Clown sightings continue as US police crack down on hoaxes

Clowns are reportedly luring children into the woods. Photo / 123rf
Clowns are reportedly luring children into the woods. Photo / 123rf

Another day, another creepy clown sighting.

Most are dismissed as fakes or hoaxes, but the latest encounter was filmed on a mobile phone and been shared hundreds of thousands of times.

Either people believe it's real, or they want to be scared.

The video was shared on October 2 by Chase Prior, a university student from Ohio. It has however since been taken down from his Facebook page. Prior calls his run-in with a jumpsuit-wearing children's entertainer "a rather traumatising experience".

He says he was on a run with a friend when the pair spotted the clown on a footbridge.

"Patrick and I were out here running and I swear to f***ing God man, we just saw a clown, up over this suspension bridge, and I'm sort of freaking out about it."

He returns for a second look and asks: "What the f*** are you doing man - it's 7.30 in the morning, have you heard about all this? People are freaking out about this."

He then notices the clown has what looks like a knife.

"Patrick, he has a knife," he says, before the pair flee, filming their getaway as the clown chases.

It's content that could've been produced by an amateur filmmaker and, it turns out, Prior is just that. He's also a photographer and a communications student.

If his video is a hoax, it's a good one. But it's one of many. Clown sightings have been reported across the country since August 24 when the following note was delivered to residents in Greenville, South Carolina.

Warning: language is not safe for work.

They were warned people dressed as clowns were trying to lure children into the woods. A curfew was introduced and from there the stories multiplied.

Clowns were spotted in at least 16 states, including Pennsylvania, New York, North and South Carolina, Texas, Ohio and Georgia.

Canada is also not immune. Local news network CTV reports a woman driving home from work spotted a clown on the side of the road. She said the clown stepped in front of her car when she slowed down for a closer look.

"It was like a nightmare coming true right in front of me," Michelle Doubleday said.

"Once I stopped, he started running towards my car. So I started backing up."

The clown story took a more sinister turn over the weekend in Virginia where police say a teen asked a person posing as a clown on social media to kill her teacher.

The first clown sighting sparked copycats. Police have been doing their best to keep up. Photo / Facebook
The first clown sighting sparked copycats. Police have been doing their best to keep up. Photo / Facebook

Authorities say a 13-year-old girl had been charged with one count of threatening to kill by electronic message.

It followed similar threats against staff and students at a number of schools in several different states.

A 14-year-old boy from Houston was charged with making similar threats, according to The Houston Chronicle. A number of schools increased security following the threats.

"We take threats against our schools seriously, and our officers are actively investigating this criminal matter," Houston Police Chief Robert Mock said.

"At this time, there is no evidence that the threats are credible. Students are safe, and all HISD employees are being vigilant."

Experts have done their best to make sense of the hysteria. But even their opinions differ.

Folklorist Benjamin Radford told People Magazine that 2016's 'clown panic' will die down in a few weeks but it will be back.

He said the appeal of being a stalker - a creepy clown - is simple but it's also a "low-risk, high-reward stunt, because it's virtually guaranteed to make local or national news".

He said until there was an actual attack, the sightings should be looked upon with a degree of cynicism.

"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."

Associate Professor of Psychology at Western New England University, Jason Seacat, said there was something else at play - a desire to be part of a large, national news event.

"Since the event appears to be difficult to verify, the claim that one has had such an encounter is easier to make and relatively free from the risk of being called out as a fraud," he told The New York Times.

"So, low risk of being called out for lying and the benefit of positive attention for reporting such a claim may motivate some people to lie.

- news.com.au

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