Trick or Treat: Assaulting Clowns Epidemic

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There has been a recent national epidemic of reports of people in clown masks committing assaults, issuing threats, and generally “creeping out” members of the public. While most have been unsubstantiated, reports concerning clowns have been pouring into police agencies at an alarming rate.

The Initial Sightings and Reports

The first report that gained national attention came from Greenville, South Carolina. In August of this year, a group of children in Greenville told local law enforcement that clowns tried to lure them to a home deep in the forest. There were similar subsequent reports of clowns attempting to lure children into the woods in North Carolina and Georgia. In Maryland, callers reported three clowns hiding in bushes jumping out and assaulting people. In Oregon, a woman reported seeing a clown with blue painted teeth attempting to assault citizens by frightening them. In Reading, Ohio, a woman claimed to have been attacked by a knife-wielding clown, but her story was later determined to have been fabricated as an excuse for why she was late for work. In fact, the common thread in all of these clown sightings is the lack of police verification. None of these reports were ever substantiated, and no clowns were ever found.

However, the current clown hysteria is not entirely unfounded. Adding to the hysteria, or perhaps simply monopolizing on the hysteria, a number of clown-related offenses have actually been substantiated. As reported by ABC News, a woman in Ohio was verifiably assaulted by a man dressed as a clown, and the assault resulted in the closure of many area schools. A 13-year-old in Virginia was arrested for attempting to solicit an individual on social media with a clown profile picture to murder her teacher. A 14-year-old in Texas was charged with making social media terroristic threats relating to clowns. A report of an armed clown led to the evacuation of a dorm at Merrimack College in Massachusetts. Four people were arrested in Georgia for threatening an abduction of children by clowns.

White House Addresses Clown Hysteria

This clown hysteria has even been addressed during a White House Briefing at the beginning of this month. Press Secretary Jay Carney told the press that the clown epidemic should be taken seriously and has resulted in more than a dozen arrests. Carney even said that local law enforcement agencies have been asking for help from the FBI and Department of Homeland Security to address the clown assaults occurring across the nation.

Because of this recent assaults, Target told ABC News that it will be minimizing the availability of clown masks in their stores. Even the fast-food chain McDonald’s stated that it would be limiting its appearances of its clown mascot, Ronald McDonald, for the foreseeable future due to the increase of assaults by clowns.

Unfortunately Clown Hysteria Is Not A New Phenomenon

The collective fear of clowns – and the monopolization of this fear – is not a new phenomenon in this county. The media outlet Slate reported that reports by children of clowns attempting to lure or assault them date back to 1981, mostly without apprehension of any suspects. Even in the District of Columbia there were reports of clown crimes dating back to July 1994, in which the Seventh District police station received multiple reports of a clown trying to lure children into his van. In that case, a boy was actually abducted by November of 1994, but the police were unable to connect the abduction to the clown reports. While there have not been any current reports of clown assaults in the District, it may be only a matter of time – particularly with Halloween fast approaching.

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