Wiltshire Police warned pranksters against copying the US craze of dressing up as Killer Clowns.
The current craze originated in the US, but has rapidly spread across the Atlantic, thanks largely to postings on YouTube and other social media sites.
Dressed as demonic clowns (with more than a nudging homage to Stephen King’s Pennywise and Heath Ledger’s Joker), the pranksters jump out as unsuspecting members of the public to scare them. In a more sinister twist, there have been reports of clowns carrying baseball bats and knives, and deliberately targetting school children.
No so-called Killer Clowns have been spotted in Lydiard yet. However, there have been sightings in Pinehurst, Swindon, Cricklade and Wootton Bassett. At the Week End, police were called as a man dressed as a clown wearing shorts stalked a couple of young women in Wootton Bassett
Wiltshire Police issued the following statement:
“We would like to remind people intent on engaging in this type of behaviour that your actions can cause fear and anxiety to people which could lead to public order offences being committed. In turn, this could lead to a criminal record.
Please think about your actions carefully. Any reports of offences committed will be fully investigated.”
At one level, the recent spate of Clown related activity may evoke a wry smile. However, there is a more serious and disturbing side. The activity diverts police attention from potentially more serious crimes. Children, and some adults, have been left traumatised by the clowns, some of whom have been more intimidating than comic. There is also the risk that the “pranks” could become a front for physical attacks and other crimes, the perpetrators using their disguises to instill fear and confer anonymity.
Although the recent clown craze appear to have a US origin, clown sightings in the UK predate the current wave. In 2013, University Student and budding film maker, Alex Powell, was outed as the Northampton Clown. Powell’s motivation remains unclear. Despite provoking a number of death threats and spawning his own antithesis, the Clown Catcher, he claimed he just wanted to amuse people. A little later, in November 2013, an unsigned folk band claimed they were behind the so-called Lincoln Clown, who made regular appearances peering through the windows of that city’s burghers.
This time, there seems to be a more macarbe twist.
Even that master of horror, and the creator of Pennywise, is calling time. After a series of Donald Trump/clown tweets, Stephen King sensed the zeitgeist had gone too far. “Hey, guys, time to cool the clown hysteria–most of em are good, cheer up the kiddies, make people laugh,” he tweeted.
Halloween, always a good time for the local crazies to demand money with menaces, is fast approaching. If clowns are your thing, please consider staying indoors this year. The old, the young and vulnerable may not share your sense of humour.
If you don’t want any trick or treaters this year (including the inevitable spate of clowns), consider downloading a poster to put in your window on 31st October. If you have an elderly or vulnerable neighbour, why not offer them one. The Wiltshire Police link no longer seems to be working, but this one from Somerset Police should do the job.