After causing widespread panic across America, the "Creepy Clown" phenomenon has made its way to Australia. If you suffer from extreme coulrophobia, you're probably losing sleep over this. But there's no need to worry. We explain why there's no need to panic. Yet.
It all started a few weeks ago when a Facebook user from Tennessee posted this video:
The clip quickly went viral with over 9.5 million shares on Facebook alone. Meanwhile, a spate of similar incidents occurred in several US states, leading to extensive media coverage around the world. Most reports focused on the "child abduction" angle, which helped to fuel the hysteria further.
If fresh reports can be believed, these sinister face-painted funsters have begun popping up in Australia too.
Over the weekend, a 19-year-old man dressed as a clown allegedly chased a group of girls in Northam, northeast of Perth, for about 700m until they ran into a police station. In a separate incident, a woman reported hitting a pedestrian dressed as a clown near Champion Lakes in Perth about 12:30AM on Sunday. On Saturday, a Brisbane woman almost drove over a clown after it approached her car holding a knife in Redland Bay. And Victoria Police received three separate reports of "creepy clown" incidents in suburban Melbourne on Friday. (Read the full report here.)
So should God- and clown-fearing citizens be worried? Nah. (Well, maybe a bit.) Here are five reasons you can probably rest easy.
#1 The above video was a harmless prank
While sphincter-clenchingly spooky, the above Facebook clip was just a practical joke. The original uploader acknowledged this in a follow-up post which criticised the baseless fearmongering her video had generated.
This is all a prank played on me... people [are] tripping over nothing, no kids mentioned or even any references to any kids being harmed in any way....everyone needs to back the f*ck off
In other words, the most widely shared video turned out to be entirely bogus. Ho-hum.
#2 Police aren't finding any clowns
To date, law enforcement agencies have failed to apprehended or even see a single clown. This is despite multiple eyewitness calls to police which were all thoroughly investigated. In short, there's not a single shred of evidence that any of these clowns existed.
This could mean one of two things: Either we're dealing with spectral harlequins from another dimension, or people are making shit up.
Tellingly, there have been several arrests relating to "eyewitnesses" who made bogus calls to police. (Examples here and here.) Police in Troup County, Georgia have since released a statement warning there would be "zero tolerance" for anybody calling in false clown reports. The only clowns here are the practical jokers behind bars.
#3 There's a new IT movie coming out
Warner Bros. is currently filming a new movie adaptation of Stephen King's horror novel It. For those who aren't in the know, the story features a demonic, child-snatching clown called Pennywise.
I'm sure you'll agree this is extremely good timing for the filmmakers. Some would say suspiciously so. We wouldn't be surprised if at least a few of these clown reports were part of a viral marketing campaign. (If so, let's hope the instigators get tossed in gaol with the other hoaxers.)
#4 This has all happened before (and it will happen again)
The "creepy clown" phenomena is nothing new. Rather, it's a cyclical panic that sprouts up every few years, much like those reports about razor blades in Halloween lollies or satanic cults operating in the suburbs. For the most part, these are just urban legends with little or no basis in reality.
While there have been evil clowns in the world -- examples include John Wayne Gacy and the Florida clown gunman -- the current level of fear is completely out of proportion to the likelihood of an attack. They're like sharks in oversized shoes.
Evil clown sightings (also known as "phantom clowns") have been a recurring fixture in the news since at least the early 1980s. In the majority of reported cases, the clowns either wave sinisterly at passersby, appear in unexpected places like backyards, or entice young children into vans (sometimes they go for a hat trick and attempt all three). While the particulars may differ, the broad-stroke details are always exactly the same.
This latest clown scare is just more of the same. There will probably be another in a decade or so.
#5 These clowns can't be spooking people in the US... because they all live inside your closet
Sorry, couldn't resist.