Creepy clowns have now been sighted in 28 states trying to lure children into the woods and jumping out of cars to scare pedestrians, but the terrifying trend isn’t just an American problem anymore.
The phenomenon has now spread overseas, and creepy clowns have been sighted in Canada, the U.K., Spain, and France, where dozens of people have been arrested and one mayor was forced to ban all clown costumes.
The creepy clown trend started in Wisconsin this summer when advertisers used Gags the Green Bay Clown as a viral marketing stunt, and soon imitators spread the trend across the country.
In Ohio, Reading area schools closed last week after a woman was attacked by a man in a clown costume who was threatening students. Sadly, one Pennsylvania teenager was stabbed to death in a similar incident.
The situation has gotten so bad in New Haven, Connecticut, that area schools have banned clown costumes and other “symbols of terror” during this year’s Halloween season because of social media threats.
Now, the terrifying trend appears to have traveled overseas, and creepy clowns have been spotted in Canada, the U.K., and as far away as France. In Canada, clown-based threats have popped up on social media and one woman was surrounded by a group of masked men with red hair who simply stared at her, according to CBC News columnist Jesse Wente.
“There is something to the clown craze this year that does seem especially potent. You can’t help but think it represents something larger about our culture.”
In the U.K., clowns have been spotted following schoolchildren in a van (although no one tried to snatch them), one woman was chased screaming down the street, and a teenager dressed as a clown was arrested with a knife.
There have also been clown-based threats leveled against students on social media, Inspector Stephen Wykes told RT.
“There has only been a handful of these incidents, which we think have been inspired by a trend in America, but we are keen to stop them before they cause anyone else further distress.”
France, which was already struggling with the Syrian migrant crisis, is now dealing with numerous cases of teenage clowns wielding baseball bats, knives, axes, pistols, and even chainsaws.
French citizens have responded to the threat of teenage clown gangs by forming their own neighborhood vigilante groups, which have themselves run afoul of the law. The French National Police have responded with a warning to both groups, reports the Atlantic.
“Anyone, regardless of whether they are an aggressive clown or a clown-hunter, found with a weapon in public thoroughfares will be arrested.”
The terrifying trend of creepy clowns arrived in Spain this week with the Instagram posting of the country’s own Gijonclown, who boasts some 5,000 followers.
He’s inspired at least one copycat who was seen threatening residents in the eastern town of Mulhouse, where police were forced to intervene to stop several teenagers armed with baseball bats from confronting him.
The fear of clowns is called coulrophobia, and this isn’t the first time America has become obsessed with the circus creatures. In 2014, the phenomenon popped up in Bakersfield, California, when a local photographer took pictures of her husband dressed as a clown in front of city buildings as part of an art project.
She posted the images online, and residents began imitating the photos by dressing as clowns. Soon, local police were flooded with reports of mask men wielding weapons to scare pedestrians.
The phenomenon spread, and creepy clowns were spotted from New Mexico to Florida to Indiana, although few, if any, committed any kind of crime.
This year’s clown craze may be a bit different, however. Folklorist and author Benjamin Radford told CNN the creepy clown phenomenon tends to pop up whenever society as a whole is undergoing some sort of group trauma.
“These sorts of panics tend to surface when there’s underlying social anxiety. This is an election year, there’s lots of political and ideological divisions, there’s also of course [the awareness of] school shootings and terrorist attacks.”
Add to that the power of social media today and it’s easy to see why the phenomenon has gone viral. The hashtag #IfISeeAClown is sweeping through social media like a firestorm, and residents in America and across the world have posted scary images of people dressed up as creepy clowns.
What do you think of the creepy clown phenomenon sweeping America and the world?
[Feature Image by Jeff Cameron Collingwood/Shutterstock]