On Monday, a teenage girl and her mother were so freaked out when they saw a “creepy clown” riding in a car in Henrico County, Va., they called 911.
On Tuesday, extra police and security were assigned to schools in Gallatin County, Ky., after threatening messages were posted on Facebook by two people who used creepy clown photos as their profile pics.
Sightings and online reports of scary clowns across the country — some real, many fake — are keeping law enforcement officials busy nationwide.
Some are frustrated with spending time and resources checking out wild rumors of clowns skulking about, chasing people with knives, tapping on windows, luring children into the woods and threatening schools.
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In Kansas City, Kan., police posted a notice on Facebook this week reassuring residents that “there have been no actual sightings of clowns.”
Early Sunday morning police officers in Salisbury, Md., searched a neighborhood on foot and from police cars after receiving calls that people dressed as clowns with orange and blue hair were hiding in bushes and jumping out to scare people.
The police issued a public statement asking its citizens to stop scaring one another like that, referring to the situation as a “national prank.”
Someone out there is laughing, but it’s not the police.
“A lot of it is rumor and innuendo on social media,” Steve Stewart, the chief of police in Muncie, Ind., said on Wednesday about posts on Facebook suggesting clowns are breaking into people’s homes around town.
Stewart’s department has fielded dozens of 911 calls about the rumors.
“We’ve had reports clowns are going to be someplace, but they never show up. What you worry about is what the clowns would do to someone if they tried to scare them or frighten them, and the flip side of that is what someone might do to the clowns,” he told The Star Press in Muncie, Ind.
“It’s kind of silly, but the whole county is concerned about it.”
Last week, police in Norwalk, Ohio, knocked back a wave of hysteria created by a Facebook post that said scary clowns were harassing people around town.
Calls poured in. Clowns were allegedly harassing people on sidewalks. Then someone called about two clowns “jumping out of the woods, scaring people.” Then a woman called to report a clown was outside her door trying to break in.
“It seems like it was a prank that just kind of got out of hand,” Norwalk Police Capt. Michael Conney told Fox 8 in Cleveland.
“We want people to be careful with what they post on social media, to think beforehand and to realize that can be a problem and it can create a problem for the police in tying up resources, wasting time that could be better spent serving the public.”
Police went looking for the clowns but didn’t find any. What they did find? Other people out hunting for clowns, including a biker group tracking clowns through Facebook posts and a woman riding with a group in a truck “live streaming on Facebook documenting the hunt for the clowns,” said a police report.
Police tracked down the man and woman who started the rumors on Facebook. The woman “wanted to be famous,” the man told police.
People have lied to police about seeing clowns. Four young children confessed that they made up stories about seeing clowns in and around Annapolis, Md., and a 24-year-old man in Winston-Salem, N.C. was charged with falsely reporting that a clown knocked on his window.
The girl and her mom who were creeped out by a clown in a car in Virginia? After WTVR in Richmond, Va. did a story on their clown sighting, the mother of a 12-year-old boy contacted the station to say the “scary” clown was her autistic son dressed as “Pennywise,” the evil clown from Steven King’s horror novel “It.”
He is sweet, not creepy, the boy’s mother told the TV station.
The clown pranks have become serious enough to invite investigation by the FBI in recent days with several schools targeted with online threats from “clowns.”
The parents in Gallatin County, Ky. got scared after messages threatening schools were posted to Facebook by users named “Michael Daklown” and “Bobby Daklown,”
“This has got to stop and the only way we can stop it to stop responding to it except for to turn these over (to) law enforcement,” superintendent Trevor Huber told Fox 19 in Cincinnati.
In Escambia County, Ala., police apprehended a 22-year-old woman and two juveniles from Flomaton High School for allegedly threatening the school using the names “Flomo Klown” and “Shoota Clown” on social media.
The threats prompted school officials to lock down the school campus and search for firearms, according to Morning News USA.
Police don’t want to throw more fuel on a fire exploding largely on social media, but they can’t ignore all the 911 calls about clowns gone wild, either.
Like other law enforcement officials, police in Gadsen, Ala. worry that the pranks have gotten so out of hand that someone is going to get hurt.
Last week a woman reported that a woman wearing white clown makeup had broken into her home in the middle of the night, The Gadsen Times reported.
The homeowner scuffled with the clown and hit her several times, but the burglar got away.
“If you’re going to prank someone, you need to know not everyone finds that funny,” police Capt. Paul Cody told the Times. “Some people find it terrifying.”
Last week an 11-year-old girl in Athens, Ga. was arrested for taking a knife to school after hearing on social media that clowns were jumping out of woods and attacking children.
In Fort Olgethorpe, also in Georgia, 17-year-old Shareda Maston and her 11-year-old cousin told police that someone dressed as a clown chased them down the street to their apartment last week.
The girls made a video of the clown, who they said waved something that looked like a knife, from their window and posted it on Snapchat, reported WSB-TV in Atlanta.
Police, who said the incident was probably a prank, said they had to take it seriously, especially after seeing the video. Maston’s aunt, Angela Martin, said prank or not, things could have gotten ugly.
“Oh, it’s very dangerous,” Martin told WSB-TV. “It’s very dangerous because I’ve told police officers if it happens again, they’re going to come pick me up instead of that person because they’re going to be dead.”