A folklorist has both good news and bad news about the recent influx of creepy clowns sightings: they’ll likely fade away soon, but they may make their way back periodically in years to come.
People reports that folklorist, editor, and writer, Benjamin Radford, author of the non-fiction book Bad Clowns, broke down the numerous clown sightings over the past several months and said that there are two different groups being sighted. Although both groups are scaring people across the nation, only one group, the “stalker clowns,” according to Radford, leave behind evidence.
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Radford claimed that the stalker clowns generally aren’t into physically harming anyone, but instead, they seek publicity for their stunts. The folklorist referred to the group as “low risk” clowns, who want to hear about their antics in the news.
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The other group, the “phantom clowns,” are typically spotted by children. They’re never actually seen by anyone else or caught, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that these clowns live in a child’s imagination. Radford stated that the person behind the clown mask may be real, but there isn’t any evidence to back up the sightings. He also added that to date, there are no confirmed cases of clowns abducting, molesting, or killing children.
“The fact is, to date, there are no confirmed reports of any clowns actually abducting, harming, killing [or] molesting kids. There just aren’t. There are zero.”
Phantom clown sightings grew in popularity during the 1980s, when “Satanic panic” was widespread across the country. Radford indicated that phantom clowns may have actually originated during this time, when the U.S. experienced “social uncertainty.” He said that the nation is once again experiencing social uncertainty, which may coincide with the new batch of phantom clowns appearing.
“America is once again in the middle of social anxiety.”
So far this year, 39 states have reported creepy clown sightings. The list is growing to include other countries. The Age reports that creepy clowns were recently spotted in Victoria, Australia, by a number of people.
Radford stated it’s not immediately clear what types of clowns are being spotted because isolated incidents may have sparked copycats to join in. Furthermore, adults are also reporting incidents which seem to indicate they saw phantom clowns.
“And what’s insidious about it is it’s not always crystal clear which [kind of sighting] is which.”
The onslaught of creepy clowns has caused a number people, mostly middle school and high school students, to threaten others. For instance, in Arizona, two high school teens were arrested for making “let’s play clown threats” against the Mesa School District. According to the Mesa Police Department, the students were arrested for disorderly conduct and false reports that caused anxiety “among students, parents and staff.”
In Marysville, California, another teen was arrested after making clown-related threats. Part of his post on social media included, “We’re gonna roll a dice and whatever school it lands on where [sic] gonna shoot up…”
In Florida, a 12-year-old boy is facing a second-degree felony charge after he allegedly used the video app “musical.ly” to post clown-related threats. The Palm Beach Post reports that while using the screen name “@clouning_around,” the boy posted that someone is “going to kill kids at Seven Springs Middle School on Friday the 7th of October 2016.” The post also warned, “Get ready 6th graders for your worst day and your last day.”
In Roseville, Michigan, two 18-year-old females were arrested after they reportedly dressed up as clowns and began chasing two 14-year-old girls. The frightened girls reported the incident to the Macomb County Police Department, and the two suspects, Jaime Salinis and Elandra Sledge, were arrested on disorderly conduct charges.
Radford believes that “this particular clown panic has reached its pinnacle.” He thinks there’ll likely be a few scattered creepy clown sighting between now and Halloween, but by mid-November, the novelty will wear off.
“My expectation is that there will be a few more reports between now and Halloween and after that it will taper off. And I would say by mid-November it will have essentially tapered off, there may be one or two more people arrested for pranks, and it’ll fade away and [be], ‘Hey remember that weird fall in 2016 when the clown panic happened?’ “
— David Beard (@dabeard) October 4, 2016
However, another creepy clown panic will probably happen within five years or so, but Radford said there’s really no need to panic. The creepy clowns will continue to surface over the years, but as with past sightings, most of them get thrills from making the news and scaring people, not from killing or abducting anyone.