5 Questions You Were Too Embarrassed To Ask About America's Clown Hysteria

"No matter who you're voting for we can all agree on one thing, fuck the clown."

Hello, friends. You may have noticed that the United States of America is having a serious moment of crisis. A CLOWN crisis. It's got schools on lockdown, parents paranoid, and the police are pissed AF.

Tobkatrina / Getty Images

Let's break this all down.

BuzzFeed News has found:

* More than 20 states have been plagued in one way or another by clown hysteria.

* A teenager was stabbed to death during an alleged dispute over his clown mask in Pennsylvania.

* Nearly 30 people have been arrested nationwide in connection with clown hoaxes, social media threats, robberies, or stabbings. Several have been charged with felonies.

* At least four schools were forced to go on lockdown and one entire school district had to be shut down due to violent clown-related threats.

* Dozens of schools have had to ramp up security while absentee rates have increased due to clown-related threats.

* Even Stephen King was forced to calm people the fuck down.

Why has it come to this? Where did it start? How did it all go so wrong? BuzzFeed News has answers.

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1. How did it start?

Kobzev3179 / Getty Images

The start of this clown frenzy can be traced to the South Carolina town of Greenville.

On Aug. 20, police received an anonymous call complaining about clowns being spotted in the woods behind Fleetwood Manor Apartments.

A resident of Fleetwood, who filed a police report on Aug. 21, claimed that her son had "seen clowns in the woods whispering and making strange noises" and that she herself had “observed several clowns in the woods flashing green laser lights [who] then ran away into the woods.”

Movie studios behind the upcoming films It and 31 — which, of course, involve clowns — denied conspiracy theories that they were associated with the these sightings.

News of these sightings was widely shared. Since then creepy clown sightings and threats have been reported in North Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Maryland, Kentucky, Florida, Tennessee, Arizona, Virginia, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, Texas, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, California, and Connecticut.

In fact, the mass hysteria has circled right back to the Carolinas. On Thursday, police in North Carolina were investigating social media postings of clown threats made to several schools in Greensboro.

So if you want to ascribe blame to anyone, blame Fleetwood Manor residents and, well, BuzzFeed News for picking up that initial story.

2. Who is to blame for this shit?

Facebook: 121815281200890

Teenagers, mostly. And social media.

A majority of the nearly 30 people arrested since September have been teens using social media to either post clown threats to public spaces and schools or to falsely report clown sightings.

On Sept. 15, three schools in Alabama were put on lockdown while police investigated "credible threats" to students through Facebook accounts identified as "FLOMO KLOWN" and "Shoota Cllown." Two juveniles and one adult were held in police custody pending charges, and a third juvenile in Florida was also involved in the incident, police said.

A few days later, on Sept. 20, police in Alabama arrested four teenagers for an online clown prank targeting schools in Geneva. The teens were charged with making terroristic threats and were suspended from school. They threatened to "shoot up" schools in the area using social media accounts identified as "Stitchez_the_klown" and "Crazo_the_cappinclown," AL.com reported.

A 16-year-old female high school student in Alabama also faced multiple counts of clown-related "terrorist threats" against three schools.

On Sept. 27, Phoenix police in Arizona arrested three juveniles connected to clown threats. Police said that nearly two dozen schools were threatened with clown-related violence in the area.

Two 17-year-old suspects were also arrested in Arizona after allegedly robbing a convenience store wearing clown masks.

On Sept. 28, two teens in Virginia were arrested for allegedly wearing clown masks and chasing children.

Two 13-year-old girls were arrested in Connecticut on Oct. 5 in connection with online clown threats to schools in Ansonia.

The youngest clown suspect so far has been a 12-year-old girl who was arrested for allegedly making a threat to a school from an Instagram account, "Killerclownfromnj."

Several social media accounts, like @clownclann and @clownsightings, and hashtags such as #IfISeeAClown also amplify and perpetuate the hysteria.

And here's a special mention for Penn State students who gathered in large numbers on Oct. 4 for a "clown hunt" — despite police denying reports of clowns on campus.

"...and no matter who you're voting for we can all agree on one thing, f--k the clown."

"...and no matter who you're voting for we can all agree on one thing, fuck the clown."

3. How serious is this clown thing, anyway?

'Creepy clown' incidents should be taken 'quite seriously' by law enforcement, White House press secretary says.… https://t.co/XydRcTfbaz

Serious enough for the White House to address. At a press briefing on Oct. 4, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest was asked about the creepy clown sightings plaguing the country.

"I don’t know if the president has been briefed on this particular situation," Earnest said. But he said that local law enforcement officials should take such threats "quite seriously."

"They should carefully and thoroughly review the perceived threats to the safety of the community,” he said.

Police departments across the country are also grappling with the volume of clown-related reports and complaints and are being forced to use resources for extra security and patrol to clown-threatened communities.

Many have issued stern Facebook posts warning of criminal charges for clown hoaxes and threats.

"Tonight we’ve received several calls about clowns in a van and in wooded areas trying to talk to children," the LaGrange Police Department in Georgia said in September. "This behavior is not cute or funny. Understand that if officers see this behavior, you’re going to have a conversation with them. And, if applicable, you may face criminal charges."

"Threats of violence are never funny and require a huge amount of resources to effectively analyze and investigate," the Phoenix Police Department said in a Facebook post. "Additionally, they have an emotional impact on those targeted. In these recent cases, our children and our schools were targeted."

Besides schools having to go on lockdown, one entire school district in Ohio was forced to shut down after a woman reported being attacked by a man dressed as a clown who allegedly made threats against students. "We were especially concerned with the number of students who walk to school in the early morning hours and made the decision to close school, the Reading Community City Schools said on Sept. 30.

There has also been a fatal clown-related incident in Pennsylvania when a teenager was stabbed to death during an alleged dispute over his clown mask.

4. How are the actual clowns dealing with this?

Snuggles / Via facebook.com

Jordan Jones, a professional clown who goes by Snuggles, has started a #ClownLivesMatter movement to talk about how "clowns are out doing bad things and people need to stop doing this because they are messing up not for us actors but for little kids Halloween who wana be clowns."

Other professional and amateur clowns have started the #realclownsareaboutlove hashtag on Facebook to reclaim their image and cast themselves in a more positive light.

Even Stephen King stepped in to stand up for the clowns, tweeting, "Hey, guys, time to cool the clown hysteria--most of em are good, cheer up the kiddies, make people laugh."

Oh, and there is a #ClownLivesMatter "peace walk" planned for Tucson.


"clowns are not psycho killers"

5. Should I be worried?

No. Maybe though?



A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.