In March 2014, a person dressed as a clown terrified citizens of the New York borough of Staten Island. The clown stole around the streets at night and lurked near train stations. HuffPo:
"A mysterious clown has been roaming the streets of Staten Island and freaking out local residents.Staten Islanders have been posting pictures and videos on social media of a person dressed up like a clown wearing a yellow outfit, red shoes and a mask while holding balloons and waving to the cameras, the Staten Island Advance reported.The clown has been spotted at night near the Richmond Valley and Grasmere train stations and in front of a Chinese restaurant during the day on Richmond Avenue, according to the Advance and online posts.'I wish I was joking dude, it scared the heck out of me,' Michael Levy posted on his Instagram photo of the clown behind a tree at night. 'I thought it was like some dummy or cardboard standup thing at first until he pointed at me.'"
Image Source: Instagram/Robert Privitera via HuffPo.
Image Source: Instagram/Michael Levy via HuffPo.
The story became less interesting when a different clown turned up at a high school, stood with people for selfies at a local mall, and hammed it up at a wrestling venue the following week. The men who initially shared the images on social media had pulled a prank on the city in a publicity stunt to promote their film production company. Staten Island Live:
The group likely copied an October 2013 incident in Nottingham, UK, in which a film student roamed city streets dressed as a clown in an act of dramatic self-promotion. The clown now has his own page on the production company's Website; on Facebook he is classified as a 'public figure'; and you can buy a Staten Island clown t-shirt."A series of images posted to social media showing a creepy, mysterious clown roving the borough was shared to Instagram and Facebook by four Staten Island men who have ties to each other and a New York City production company. Three of the men -- Vincent Innocente, Robert Privitera and Michael Leavy -- are friends with each other on Facebook; the trio, along with comedian Vic Dibitetto, is linked with Fuzz on the Lens Productions."
So Im not cool with this staten island clown thing that's developing at the moment.— Carlo Sorrentino (@NEXGREATEST) March 20, 2014
The Staten Island rumours followed the disappearance of Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 on 8 March 2014. Responding to the atmosphere, one of the men who staged the Staten Island clown incidents denied any hoax, and mentioned the missing aircraft: "When Dibitetto was asked about the connection, he responded via a Facebook message: 'I also know where the Malaysian airliner is.'"
Like EgyptAir Flight 804, which crashed in the Mediterranean on 19 May 2016, the missing Malaysian airplane made a detour from daily mentality and faith in the mundane. There is a collective consensus on what is confirmed and real. This is the psychological meat and potatoes of everyday life. When something shocking and unexplained occurs, communities depart from their general agreement to remain sane. MH 370 is still the subject of many elaborate conspiracy theories and arcane explanations about its fate.
Psychologists who analyze the impact of traumatic events refer to stages in group response. Right after the plane's disappearance, one CNN expert described the initial public reaction as the 'romantic hero' phase. People gather to make sense of what has happened; they contribute money to rescue teams. They try to repair the rip in the collective fabric. If the rescue takes too long, people join in a psychological group event in which they engage with the trauma or anomaly quasi-artistically, to imagine what has happened and try to help. If the mystery remains unsolved, mass interest will fade.
These shifts in collective psychology resemble the non-linear, oblique, or 'right-brained' way artists engage with the world. However, unlike conspiracy theorists, artists do not believe (or most of them don't) that the artistic products or events which they are making constitute genuine, alternate realities. The communal reaction to trauma sparks the artistic impulse, but includes an inability to distinguish the real facts from the created fiction. This is a less well understood aspect of post-traumatic group psychology. It was also evident after 9/11 and the Great Recession. Both events inspired stubborn conspiracy theories and theorists. This is not because the theories are true; these myths are coping mechanisms, created to ease heightened communal anxieties. Finding the 'truth' through conspiracy theorizing is a way of finding emotional control in the face of perceived irrationality, fear, threat, death, or chaos.
In the US, the National Center for Biotechnology Information commented on the impact of terror events, plane crashes, and natural disasters:
Although the Staten Island clown detour was staged, with obvious cinematic and fictional references, and was exposed as a social media gimmick, it still influenced people in ways similar to the real aircraft disaster which occurred in the same month. The MH 370 disappearance may have increased the social media virality of the Staten Island clown. The Staten Island images were frightening and anomalous enough to set in motion the dynamics of the mental detour, the departure from reality into weird myth-making."The effect of traumatic events on human functioning has been a subject of study for many years. An abundance of research has examined traumatic events ranging from individual events such as motor vehicle crashes and sexual assaults to community-wide events such as natural disasters, commercial airplane crashes, and community violence, as well as global events such as war.As defined by The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders—Fourth Edition (DSM-IV), a traumatic event—or witnessing such an event—triggers fear, helplessness, or horror in response to the perceived or actual threat of injury or death to the individual or to another (APA, 1994). ...Perceptions of risk are influenced by the degree to which individuals feel they have knowledge of and control over an outside event and how familiar and catastrophic the event will be (for review, see Slovic, 1987). People are more likely to feel that an activity or event is not dangerous if they can control it. Under these circumstances, it becomes less effective to cope by distancing oneself from the population at risk if the risk is seemingly random. ...In addition to its distinctive characteristic of intent, terrorism can uniquely disrupt societal functioning. Terrorism has the capacity to erode the sense of community or national security; damage morale and cohesion; and open the racial or ethnic, economic, and religious cracks that exist in our society, as evidenced by an increase in hate crimes following the September 11, 2001, attacks (Human Rights Watch, 2002; FBI, 2002). ...Other behaviors and outcomes reflecting functional impairment after terrorism events are in need of further study. School dropout rates, divorce, and domestic or interpersonal violence and conflict are potential future research topics in this area. Increases in school or work absenteeism, which may indicate functional impairment, have been noted following terrorist attacks. ...Research from the disaster mental health field has developed models that stratify groups based on exposure level. These levels include those indirectly or remotely affected—individuals who are not in close geographic proximity to the incident, but who witness the event through the media; those who are negatively exposed through secondary effects such as an economic downturn; and those who experience the death of or immediate risk to a loved one from the terrorism event (i.e., relatives, friends, coworkers, rescue workers, witnesses). ...Evidence suggests that terrorism events are similar to other traumatic events in this regard. As described earlier, psychological consequences will vary across the population ... some people will experience direct physical trauma or threat of trauma; ... a wider population will be affected by secondary adversities and a general climate of fear. ...Hoaxes and copycat events may initially result in psychological consequences similar to those of actual terrorism events. Although the research base is extremely limited, the psychological impact of a hoax may be as great as that of a true threat."
Despite media assurances that the clown was a hoax, an ultra-Christian Youtuber took the clown to be a sign of the Illuminati's plans to set up the New World Order and bring on the end of days as foretold in the Bible. The clown letting go of his balloons represented the release and sacrifice of Christian souls in the coming World War III. One commenter responded: "Dude it's just a clown I mean I love Jesus but don't take it that far."
Mysterious clown in Green Bay, Wisconsin, at the corner of Mason and Adams Streets, 2 a.m. (2 August 2016). Images Source: LadBible and WTMJ.
Video Source: Youtube.
In recent years, clown sightings have appeared across the Europe and UK. In late 2016, clown sightings exploded in the United States. In early August, a clown was spotted in Green Bay, Wisconsin. On 19 August 2016, terrified children reported clowns lurking around Greenville, South Carolina. A report filed with the police on 21 August stated that there were "clowns in the woods" near Fleetwood Manor Apartments. Several reports and sightings confirmed that the clowns were trying to lure children with green laser lights, candy, and money to an abandoned house in the forest. Authorities searched the house and found nothing.
Image Source: WTHITV10.
By late August and September, clown sightings spread elsewhere in the city, then across South Carolina, then to other states, including Florida, North Carolina, West Virginia, Maryland, and Tennessee. As a result of sightings in Alabama, two schools closed. More rumours placed clowns in Ohio. By mid-September, police began arresting suspects in Georgia. Between 15 and 19 September, children spotted clowns on the streets in Annapolis, Maryland. From Kingsport Tennessee Times News police blotter on 15 September 2016:
"Shortly after 11 p.m., police were called to an apartment complex in Piney Flats. A resident, 18, reported that he had spotted someone dressed as a clown 'on the other end of the parking lot waving.' The teen stated that when he attempted to confront the individual, the clown ran away into a wooded area. Two responding officers searched the property but were unable to locate anyone. The complainant was advised to contact the sheriff's office if further assistance was needed. The local clown sighting follows a rash of similar accounts across the nation, some in which suspects allegedly attempted to lure children into woods, others that were later determined to be fabricated. A check of Kingsport police records finds no such Pennywise parallels in the Model City."
Warning letter from property management, Fleetwood Manor Apartments, Greenville, South Carolina (24 August 2016). Image Source: WSPA.
The woods near Fleetwood Manor Apartments, Greenville, South Carolina. Image Source: ABC.
This is where clown sighting was reported. @cityofwspolice say he used treats to try & lure kids into woods @myfox8 pic.twitter.com/uN16osd5pK— Sarah Krueger (@SarahKruegerTV) September 5, 2016
"Karen Mann Hicks, of Princeton, posted this photo that appears to show a creepy clown walking alongside Simmons River Road in Mercer County [West Virginia] on Sunday night [11 September 2016]." Image Source: Karen Mann Hicks/Facebook via We Heart WV. Further report: Bluefield Daily Telegraph. On 30 September, this photo was declared a hoax.
Report on 15 September sighting, Piney Flats, Sullivan County, Tennessee (19 September 2016). Video Source: Youtube.
Another sighting at Hal Rogers Parkway in London, Kentucky (18 September 2016). Image Source: Jamie Hill/Facebook via Local 8/WKYT.
31 Official trailer (30 August 2016). Video Source: Youtube. Some newspaper reporters believe the clown sightings are part of a marketing campaign, possibly for this movie. Producers denied that the sightings had anything to do with their film.
Since the Staten Island clown sightings in 2014 turned out to be a marketing hoax, the media assume these reports are part of a similar film production campaign. The sightings have overlapped with a genuine horror-clown charity marketing event in Georgia. After initial skepticism, reports reached national and international news. Esquire magazine and the Guardian concluded that the clowns were threatening children as part of a guerrilla marketing stunt to publicize Rob Zombie's horror film, 31, which opened in the USA on 1 September. However, Zombie's film distribution company denied it: "The company and the film 31 are not associated in any way with the creepy clowns and costumed characters found roaming the South." In Maine, the Bangor Daily News asked horror writer Stephen King to comment:
Latest reports:"King attributed the clown scare in the Carolinas to a recurring phenomenon: the supernatural bogeyman who lurks in the shadows. Phantom clown scares have happened before, most notably in the 1980s in Massachusetts, New Jersey, Arizona and a few other places.
'I suspect it’s a kind of low-level hysteria, like Slender Man, or the so-called Bunny Man, who purportedly lurked in Fairfax County, Virginia, wearing a white hood with long ears and attacking people with a hatchet or an axe,' King said. 'The clown furor will pass, as these things do, but it will come back, because under the right circumstances, clowns really can be terrifying.'"
- New York Magazine (16 September 2016): False Creepy Clown Report Leads to Arrests, But Rash of Sightings Remains Unsolved
- Perez Hilton (20 September 2016): Horrifying Clown Threats Put High School On Lockdown — And Get Woman Arrested On Terrorist Charges!
- WREG Memphis News 3 (21 September 2016): Tennessee teen reports being attacked by clown
- WCMH TV Columbus NBC 4 (21 September 2016): Tennessee teen says he was attacked by a clown with a knife
- Oak Ridger (22 September 2016): Clown sighting? Oak Ridge school goes into 'soft lockdown'
- WJBF (22 September 2016): GA girls say clown chased them home; claim to have videotaped it
- Sun Herald (22 September 2016): So you saw a clown in the street. What do you want police to do?
- WPXI (22 September 2016): Reports of 'rogue clowns' in Westmoreland unfounded; sightings in other counties confirmed
- Penn Live (23 September 2016): Spooky clown sightings unsettle Pa. towns: Why we're afraid
- NPR (24 September 2016): Sinister 'Clowns' Are Scaring People In Multiple States
- India Today (26 September 2016): These jokers are no joke: How creepy clowns are terrorising America's kids
- Hackettstown Patch (27 September 2016): Suspicious Clown Sightings Under Investigation By N.J. Police
- Live Science (27 September 2016): Clown Sightings Not Always a Laughing Matter
- Denver Post (27 September 2016): Greeley police investigate Facebook-based threat of killer clowns at schools, elsewhere: Greeley police say they have traced the threat back to a 15-year-old
- KMOV 4 St. Louis (27 September 2016): They're moving west! Creepy clowns spotted in Jefferson County
- CBS Pittsburgh (28 September 2016): Pennsylvania Clown Sightings Linked To Stabbing, Harassment
- IB Times (28 September 2016): Clown Sightings 2016: Florida Residents Spot Bozo In Woods Of Palm Bay, Marion County
- Fox (28 September 2016): 'Killer clown' sightings spread to Florida, Virginia, Colorado
- 10TV (28 September 2016): Police around central Ohio issue warning about people dressed as clowns
- USA Today (28 September 2016): Serious or just a sick joke? What we know about creepy clown reports
- WTVR CBS 6 (28 September 2016): 7 spots in Chesterfield[, Virginia] where creepy clowns were spotted
- ABC 6 Philadelphia (28 September 2016): POLICE: SOMEONE IN CLOWN MASK INVOLVED IN READING TEEN'S KILLING
- Kern Golden Empire (28 September 2016): Facebook Threats from People Dressed as Clowns Target Local High Schools: Facebook Accounts of People Disguised as Clowns Threaten to Shoot Up Schools
- Network World (28 September 2016): Creepy clowns cause sheriff to consult with FBI and Homeland Security
- Cinema Blend (29 September 2016): Is The It Movie Behind This Rash Of Creepy Clown Sightings? Here’s What We Know
- New York Upstate (29 September 2016): Another creepy clown sighting in Upstate NY; culprits come clean
- CBC (29 September 2016): Clowns at Montreal festival defend their craft amid creepy clown sightings
- Daily Mail (29 September 2016): Why clowns are creepy: Researchers reveal the psychology that makes many terrified of psychotic attacks
- NYT (29 September 2016): Creepy Clown Hoaxes Lead to 12 Arrests in Multiple States
- TWC News Central New York (29 September 2016): Local Law Enforcement Responds to Reports of Clown Sightings
- Rolling Stone (29 September 2016): 'Killer Clowns': Inside the Terrifying Hoax Sweeping America: Clowns have been spotted lurking in woods from South Carolina to upstate New York
- ABC 17 (29 September 2016): Some schools take precautionary measures for facebook post
- IB Times (29 September 2016): Clown Sightings: Where Are They Now? New Jersey, Florida, Alabama, North Carolina, South Carolina, Kentucky Receiving Creepy Reports
- Fox 13 (30 September 2016): Police respond to multiple clown sightings in Memphis on Friday
- People (30 September 2016): Why You Shouldn't Panic About This Year's 'Clown Panic'
- Oregon Live (30 September 2016): Here are 15 reports of scary clowns terrorizing American cities
- WCPO Cincinnati (30 September 2016): Clown attack forces schools in Reading to cancel Friday's classes
- ABC 6 (30 September 2016): Hilliard Police urge people to be aware of the laws as they field calls about clowns
- Tapinto (30 September 2016): Police Investigate Possible “Creepy Clown” Sighting Near Hanover Park High School[, New Jersey]
- News 4 JAX (30 September 2016): Professional clown alarmed by terrifying trend
- Daily Journal (30 September 2016): Clown sighting reported in Edinburgh[, Indiana]
- Canton Rep Stark County (30 September 2016): Massillon principal addresses reported clown sighting at school
- IB Times (30 September 2016): 'Aint Clownin Around' Facebook Hoax? Schools On Alert After Twitter Threat Goes Viral
- Cincinnati.com (30 September 2016): Clown threats: 1 arrest; Schools closed after attack reported
- CW33 (30 September 2016): Not Funny: Creepy Clown Threat Targets Fort Worth ISD
- PJ Media (30 September 2016): CLOWN UPDATE: 7 Clowns Arrested in 24 Hours
- NJ.com (30 September 2016): Schools, police say killer clown threats on social media aren't legit
- WABC-TV (30 September 2016): CLOWNS IN AMERICA: TIMELINE OF SCARES AND SIGHTINGS
- Fox 29 (30 September 2016): Social Experiment: How clowns went from beloved to feared
- KEPR TV CBS (30 September 2016): Facebook clown sighting in Yakima County called out as "online hoax" by sheriff's deputies
- Fox 43 (30 September 2016): Lancaster County clown sightings no laughing matter for DA’s office
- KVUE ABC (30 September 2016): Officials: Clown threats made toward multiple Central Texas schools
- WHEC News 10 (30 September 2016): Batavia police respond to report of 'creepy clown' in vacant house
- WLWT 5 (30 September 2016): Extra police presence at Friday night football games following clown threats
- KKCO NBC 11 News (30 September 2016): District 51 says Facebook threats part of recent online clown scare
- Fox 2 St. Louis (30 September 2016): ‘Creepy clown hunting’ has police concerned for innocent bystanders
- Long Island Press (30 September 2016): Creepy Clown Sightings Reported in Suffolk, Cops Say
- Inquisitr (30 September 2016): Clown Clan: Creepy #WeNotClowninAround Threats to Kill Teachers, Students Close Schools on Friday, September 30
- Times Reporter (30 September 2016): Clowns caught creeping around Tuscarawas Valley
- Heavy (30 September 2016): Clown Sightings List: Which States Reported Threatening Clowns?
- NBC 4 New York (30 September 2016): Creepy Clowns Investigated in New York, New Jersey
- NBC (1 October 2016): Spike in Creepy Clown Sightings, With More Arrests Across U.S.
- Quartz (1 October 2016): It’s not just you: Psychology reveals why clowns are so creepy
- News 12 Long Island (1 October 2016): Clown threats put Central Islip, North Babylon, Lindenhurst school districts on alert
- Daily Mail (1 October): No laughing matter: How menacing clowns are terrorizing children and adults across the country... but is it all just a Halloween prank?
- Inverse (1 October 2016): Rampant Clown Sightings are Freaking People Out
- CTV News (1 October 2016): 'A nightmare coming true': Gangs of clowns terrorize Nova Scotia drivers
- The Florida Times-Union (1 October 2016): Clown sightings rattle Northeast Florida residents
- The Vindicator (1 October 2016): Multiple clown sightings reported in Canfield[, Ohio]
- WFMJ (1 October 2016): Clown sightings reported in Canfield
- KSHB Kansas City (1 October 2016): Kansas City clown community upset about recent clown fears
- KSHB Kansas City (1 October 2016): 'Clown' Facebook accounts threaten St. Joseph schools, students
- WTHITV (1 October 2016): Costume shop offers warning to those wearing clown masks for Halloween
- The Toledo Blade (1 October 2016): Local law enforcement use social media in clown scare
- ABC 27 (1 October 2016): Local clown not laughing about imposters terrorizing towns
- The Times Leader (1 October 2016): Clown threat puts schools, police on alert
- Fansided (1 October 2016): Teens in ‘The Purge’ Masks Arrested, Clowns Still Roam Free
- Watertown Daily Times (1 October 2016): Law enforcement warns people to be wary as clown hysteria reaches Tampa Bay
- Christian Science Monitor (1 October 2016): Clown threat closes Ohio schools: How should police handle 'performance crime'?
- WTHR (1 October 2016): Creepy clown arrests take suspects from classroom to courtroom
- KREM 2 (1 October 2016): Creepy clown sightings spread to North Idaho
- ABC 13 (1 October 2016): 6 more arrested as Ohio clown threats multiply
- Clinton Herald (1 October 2016): Creepy clown' spotted in vacant house in Illinois
- Bucks County Courier Times (1 October 2016): Creepy clowns send the nation into faux panic
- Ohio.com (1 October 2016): Social media “killer clown” threat circulates at Firestone High School in Akron as “clowning” scare spreads in local communities
- CBS (2 October 2016): More arrests in Ohio amid growing rash of clown-related threats
- WPVI-TV 6 ABC Philadelphia (2 October 2016): Philadelphia School District, police taking "scary clown threats" seriously
- Hudson Valley News Network (2 October 2016): No Truth to ‘Creepy Clown’ Sightings in Ellenville, Police Say
- University of Tennessee Daily Beacon (2 October 2016): Legal action to be taken against false clown sightings
- Jacksonville Journal Courier (2 October 2016): ‘Creepy’ clown sightings make way to region
- North Platte Telegraph (2 October 2016): ‘Creepy clown’ sightings likely just funny business
Beyond them, it will fall to the entertainment industry to cope with 2016's clowns, because culture digests anything that the mainstream cannot otherwise absorb. You can see an article on how the 'culture shocks' of real history are absorbed by the horror genre here. For example, horror director Wes Craven started in the porn industry. The Vietnam War inspired American slasher films of the 1970s and 1980s and later violent video games. Horror directors displayed war's carnage, transmuting it into fictional bloodbaths, orchestrated by cinematic serial killers, wearing masks. And now, the cinematic masked killers have returned to reality.
"A screenshot of the Facebook thread with the alleged threat made toward Manor High School[, Manor, Texas]." Image Source: Facebook via KVUE.
"In a letter sent to Del Valle High School parents Friday morning, the principal said they 'have been made aware of a rumor about clowns threatening the security' of the school." (30 September 2016) Image Source: KVUE.
"The tweet that may have started all of the chaos in schools across the country has been taken down after being shared hundreds of times." (30 September 2016 report) Image Source: NJ.com.
More from Facebook. These threats came from a group of teens, who were arrested. Image Source: Facebook via NBC News.
Image Source: Brandy Source.
Image Source: Democratic Underground.
Image Source: Q105.
Image Source: We Are Anonymous.
Middlesboro, Kentucky clown arrest: Jonathan Martin was arrested for disorderly conduct and "wearing a mask in a public place." (24 September 2016) Images Source: We Are Anonymous.
By 1 October 2016, the clown sightings had spread to Nova Scotia, Canada. Image Source: CTV via Youtube.
Canadian report (1 October 2016). Video Source: CTV News via Youtube.
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