The Current

Creepy clown sightings set off hysteria across North America

Creepy clowns have been popping up eerily across North America, from Nova Scotia to Texas. And there have been repercussions to this bizarre trend. In Nova Scotia, police are investigating two clown-related threats to schools and individuals.
Author Ben Radford says latest citings of clowns are part of a 1980s urban legend called 'phantom clowns.' (davocano/flickr cc)
Listen19:55

Read story transcript

Creepy clown sightings across North America, from Nova Scotia to Texas, have included unsettling encounters and even evil clown attacks.

But Stacey Laureyssens, a professional clown who performs under the name Empress Cherry Sunday,tells The Current's Anna Maria Tremonti that these sightings are people who are not real clowns.

"I can tell you that these people who are pranking, they are not clowns."

Laureyssens says a clown is an art form and hand/eye contact is actually extremely important when performing as a clown.

Clowns may be a delight to some but clowns can also be terrifying... even to adults. (Alyssa L. Miller/flickr cc)
"As soon as you put on a mask and you can no longer see your eyes, technically you cannot be considered a clown."

Laureyssens says she'd prefer to think of these people as "costumed prankers," separate from what professional clowns aim to do which is delight people — not scare them. 

"If they were dressed as doctors covered in blood with knives, they're still very scary, but you wouldn't blame a doctor for that."

The bizarre sightings have created some real-life repercussions: from a ban on clown costumes in one Connecticut school district; to an arrest in Georgia, where an 11-year-old girl took a knife with her to school to fend off clowns.

In Nova Scotia, police are investigating two clown-related threats to schools and individuals, including Halifax West High School. 

What's with the creepy clown sightings recently throughout North America? (daveiam/flickr cc)

Benjamin Radford has puzzled over the paradox of the delightful clown and the evil clown in his  book, Bad Clowns. 

He tells Tremonti the recent clown sightings are what he calls "stalker clowns" — people who dress like clowns but are hoaxers and get a thrill of walking around looking like a clown and pulling pranks.

In the 1980s, Radford says "phantom clowns" would menace children, lurking in school yards and parks and police would investigate these cases.

"No evidence of them is ever found," says Radford, but it plays into the evil reputation that created the bad clown.

Radford defines bad clowns as "malicious or evil or unpleasant in some way."

"So it's not just a clown that's trying to harm you or scare you ... but also ones that might insult you ... at a midway."

"Often times you see in these trickster figures both good and bad and happiness and scaring people."

Listen to the full conversation at the top of this web post.

This segment was produced by The Current's Julian Uzielli, Ines Colabrese and Jacqueline McKay.
 


What do you think about all these clown sightings?  

Tweet us at @TheCurrentCBC, find us on Facebook or send us an email.