Donna Arnold, a resident of Greenville, South Carolina, reported that two clowns were attempting to lure her child into a small, abandoned house in the middle of the woods. That report in Greenville on Aug. 20 was the first of many reports of a disturbing clown sighting. Today, this creepy phenomenon has escalated to a nationwide epidemic, with new clown sightings in over 20 states, including Michigan, according to BuzzFeed News. An action that may have been a simple prank has transformed into many fear-filled, disturbing, and sometimes violent encounters.
“I find it very freaky, scary, and disturbing,” senior Michelle Greenwood said. “There’s one lurking a mile from my house, so I don’t feel safe to drive around. The videos I’ve seen on Twitter of the clowns make me scream and jump every time I watch them.”
All across the nation, the clown hysteria has sparked chaos. Since the first sighting, at least four schools have had lockdowns and an entire school district closed due to violent clown-related death threats. Many clown-related robberies, attacks, pranks, and social media threats have occurred. A teenager in Pennsylvania was stabbed to death during an alleged argument over the clown mask he was wearing, according to the Associated Press. This mass chaos over the clowns is scaring Americans everywhere, and they’re all asking the same question: Why is this happening?
“I think it started out as a joke,” sophomore Emily Susitko said. “Now, it’s gone too far, and I think it’s because certain people are trying to create fear among people all over the country.”
A popular theory is that the clown sightings aren’t real, and that they were set up by movie studios to promote the upcoming horror films It and 31, which both feature clowns. However, the movie studios behind each film quickly squashed this conspiracy theory, leaving America to wonder who’s behind the mayhem.
“Honestly, I’m kind of scared,” Susitko said. “There’s woods just behind my house with a trail, so I feel pretty unsafe to go out in the evening or even sometimes during the day because I heard [the clowns] come out in the day now, too.”
Though no one knows who started the trend, since September, nearly 30 people have been arrested for using various social media accounts to send threats or falsely report clown sightings. According to BuzzFeed News, the seriousness of the situation reached the White House and prompted White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest to address it on Oct. 4. Though he was not sure if the President himself had heard of the issue, Earnest felt as though each local law enforcement agency should take the threats and sightings very seriously.
“[Local law enforcers] should carefully and thoroughly review the perceived threats to the safety of the community,” Earnest said.
Though this creepy clown escapade has worried some Americans, it has also deeply affected the clown community. Recently, through social media posts and protests, a #ClownLivesMatter movement has risen to support the clowns who are not involved in these violent and disturbing acts. According to BuzzFeed News, Jordan Jones, a professional clown who goes by the name of Snuggles, wants to keep the reputation of clowns positive.
“Clowns are out doing bad things and people need to stop doing this,” Jones said. “They are messing up, not for us actors, but for little kids [on] Halloween who want to be clowns.”