We’ve watched from a distance for months as people dressed as clowns have terrorised those living in America. But the creepy clown craze has now made its way to Australia and, as recent attacks suggest, when it comes to scaring people, clowns know no age limits.
As more and more children are being impacted by these terrifying sightings and the clowns hit major (and even minor) towns across Australia, many parents are left wondering what is going on. And what can we do to make it stop?
If you grew up in the 80s, then you are probably terrified of clowns, thanks to Stephen King’s, It and his iconic clown, Pennywise. Our children, however, may not have been exposed to this intense fear of clowns. In recent years clowns have returned to the safer side of entertainment and, while I tend to cower in the corner when a clown attends a child’s birthday, kids don’t seem too fazed by it.
Known as the ‘clown purge’ or ‘clown craze’, people wearing clown masks have been caught wandering the streets, hitting the shops and riding public transportation. The problem comes from the more rogue actions of people dressed as clowns chasing children, bearing axes and other weapons and causing injury and fear to innocent bystanders.
Reports of people dressed as clowns trying to lure children into the woods started in South Carolina back in August 2016 (but there had been reports of this type of activity occurring in Britain in 2013). Children have been targeted across the US with schools going into lockdown and kids ending up in hospital with severe injuries. The craze has caught on fast with clown sightings occurring in Canada, the UK, New Zealand, Ireland, the Netherlands, Denmark and Mexico.
Now Australians are being targeted.
So why is this happening?
While the underlying motive behind these clowns is unclear, many people have been quick to point out that Stephen King’s remake of his clown thriller, It will be in cinemas in 2017. And while it may all have started as a PR stunt, some people have certainly taken it too far and New Line Cinemas has stated it is “absolutely not involved in the rash of clown sightings.”
Others have suggested the ‘clown purge’ is copying US drama The Purge or is a marketing ploy in the lead up to Rob Zombie’s horror film, 31, which features characters in clown costumes.
Australian police are on the case
The good news for parents is that the clown craze is not being taken lightly. Australian police forces are all working to ensure that this criminal behaviour is not only stopped, but punished. People have been arrested across the country and all State police departments have commented on the seriousness of this behaviour.
“This behaviour is not amusing and in many cases, it is criminal,” Victoria Police wrote on their Facebook page. “We do not tolerate intimidation, the incitement of fear and carrying of weapons.”
The incidents, however, keep coming.
Just this week an autistic teenager was chased by a clown in a suburb in Cairns. Two 12-year-old girls were terrorised by a clown while attempting to buy ice cream in Adelaide and students at a Melbourne primary school were targeted by a group of teenagers in clown masks. Additional incidents have been reported across the country, from Mandurah to Canberra.
The world is already a scary enough place without clowns roaming the streets. And, if you’re like me, the whole thing has left you a little creeped out and concerned for the safety of your children.
While it’s only natural for parents to worry, Dr. David Anderegg, a psychologist and author of Worried All the Time: Overparenting in an Age of Anxiety and How to Stop It, suggests we remember that the clown purge is just a fad.
“Someone who’s actually out to hurt children, they’re much more interested in blending in, not standing out. A real child abuser wouldn’t wear a clown suit. A college kid who just wants to scare people would.”
If your child has been affected by the clown craze, either through a sighting or access to social media, it’s important to reassure them that you are there to keep them safe and report any incidence to the police. If you do celebrate Halloween, don’t dress up (or dress your kids up) as a clown.
Social commentators predict the clown sightings will continue throughout October with the lead-up to Halloween and into the New Year with the release of It.
“Parents should continue to do what parents do, which is be vigilant, but not hyper vigilant,” David explains. “Continue to teach kids not to accept things from strangers or be alone with strangers.”
These lessons are not only important right now, but always, whether there are creepy clowns roaming the streets or not.
And, for parents like me who go into panic mode at the sighting of Ronald McDonald, maybe lay off the Stephen King novels for a little while …
(select images via Clown Sightings Australia)