Send in the clowns? Don’t bother, they’re here and they’re terrifying one California town.
Figures in fright wigs have been creeping out the populace of Bakersfield, Calif., walking the night in extra-large shoes.
“Do you have a fear of clowns? You’re going to want to steer clear of one town in California,” said the anchor of Indianapolis ABC affiliate RTV-6. “That’s because strange clowns are being reported, roaming the streets in the middle of the night.”
More than 20 sightings of clowns allegedly wielding weapons have been reported in Bakersfield so far, according to police.
Social media and coffee shops in California are alive with talk of clowns – from the comical to the political.
“This story just smells funny, no pun intended,” says one Twitter post.
“Is it against the law to be a clown in public? oh wait, that can’t possibly be true, we have the House and Senate to thank for that,” said James Cook, commenting on a Reuters story with the headline, "The Clownpocalypse Is Real: This Creepy Clown Has Been Terrorizing A Small California Town."
The sightings of free-range, nocturnal clowns apparently started in Wasco, 20 miles north of Bakersfield. A man dressed in a gold jumpsuit, wearing an orange wig and whiteface and carrying balloons was photographed all over town, and posted pictures on Instagram and Facebook.
Days later, the Associated Press posted an interview with the unnamed man, saying the social media postings were part of a year-long photography project conducted by his wife, and reported the couple will be posting the pictures from their photo shoot every day this month.
The self-named Wasco Clown has not been reported chasing anyone or engaging in any illegal behavior. But the project appears to have sparked copycat actions in nearby cities, scaring the residents.
Police officials in Bakersfield have received numerous reports of “clowns standing in public holding machetes and baseball bats.”
A person telephoned the Bakersfield Police Department on Saturday night, reporting a clown armed with a firearm, Reuters reported.
"We've been having sightings all over the city," said watch commander Lt. Jason Matson. "They range from anywhere from a guy carrying a gun to a guy carrying a knife running up to houses."
Photos circulated on social media show increasingly sinister figures in such garb as an all-black jumpsuit, and leering menacingly from poses on kiddie rides from a tiny horse to a replica of the space shuttle.
And although The Bakersfield Californian reported earlier in the week that at least some of the reports were hoaxes, Lieutenant Matson said he didn’t know if the incidents were pranks. At least one has resulted in an arrest.
Police arrested a teenager on Friday who had donned clown garb and was chasing children on the west side of town, claiming he was doing it to perpetrate a hoax he had seen online.
He was arrested on suspicion of annoying a minor and booked into the Kern County Juvenile Hall, Bakersfield police said in a news release.
The clowncapade, especially coming so close to Halloween, has attracted no shortage of editorial comments by media reporters.
“If I were living in Wasco, I would move out immediately,” wrote Mark Shrayber, a freelance writer and San Francisco State psychology lecturer, on Jezebel. “Nothing good comes from clowns. Nothing good will ever come from clowns.”
“If I were a news anchor in California we’d come back from the scary gun-wielding clown report and you’d just see my empty chair spinning,” tweeted DangerGuerrero.
The Bakersfield clowns aren’t the first, savvy media watchers have noted. There were sightings on Staten Island in March that went viral on social media. And last year, a similar prank was perpetrated in Northampton, England.
“Meh, the clown and the clown hunter from England last year was better,” notes The Wilfred.
Material from Reuters was used in this report.