The Great Falls Police Department posted on its Facebook page last week that the “hysteria” sweeping the country had arrived: clowns.
“We have received reports of ‘clown sightings’ in our community, as well as threats to local residents via social media.”
The post explained there is nothing illegal about dressing as a clown and “some are even reputable, professional entertainers.” Nonetheless, it discouraged residents from participating “in this foolish craze and save your law enforcement resources for where they are needed most.”
Also last week, this time in Missoula, threats were made on a Facebook account called ZooTown Klown. The school superintendent sent an email to parents notifying them of the online post, which has since been taken down.
On the heels of those incidents, the Kalispell Police Department sent out a press release after local students and parents approached school resource officers regarding rumors of clowns being a threat to local schools. It emphasized “no reports of these clowns have been made in our area” while at once advising “those who may choose to exploit this viral social media trend by donning a clown costume in public to rethink their decision.”
Unfortunately, it’s nearly inevitable that someone will ignore that well-placed advice and an out-of-place, and perhaps creepy, clown will be spotted in the Flathead.
And it won’t be funny.
Ever since Stephen King’s novel “It” — the story of a terrifying being often appearing in the form of the clown to lure and haunt children — and its subsequent film adaption, part of a generation, including myself, was made skittish around clowns. For his part, in response to the recent sightings, King wrote on Twitter, “Hey, guys, time to cool the clown hysteria — most of ‘em are good, cheer up the kiddies, make people laugh.”
But these ones aren’t.
While there are differing theories on why creepy clowns have spread across the country, there’s general agreement on where it all began. In August, there were unsubstantiated reports that clowns were luring children into the woods in South Carolina. Again, these were unsubstantiated reports, but the sightings have increased since then.
They spread across the South. And they kept spreading. There have since been scary clown sightings in more than two-dozen states. In New Haven, Connecticut, after “ominous clown messages” were posted on social media, the school district’s director of security asked area principals to ban “clown costumes and any symbols of terror during the Halloween season.” At Penn State University, after rumors spreads of clowns spotted near campus, over 500 students participated in a massive clown hunt. None were found.
The negative publicity has hurt the run-of-the-mill clown industry, and the clowns aren’t happy about it. I don’t blame them — as King said, “most of ‘em are good.” In Maryland, a Shriners Club’s clown withdrew from an upcoming parade. Other professional clowns say they have had gigs canceled and that social media and the press are needlessly stoking the creepy clown craze.
“I wonder how the reporting on the story would go if instead of clowns, people were dressing up as aliens, witches, zombies or doctors?” Mike Becvar, a professional clown, asked the New York Times.
A good question, but maybe we should all just save the costumes for Halloween.