By: Kaelan Doolan ~Guest Writer~
Since August, Greenville, N.C., citizens have spotted mysterious strangers roaming the nearby forests while dressed in clown costumes. Some of the sightings were by children who reported that the clowns tried to lure them into the forest with promises of money. Though their exact motivations are unknown, their behavior has raised concerns.
The first sighting of the clowns was reported on Aug. 21, when residents of the Fleetwood Manor Apartments reported seeing a clown trying to lure children into a nearby forest. An abandoned house was later found near the apartments in the woods. Children who have seen the clowns stated they believe the clown lived in the house, but it was found empty with no evidence of any inhabitants.
Since the first sighting, reports of clowns following children and residents walking home have increased. The spottings have also been reported in Winston-Salem and Greensboro.
Ken Miller, police chief of the Greenville County Police Department, has publicly denounced the appearance of the clowns in what he calls “clowning.”
“The clowning around needs to stop. It’s illegal, it’s dangerous, it’s inappropriate, it’s creating community concern,” Miller said.
This statement has not deterred the clowns, however, recent sightings have detailed clowns brandishing machetes, tailing residents and standing in the middle of the street and on the sidewalk.
Since the encounters, many speculations have arisen attempting to explain the clown’s motivations. One thoery says film director and musician Rob Zombie is using the clowns as a guerilla marketing tactic for his upcoming movie, 31. Zombie has denied any connection with the clowns.
Another theory connects the sightings to the 2017 miniseries remake of the 1991 movie It, which is based on the Stephen King novel of the same name. The story follows a group of children who are tormented by a shapeshifting clown named Pennywise in the fictional town of Derry, Maine. However, without any statements from the perpetrators, the motives remain completely unknown.
The Greenville Police Department is now on full alert due to more clown sightings in surrounding areas and is concerned about copycats.
“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 their press release. “Copycats unnecessarily alarm the public and place an unnecessary drain on police resource.”