Clowning Around

The emergence of a creepy “clown cult” across the East coast has people worrying about more than just what costume they will wear this Halloween.

Since early August, creepy clowns have taken over much of every news outlet and social media venue. Although some sightings are simply hoaxes, others have resulted in arrests and even death. The fear caused by creepy clowns on the loose is very real.

Children have reported being chased and attacked by clowns all across the United States. Clowns have been arrested for disorderly conduct or for wearing masks covering their face, which is outlawed in some states and localities.

The most recent creepy clown phenomenon started early August, when Gags the Green Bay Clown was spotted wandering around Green Bay, Wisconsin carrying black balloons. Photos taken of the clown went viral and his own Facebook page was created. It was revealed quickly that Gags is simply advertisement for a new short film, “Gags,” produced by Adam Krause and Script 4 Sale Productions.

(Image: Val Miller | Marlin Chronicle)
(Image: Val Miller | Marlin Chronicle)

Many other theories have surfaced pinning the recent clown phenomenon to new movie releases. Kristina Scott, a sophomore communication major is currently taking a Public Relations course, and she sees the value in this stunt.

“I think that’s a great PR move. People will want to go see the movie because they’re already afraid of [the clowns] in the real world,” Scott said.

Although Gags proved harmless and merely purposed for advertisement, the trend it started has been anything but.

Now, the clown sightings are hitting closer to home. Colleges including James Madison University and Lynchburg College have been tortured with clown sighting rumors, stirring up campus groups.

“Please do not engage” were the instructions Campus Safety and Security sent to students via email.

Students at JMU took a different approach in finding the rumored clown.

“Students… took to ‘hunting down the clown’ with baseball bats and lacrosse sticks one night,” JMU senior Liza Miller described.

It turned out the clown was a complete hoax; an idea started through social media postings. JMU sent an email statement to their students following the incident.

“Most of the email was on how to properly use social media and how it was a little out of hand for the made up clown incident,” Miller explained.

Local Hampton Roads public schools have also felt the impact of social media clown sightings as well as threats. According to WTKR News 3, both Hampton Police Department and Newport News Police Department tightened security at certain Hampton Public Schools in response to threats made via social media.

Choosing to act on any clown threats could have legal ramifications.

According to Virginia Law, “it shall be unlawful for any person over 16 years of age to… wear any mask… whereby a substantial portion of the face is hidden or covered.”

Hampton police expanded on this in an interview with WTKR newschannel 3, sharing this class-6 felony can result in up to five years in prison and a $2,500 fine.

The New York Times reported that, as of Sept. 29, 12 arrests have been made in multiple states. The most local occurred in Henrico, Virginia in which two teenagers were arrested for chasing children while wearing clown masks. The teenagers are currently facing charges.

So far, no clown threat or clown sighting has directly impacted Virginia Wesleyan College’s campus. Amanda Albert, a sophomore peer advisor, did hear rumors from her freshmen about a possible clown costume floating around campus.

“All of my freshmen were like, ‘heck no,” Albert said.

Even though no clown has been sighted on campus, students are still preparing themselves for the possibility. Hannah Weber, a sophomore, has taken extra precautions.

“I follow a twitter account, Report Clowns @reportsclowns, that tells me where the clowns are around the United States,” Weber said.

Report Clowns posted about a clown sighting near Davinci Park in Virginia Beach, Virginia on Oct. 5. No photograph was shared with the tweet.

Students differ in how they believe they would react. Ryan Fitzgibbon doesn’t believe he’d stick around long.

“I’d turn around and hightail it out of there,” Fitzgibbon said.

Scott agrees.

“I’d probably try and avoid it,” she said.

Weber believes she would use self-defense.

“If it was behind me chasing me and I was in my car, I’d rear end it,” Weber said.

Regardless of the purpose behind or validity of the clown chaos, the effects of this recent phenomenon are very real. With Halloween drawing near, though, there’s no sign that the clown activity will be slowing down anytime soon.

Katie Brooks