring down upon you, maybe you would have held your fucking tongue. But you couldn’t, you didn’t, and now you’re paying the price, you goddamn idiot. I will shit fury all over you and you will drown in it. You’re fucking dead, kiddo, and I will stuff you and all your equally dead friends into a little bitty car..

    1. I had inner ear issues as a kid. Gave me terrible coordination and balance control. I used to fall over for no reason, out of chairs, just standing. I’d bash my head open on the of furniture or concrete and stuff. One month, I had to get stitches three times. The doctor gave my mom a note so the ER wouldn’t call CPS every time I showed up needing more stitches. I’m sure it toughened me up.

      But, anyway, um, yeah, clown college.

      I can still ride a unicycle, and I can still juggle–I just can’t do them both at the same time anymore.

  15. Hey-Hey /Crusty

  16. Are we sure that some of these sightings weren’t just Juggalos?

    1. That’s entirely possible.

      Some innocent misidentified juggalo could easily get lynched because of this.

  17. The whole story reads like a Creepy Pasta meme.

    Some kid’s older sister may have read something like it on Creepy Pasta, and maybe she told it to her rugrat of a little brother as if it were true. He tells it to his friends, and then they start reinforcing it to each other with local variations–like what always happens with stories when they’re retold.

    Next thing you know, every vagrant looks like bigfoot an interdimensional, child-eating clown–and they all saw it! It looked just the way it was described in the story, too!

    It’s the same thing that happens with adults. Trump isn’t an interdimensional, child-eating clown, but did you know Trump wants to kill the family members of ISIS?

    Not ISIS members themselves–just their families!!!

  18. Of course clowns are creepy. They are parodies of drunken hobos. The ill-fitting shoes, the red nose, the mismatched clothes and the drunken bumbling about. This is no mystery. The mystery is why in hell it got started as a thing for children in the first place.

    1. Minor, but important, addition to that statement: They’re drunken IRISH hobos. That’s why they have red hair and pale skin. It started out as making fun of Micks. I still don’t know why it became a children’s thing though. Perhaps some English lord had a clown making a buffoon of himself at party for him and his superior English guests and his children saw it and loved it and it became a thing… LOL

      Fortunately clowns don’t creep me out. I mean there are the intentionally creepy clowns, and they’re creepy. But people who get all freaked out by “normal” funny looking clowns does not make sense to me.

  19. Doesn’t the answer have something to do with “cake”?

  20. Start working at home with Google! It’s by-far the best job I’ve had. Last Wednesday I got a brand new BMW since getting a check for $6474 this – 4 weeks past. I began this 8-months ago and immediately was bringing home at least $77 per hour. I work through this link, go to tech tab for work detail.

    +_+_+_+_+_+_+_+_+ http://www.Reportmax90.com

  21. It’s all clown induced hysteria. Every bit of it. This stuff spreads like a plague.

  22. I have never understood the freak out about clowns. I don’t get what is supposed to make them so scary or off-putting. Pennywise isn’t even all that bothersome–he just looked a bit like Bozo, with pointed teeth.

  23. R C Dean|8.30.16 @ 1:41PM|#
    “A neighbor of mine in the Wisconsin countryside had running battle with raccoons. He used a havahart trap. I was visiting with him and his wife and he had a raccoon in the trap. He mentioned that he was going to relocate it, and his wife was nodding approvingly. When she looked away, he looked at me and did the finger gun thing at the raccoon, dropping his thumb to let me know that raccoon was getting “relocated” all right,.”

    In SF, if you call a pest-control outfit, they’re not allowed to shoot ‘coons, or take them across the city boundaries. Now, I don’t know this for a fact, I just suspect some of the control guys are very friendly with some of the ‘coons, ’cause they tend to capture them from the area where they were most recently released.

  24. The clown in the drive by video didn’t have creepy make up. I think the old dude is projecting.

  25. Is the Insane Clown Posse still a thing?

    Might these groups of clown just be Juggalos?

  26. Oh man I wish I knew how to link. Ya’ll should Google the Southampton Clown.

    1. *Northampton

  27. Quick, coach some suggestible kids and round up the McMartins.

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