October is usually warmly welcomed as the weather gets cooler and kids are eager to trick-or-treat. People get worked up over who they will “be for Halloween” and the greatest concern for parents is that their kids will eat too much candy. But this year, the onset of October brought upon a creepy clown epidemic that is sweeping the nation. Hundreds of sightings have been reported in several states — including Oregon — with very little evidence that these clowns actually exist, or that anyone is actually doing anything illegal besides placing crank calls and making threats at schools.
What’s in a clown?
As more and more media outlets report on these allegations, more sightings are reported. The majority of people behind these reports are pranksters seeking attention. It is still a concern for law enforcement, however, as several schools have received threats and undergone lockdown procedures.
It all started in a small, South Carolina town called Greenville where a little boy had spotted two clowns in the woods by his apartment complex. He ran up to his mother to say the two clowns in elaborate costume and makeup were trying to lure him into a nearby dilapidated house. Later in the evening, a car that looked completely out of place in the rural area approached the house, and a driver stepped out. Apparently, the woman bought the old house as an investment. She had heard about the clown sightings, but with so many kids working so many smart phones, and no video evidence, she didn’t believe they were true. Later, the kid’s mother, Donna Arnold, confirmed she had seen the clowns dent her door by hitting it with a chain.
Despite the lack of physical evidence that these clowns were lurking in the woods, hearsay and rumor spread like wildfire to the Alabama-Florida border, where schools began shutting down due to threats from someone calling himself “Flomo Klown”. The character had a Facebook page and posts targeting Flomaton, Alabama, including gory clown images.
The citizens of Flomaton flipped out, spreading mass hysteria throughout the town and neighboring counties. Police began to search local middle schools for any evidence of the fictional character to discover who may have been behind the hoax, while stories made up by students about how the clown went around killing kids spread throughout the schools. The person behind Flomo Klown was caught and arrested. 22-year-old Makayla Smith and two juveniles were charged with making terroristic
Reports of clown sightings have come up in at least 39 states and even Australia and the UK. Sociologists and psychologists have different theories about why mass hysterias pop up. Two main reasons are prevalent: fear and need for attention. Social media makes this easy by letting people spread rumor panics that travel the world in a flash. There have been reports of scary clowns in past decades, but social media didn’t exist to fan the flames.
Reports of Sightings
The majority of clown sighting reports are fake, and there have been hundreds of them since the first clown was “spotted” by that little boy in Greenville. The story has gone viral and reports are cropping up all over the country; most of them a huge drain on law enforcement’s time and resources. Still, some have been arrested after taking the clown hoax a little too far by actually participating in it, whether by falsely reporting clown activity, making threats to stir violence in schools, or actually dressing up as clowns to spook children.
Right here in downtown Portland, a woman claimed she was approached while sitting in her car by a man sporting a silver mask and black gloves.
Two middle school children from Grants Pass were arrested earlier this month. They were charged with disorderly conduct and menacing for making threats over Instagram using a clown profile.
In Dallas, Oregon, a person dressed as a clown was reported to be chasing middle school kids walking to school.
Oregon City’s police department had the following message for citizens on their Facebook page, “The Oregon City Police Department wants our citizens to know that the Clown Rumor is just that, a viral rumor. The purpose of the rumor is to upset you and cause fear.”
Unfortunately, such pranks can go too far. In one Pennsylvania town, a 16-year-old boy was stabbed due to clown activity; whether he was dressed as a clown or not is still unknown.
What should I do?
The greatest thing to remember about this clown hoax is that it’s just that — a hoax. It is unfortunate that isolated events have resulted in people getting hurt, but according to CNN’s Parents’ Guide to the Creepy Clown Scare, Dr. David Anderegg, a psychologist, suggests parents “continue to do what parents do, which is be vigilant but not hyper-vigilant. Let kids go out and about. There’s no need to be overly suspicious, but certainly continue to teach kids not to accept things from strangers or be alone with strangers.”
Basically, some good old-fashioned sense is the key to keeping your kids safe. It’s also important to remember that kids are not going to be drawn to clowns outside of the context of a circus or carnival, and will be weary if they see one walking down the street. If a clown hurts you, you have the right to a personal injury attorney. RizkLaw is your source for quality legal care in Portland. Call (503) 245-5677 for a free consultation.