Since at least Sept 15, schools across the U.S. have been learning why coulrophobia — the abnormal or extreme fear of clowns — is such a potent condition for many Americans, especially within younger generations and pretty much anyone who read Steven King’s demented novel It or watched the movie adaptation.
For the last few weeks, apparent clowns have been posting violent threats on social media targeting middle schools and high schools in various states. Within some communities, witnesses have even reported seeing creepy clowns lurking around school properties. The New York Times reports that an Ohio woman was allegedly attacked by a clown, that at least one kid has already died in connection with the growing trend, and that the majority of pranksters arrested and charged with making the threats have been minors.
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Yesterday, KXAN announced that a Texas State University student was grabbed by an assailant dressed like a clown. “The suspect is described by police as around 6 foot 2 inches tall with an athletic build, wearing… a black-and-white striped jumpsuit, with a green wig, face painted white with black around the eyes,” they wrote.
And Austin has not been immune to the insanity. According to KXAN, at least ten local schools have received explicit threats of violence by clowns, including Akins High School, Austin High School, Eastside Memorial High School, LASA High School, McCallum High School, LBJ High School, Reagan Early College High School, Kealing Middle School, Martin Middle School, and O. Henry Middle School. AISD issued a statement about the clown threats on September 30, 2016.
A particularly chilling threat was issued to Manor High School by a clown named “Klown Joey.” KVUE published a screenshot of the Facebook thread, which reads:
“Where gonna get yall manor high kids in all the bathrooms we got cameras set up we are out to kill and attack, so be carefull we will be everywhere in g wing and in f wing and e and c wing and the pac its 7 of us there was two there today. see yall tomorrow.”
Police made quick progress in their investigation of the threats at Akins High School and issued an arrest warrant for a 17 year-old student named Noah Hollingsworth, who turned himself in and confessed. The arrest affidavit obtained by KXAN states that Hollingsworth created a Twitter account with the handle @arnietheclown and posted multiple Tweets that included knife emojis, photos from inside Akins High School, and messages like “I am back AKINS get ready” and “I see a lot of victims.”
APD says they’re charging Hollingsworth with the Class B misdemeanor of making a terroristic threat, but warns that he wasn’t the only culprit by far.
“If you think it’s funny to post clown photos and mention schools, we ask you to stop,” AISD Police Chief Eric Mendez has stated. “It’s not funny to the students and it’s not funny to their parents.”
It’s not funny to genuinely nice clowns like Mary Ochoa, or “Lulu the Clown,” either. Ochoa makes her living by crafting cute balloon creatures and making little kids laugh with her facial expressions and gestures. She told KXAN that she was worried at first that the clown hoaxes might negatively affect her business, but that luckily, people are still booking her for events.
Hopefully, APD can quickly put an end to the rest of this clownery. If not, we’re turning to Batman. We always said he’d fit right in in Austin.
OCTOBER 7, 2016 UPDATE:
Yesterday evening, KEYE announced that police have made four new area arrests in connection with the continuing creepy clown saga. Raymond Guillermo de la Cruz, 19, Ana Paz Simon, 17, and two younger teenagers — all current or former students at Cedar Creek High School — may face third degree felony charges for making terroristic threats to schools within the Bastrop Independent School District.
De la Cruz reportedly claimed responsibility for the threatening posts made by @wisetheclown13 on Twitter.
KVUE received this statement from BISD Superintendent Steve Murray:
“While the so-called clown threat incidents here in Central Texas, across the state and the nation have been categorized as a hoax or practical joke by some, the consequence for those involved is certainly no laughing matter. Students, parents, and staff here in Bastrop ISD and elsewhere have been subjected to undue stress and fear. We appreciate the hard work by the Bastrop ISD Police Department, in conjunction with county, state, and federal officials.”
Featured photo: Flickr user Jeff Turner, CC licensed