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In Wake of Creepy Sightings, Clowns Struggle to Reclaim Their Tarnished Image

Oct 5 2016 7:17 PM
In Wake of Creepy Sightings, Clowns Struggle to Reclaim Their Tarnished Image

Photo by Melanie DeFazio via Stocksy

Not all clowns.

Over the last couple of months, creepy clown sightings have popped up all over the country. The sightings reportedly started in late August in Greenville County, South Carolina. A handful of children said clowns in the nearby woods beckoned to them with wads of cash. One police report indicated a "suspicious character ... dressed in circus clown attire and white face paint" was "enticing kids to follow him/her into the woods." Another woman said she saw a "large-figured clown with a blinking nose, standing under a post light near the garbage dumpster area." The person reportedly waved to her, but did not approach; she waved back. More sightings were reported in the same area, but law enforcement was unable to substantiate any of the claims.

Since August, the creepy clown sightings continued—across multiple states and in variety of situations. While many reports have turned out to be hoaxes, some have resulted in arrests, including at least nine in Alabama.

Read more: Jokers to the Right: Meet London's Notorious Drag Clown Duo

Kenny Ahern is the co-director of Clown Camp, a clown arts training program based in Wisconsin. So far, he says, interest in the program has not been affected by the "current clown-bashing hyperbole." But he does find the current frenzy disturbing.

"The clown arts are based solely for the purpose of serving to create joy and evoke thought," Ahern explains. "What is discouraging is that at a time when our world could use some extra joy, the very purveyors of this joy are being demonized. Real clowns are being lumped in with a disturbing group of people who are sadly perpetuating a sick myth. These terrible people are not clowns. This ignorant myth has unfairly overshadowed what the clown arts truly represent."

These terrible people are not clowns.

Jordan Jones, aka Snuggles the Clown, works at a haunted park in Maryland, and says he's wary of how people who don't know him will react when they see him in his costume. Recently, he ventured out into the woods near his home for a photo shoot, and people driving by stopped to take pictures of him and threatened to call the cops. "It shouldn't be like that," he says.

In response to the recent creepy clown sightings and subsequent media attention, Jones is trying to make #ClownLivesMatter a thing on Facebook. "It's a movement that stands up for all of my fellow professional actors all over the world," he tells Broadly, "because we're getting profiled as these clowns in the woods or the clowns that are terrorizing communities." Given his hashtag's obvious play off the Black Lives Matter movement, Jones is quick to point out that while he believes "their protests have meaning," his goal is to specifically advocate for professional clowns.

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Meanwhile, retailer Halloween Express reports that sales of clown costumes are up 300 percent this year.

"What many folks are missing during this current hysteria," Ahern says, "is the fact that there remains lots and lots of folks throughout our world who enjoy real clowns and what they represent."

Author Stephen King agrees. On Monday, he tweeted: "Hey, guys, time to cool the clown hysteria--most of em are good, cheer up the kiddies, make people laugh."

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