It was near 10 a.m. Tuesday morning when man spied clown. The clown wore typical big-tent get-up — a wig of red curls, too-big shoes, blue pants and a shirt with yellow polka dots — topped off with a scary mask, as the witness would describe to Greensboro, N.C., police. The regularly dressed man, for his part, held a machete.
Knife in hand, he ran after the clown, Greensboro police said, causing the jester to flee into the woods. The witness called the police dispatcher, who told him to put down the blade.
“Officers searched the area,” the Greensboro police said in a news release Tuesday afternoon, “but were unable to find anyone matching the description.”
The incident seems to follow a script that has repeated itself several times over in the area since late August: Witnesses phone local police to report a menacing clown or clowns, but officers cannot verify the sightings. A few weeks before the North Carolina sighting, a family in Greenville, S.C., told authorities a clown tried to lure their children into the forest near their apartment, as The Washington Post reported. Another witness told police he had spotted a clown near the dumpsters of the same complex.
Since the late summer, there have been about a half-dozen reports of clown sightings. Mashable recently mapped the alleged sightings along the border between the Carolinas, forming a sort of harlequin triangle between Greenville, Greensboro and Winston-Salem, N.C.
The lack of police confirmation has cast doubt on the existence of these clowns. And if they are real, the reason for their existence is just as perplexing. Some speculators have put forth that the clowns may be a viral campaign — possibly for “31,” a new horror movie directed by Rob Zombie featuring homicidal carnival workers.
(If so, it would not be the first time a wandering clown was revealed to be a promotional stunt. At the beginning of August a Green Bay, Wis., actor copped to walking through the city dressed as a clown holding black balloons as part of an audition for a film. He did not get the part, according to the Associated Press.)
Greenville police announced Thursday that anyone dressed like a clown and terrorizing residents will face arrest. “It’s illegal. It’s dangerous. It’s inappropriate, and it’s creating community concern, so it needs to stop,” police chief Ken Miller said at a news conference, according to Greenville Online.
In the North Carolina counties, costumes are not verboten — but officials are encouraging residents to resist putting on clown gear.
“Although it is lawful to dress as a clown, given the heightened tensions about these entertainers, officials are discouraging ‘copycat’ behavior by individuals who may find it humorous to mimic suspicious behavior,” Greensboro police said in a statement issued Tuesday. “Copycats unnecessarily alarm the public and place an unnecessary drain on police resources.”
As reports of sightings continue, working clowns have distanced themselves from the creepy kind, which the entertainers see as antithetical to the true spirit of clowning.
David McCullough, a Texas performer known professionally as Kornpop the Klown, wrote in an email in response to The Post’s earlier Carolina clown coverage, “I have worked very hard all my life to be a person that kids and their parents respect and can look up to.”