There is no such thing as a non-creepy clown, but this year, clowns have become a truly frightening thing to see. According to a map compiled by The San Diego Union Tribune, creepy clown sightings have been reported all over the U.S., but are particularly concentrated in the east.
Sightings have been reported locally too. WJHL has kept track of the reports on their website and states that the clowns have been spotted in Carter County, Elizabethton, Butler and even Johnson City.
Many people have proposed theories on why this is happening. The Huffington Post interviewed filmmaker and urban legend expert Josh Zeman. He believes that the creepy clowns may be a response to the current political situation in the U.S. and, particularly, the fear that the presidential election has generated.
Social psychologist Craig D. Parks gave a similar explanation to The Seattle Times. “You may have people who don’t like the way the world is going, who feel that their economic situation is not improving or are very upset about the high-tension presidential race,” he stated. He explained that deviant behavior is more common in these high-stress situations.
Some have proposed that the clowns could be viral marketing for the forthcoming remake of Stephen King’s “It.” The film’s producer has denied this claim.
However, one sighting in Green Bay, Wisconsin, was revealed to be marketing stunt for a short film that had been produced in the area. The man behind the stunt said he was inspired by news stories about creepy clown sightings in 2014. It seems 2016 was a bad year to choose this type of advertising.
Responses to the creepy clown sightings have been far-reaching. Target has pulled clown masks off of its shelves and online store. Many schools and even an entire county in Mississippi have banned clown costumes, at least until after Halloween. Violating the ban comes with a fine of up to $150, but the measure itself is almost certainly a violation of the First Amendment.
Even if there is no formal ban in place, 2016 probably isn’t the best year to break out your clown costume. But what should you do if you cross paths with a clown this weekend?
“Don’t be afraid of the clowns,” said NYPD officer John Miller in an interview with CBS’s New York affiliate. Just like you shouldn’t respond to a troll online, refusing to show the clowns that you fear them takes away their power. The clowns are deviants looking to create panic so don’t show them that they have been successful.
But that’s easier said than done. In addition to multiple threats to schools, social media has spread rumors of a “purge night” on the night before Halloween. Snopes.com, a site that investigates social media phenomenon, has ruled this as false. The purge night is just a typical Halloween hoax meant to scare people. It just happens that this year’s hoax takes advantage of the recent news reports.
Even knowing all of this, it’s hard not to get swept up in the hysteria. Personally, I won’t be out looking for any creepy clowns this weekend, and if I should spot one watching my Halloween festivities through a window, I’ll be calling the police. But that’s how I would have responded to a threatening peeping Tom any time of year. The clown costume just makes the situation a little more peculiar.