An odd phenomenon has been circling through police calls, social media and much of the South over the past month or so.
Sightings and reports and, especially, rumors of clowns- doing things very unfunny- came out in Alabama, South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia, Maryland, Kentucky and, as of Wednesday, in Coffee County, Tenn. The trope has even spun out, like an instant Internet urban legend, to include sightings and reports in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania.
Nothing has been reported in Williamson County, and county law enforcement don’t seem to have given it much credence or consideration as of yet.
“We haven’t had any reports of this type of activity, but I can’t say that it could not happen,” said Lt. Justin Whitwell of the Spring Hill Police Department. “We have not discussed the topic as of yet, but if the concern arises and there are reports of this activity locally we will do our best to seek a solution.”
In fact, most investigations indicate this is a viral prank, and not a legitimate danger. Which if true means it has caused a huge waste of law enforcement time and resources.
Deputies from the Coffee County Sheriff’s Office, for instance, have not been able to verify an attack even happened. Someone called in to report that a clown attacked a juvenile in the Summitville area. He told police that he got in a scuffle with a knife-wielding person wearing a red hoodie and clown mask.
While Coffee County Sheriff Steve Graves treated it seriously- “People in Tennessee carry guns and somebody jumping out and scaring someone is subject to getting shot,” he said – at the same time no evidence turned up that the attack even happened.
At the same time, violent clown videos as a prank are a thing on the Internet, Graves said, wherein in people dress up.
Or take the case in Hogansville, Ga., last week. Two witnesses made 911 calls about clowns driving to town in a white van and parking on the side of the road, before beckoning children to enter the vehicle. After following this down the rabbit hole, authorities were told by one of the callers, Brandon Jerome Moody, that he just made it up – he heard about the whole meme and went with it. Moody was arrested.
Many of the other reports seem to not bear scrutiny, but still add to the circus, perpetuating the story and creating that slight doubt about what is just beyond our knowledge. What lurks just beyond the shadows of the woods at dusk could be anything- or nothing. But it is not a logical process.
In Flomaton, Ala., messages from a Facebook page called “Flomo Klown” that showed pictures of threatening clowns with text that read, “I kill people for a living,” prompted a school lockdown there last Thursday.
Three people were later arrested for making the threats; there is no evidence it was anything but a prank.
Or, in, Winston-Salem. N.C., where David Wayne Armstrong was arrested after police said he filed a false report about seeing a scary clown.
However, as seems to happen- think of the recent gas pipeline craze- these things become self-fulfilling. Rumors and false reports and pranks create copycats and what was a house of mirrors at some point becomes a real horrorshow.
For example, an 11-year-old girl was arrested in Athens, Ga., yesterday after bringing a knife to school. She told police she brought it because she was afraid of clown attacks.
One thing is certainly true: it is probably not a good idea to dress up as a clown for Halloween this year; at the same time, it is inevitable that among a certain mindset clown costumes will be a more popular choice than usual.