Clowns. Clowns. Clowns. For the love of Bozo, how did something so fun go so wrong?
Law enforcement up and down the Central Valley, and from coast to coast, is dealing with a battalion of creepy jesters on social media (and sometimes in real life). This week in Fresno, a 12-year-old student faces punishment for allegedly posting with the name “Clovis Killer Clowns” and threatening Clovis Unified School District schools. Previously, two Roosevelt High School students and two Kerman students were arrested after posting clown-related threats on social media accounts within days of each other. Another clown threat to “kill people” at Fresno’s Scandinavian Middle School is still being investigated, police said.
It’s part of a bizarre craze that is popping up seemingly everywhere and has led to social media hashtags such as #creepyclowns, #clownpocalypse and (to ostensibly assist harried parents) #IfISeeAClown.
Some of the latest examples:
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▪ Chowchilla was the latest Valley town to see reports of disturbing clowns on Wednesday evening. Additionally, an Instagram account popped up with the handle @clownation_chowtown that’s claiming clowns will be at various schools, including Chowchilla Union High School. Has anyone told them that clowns are supposed to be funny?
▪ A person dressed as a clown was spotted outside a Sears at Modesto’s Vintage Faire Mall, police said. The hair-raising harlequin was being driven in a dark-colored car and getting out of the vehicle to scare people. In another incident, a widely circulated video of a clown was said to have been shot at Modesto’s Beyer Park.
▪ School districts in the Sacramento-area communities of Elk Grove and Natomas sent letters to parents Tuesday informing them of recent Instagram clown posts threatening area campuses. An Instagram post with the name sac.townclowns included a “School Hit List.” The school districts added security and asked parents to talk to their children about avoiding strangers.
▪ Merced police are investigating social media posts Monday that had images of people dressed as clowns alongside threats mentioning Merced High School and El Capitan High.
▪ College students on campuses including Penn State, Texas A&M and Western Carolina have reported seeing people dressed as clowns or have circulated rumors of attacks or threats. A message from Western Carolina’s administration stated the obvious: “Snapchat, tweets and Facebook postings by others typically do not have firsthand accurate information regarding emergencies or threats.”
Why do we see brightly colored buffoons as scary? Why does the fear of clowns have an official name: coulrophobia? Experts say a clown’s basic design – exaggerated facial features, flashy hair and clothes – can freak people out (people who put on the makeup would beg to differ). Also, clown performers are allowed to break social rules (kick a colleague, tweak a nose, blow something up with a confetti explosion, etc.), and that can make people uneasy.
Stephen King isn’t one of those people. The writer who gave us one of the most murderous clowns in literary and movie history in “It” said on Twitter that “most of ’em are good.”
Sure, Stephen. Sure.