The interactive map above tracks over 100 clown sightings and threats across America, beginning in early August.
The first American “creepy clown” sighting, by most accounts, ended up being for a movie. Gags, the Green Bay clown, was seen wandering around Wisconsin in early August, carrying a host of black balloons. People were a bit freaked out until a local man said that he was using Gags for a short film he was working on.
The intent, in other words, was benign.
But then, on August 20, an anonymous caller in Greenville, South Carolina, said that they’d seen clowns in the woods, and the next day someone else said they’d seen clowns in the woods flashing green lasers. Just as everything started to calm down, on August 29, it happened again: two children reported seeing clowns in Greenville.
And with that, clown hysteria began. Next came clown sightings in nearby North Carolina. And, then, sightings—and, increasingly, social media threats—up and down the Eastern Seaboard. By mid-September, the sightings and threats had moved west, to Middle America. And by late September and early October, they’d reached the West Coast.
Few of the threats have amounted to much more than a scare, and even fewer have produced actual clowns. But in at least a handful of cases, living, breathing clowns have turned up.
Take a case in Middlesboro, Kentucky, on September 23, when a 20-year-old man in a clown outfit and mask was arrested after he was spotted crouched in a wooded area by an apartment complex. Or, a week earlier, a 25-year-old in a Walmart parking lot who was arrested after numerous people called police to complain about him.
That clown told police it was merely just for fun, with Halloween coming up and all.
“It’s not illegal to scare people,” the man, dressed in face paint and a checkered suit, told a cop in a patrol car.
But those guys are the exception, not the rule. If you think you’ve seen a clown, maybe stop for a second before calling police, and think about whether you’re actually looking at a clown. If you verify that what you’re seeing is a clown, then it might be a good idea to call 911.
Or just run.