Laughs Dwindle as Clown Threats Spread

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clowndollIt seemed as though the arrival of creepy clown threats in Maryland was an isolated incident in Annapolis. After all, kids in that case reported seeing scary clowns, then admitted they made it up. But it spread beyond the state capitol this week.

As the week opened, the Baltimore Sun reported social media threats were being investigated in schools in the Baltimore metro area. An Anne Arundel County parent reported that her student reported hearing about a “specific school and a clown.”

They moved to higher education institutions, as well. At the University of Maryland, The Diamondback reported sightings on social media that circulated about sightings near the Knox Towers and Varsity apartment complexes.

There was an arrest in Prince George’s County after a student created an account perpetuating the threat during class in Riverdale, WBAL-TV reported.

But actual sightings have yet to be substantiated. The creepy clown phenomenon is thought to be a hoax. It’s been traced to South Carolina in August amid rumors of a clown trying to lure people into the woods, and since spread to other states.

In Maryland, each report brought a unique response from authorities. The posts circulating on social media resulted in a call to parents in Baltimore County. In College Park, authorities asked students not to perpetuate the hoax. It shows how it’s hard to stop a something once it spreads. On the one hand, the threats of violence attached means it should be reported. On the other hand, it’s a hoax. Either way, we’re done laughing.

But it’s that line between existence and doubt that may be fueling the spread.

“The fascination with clowns is really the fact that they’re not real,” Scott Bonn, a criminologist and professor of sociology at Drew University in New Jersey, told Time Magazine. “We don’t know what’s beneath that makeup. It could be anyone or anything.


Stephen Babcock

Stephen Babcock is the editor of Baltimore and an editor-at-large of Baltimore Fishbowl.

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