By now it’s national news that creepy clowns are being reported in South Carolina. The latest clown flap started in late August when Greenville County, S.C. police said they received numerous reports of a clown trying to lure kids into the woods near Fleetwood Manor apartments. There was reason to be very skeptical of these reports since no visual evidence existed and the kids may have been telling a tall tale, at least in part:
The children said they believed “the clowns stay in a house located near a pond at the end of a man-made trail in the woods,” the officer wrote in the incident report. Though the officer said he found the reported house, he observed “no signs of suspicious activity or characters dressed in clown attire.”
The story of whispering clowns in the woods with green lasers was a bit difficult to buy into. Ben Radford, author of Bad Clowns, examined this incident and reminds readers that phantom clown reports have been around since 1981. Other than serial killer John Wayne Gacy who dressed as a clown, no other cases of harm have been confirmed. But considering Gacy and the various fictional killer clowns, people get a bit freaked out when out of place clowns hang around.
Considering the various surveillance cameras and the ubiquity of cell phone cameras, this lack of visual confirmation is strange. Is it a contagion, a panic? Such cases are known where communities report sightings of things that just aren’t there because they have been primed to see it. A real danger is that people are now so panicked that they are chasing the clowns with a machete or shooting at possible clowns.
What could be going on here:
- There is a person or people actually dressed as clowns padding around residential/wooded areas that may or may not be enticing children. Their intent may or may not be malicious.
- There was a sighting of a person in a clown costume that was misinterpreted.
- The stories by witnesses are exaggerated, made up or false.
- This is some viral marketing for a new Rob Zombie movie.
- None of the above, that is, something we haven’t thought of is the explanation.
- More than one of the above.
Addition: Also in North Carolina. This reeks of contagion.
UPDATE (8-Sept 2016) Rumor was that it was a viral marketing scheme for the Rob Zombie clown horror film “31”. The distribution company denies this, FWIW.