Don’t send in the clowns.
Continuing reports of scary clown sightings across the country and abroad are being fueled by attention on social media but are close to exasperating school officials and police.
On Monday Olathe South High School Principal Clint Albers felt the need to issue an open letter to parents about “the appearance of clowns and their alleged threat of violence.”
Albers assured parents that while all threats are taken seriously, rumors of local Olathe schools being afflicted by clowns are unfounded.
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“Parents, please visit with your children and let them know that any joking, teasing and/or threats about clowns will be taken very seriously, given the national media attention and potential disruption to our school environments.”
In other words, anyone planning to dress up for Halloween as one of the “Killer Klowns from Outer Space” (a 1988 movie reference) may want to rethink that idea.
Last week the Shawnee Mission School District responded to online postings that referenced Shawnee Mission East and Shawnee Mission North high schools and “appeared on a clown-themed Twitter account,” said district spokeswoman Leigh Anne Neal.
The electronic messages indicated that clowns would visit two schools on the day of the posting, Oct. 6. Then subsequent posts referenced East and North high schools and encouraged students to come outside to see the clowns.
“School administrators and police walked the campus, checked doors, reassured students, checked all the parking lots,” Neal said. “No clowns were seen near or on the campus, and the schools did not go into any form of lockdown.”
Students and parents and staff were told about the incident, and police are monitoring the postings because of increasing reports across the country with references to clowns.
“While it is unclear as to the origin or intent of these postings, the school district takes any and all reports or potential concerns seriously. Anyone with information is encouraged to contact law enforcement or district police,” the Shawnee Mission notice said.
At least twice this month Ottawa, Kan., police have responded to reports of clown sightings but found nothing. One person inquired about their rights to protect themselves if they encountered someone dressed like a clown.
Kansas City, Kan., police also have had to shoot down rumors of clowns trying to abduct children in the area.
“Please be aware that there may be copycat incidents but there has (sic) been no credible sightings at this time,” police tweeted along with images of clowns. “As of now this is just an internet hoax.”
One officer in Rolla, Mo., decided to track down reports of scary clowns in his town, and he found they were false except for one, which was a prank.
Many people have always felt there is something creepy about clowns, who may be hiding sinister motives behind a greasepaint grin. Television’s “American Horror Story: Freak Show” not long ago opened a whole story arc with a murderous clown.
“In many ways, clowns combine a perfect storm of freaky things,” social psychologist Frank McAndrew told National Geographic in a story posted online. “If a person is willing to flout the conventions of society by dressing and acting as they do, what other rules might they be willing to break?”
The latest uptick in clown hysteria seems to have come from of a series of reports — all, apparently, unfounded — of clowns appearing in the woods in the southeastern United States and trying to lure children with money.
The whole thing has real clowns, the ones who make their living wearing big red noses and floppy shoes for a laugh, pretty ticked off.
“Whoever is doing this is not a clown,” World Clown Association President Randy Christensen said about the creepy clown hysteria.
“A person wearing a mask and jeans — that’s not a clown,” he said. “If somebody dresses like a doctor and is in a haunted house and is coming at you with a chainsaw, he is not really a doctor.”
Christensen, who has been a clown nearly 40 years, said he just wishes people would “quit describing the pranksters as clowns. Half of our members visit children in hospitals and old people in nursing homes to bring happiness to peope.”
Besides giving clowns a bad name, the clown fear is having a negative impact on business. The World Clown Association office has received about 50 prank calls, some threatening clowns, and at least one grandma clown in a rainbow wig was told if she went near kids she would be shot.
“So we are OK with zombies and vampires but we are afraid of clowns now,” Christensen said.
He said he believes the hysteria will end soon.
“By the end of October it will all be over and then people can go be afraid of Santa Claus,” Christensen said.
There can be downsides to joining in “the fun.” A Liberty man was arrested Saturday on a warrant for stealing after drawing attention to himself by wearing a clown mask in a Liberty grocery parking lot.