Imagine driving along a dark, winding road, turning the corner and seeing a clown standing in the middle of road. It’s a scene right out of a scary movie.
Creepy clowns, also called “killer clowns,” have been making appearances on social media via prank videos and even threats at schools.
WATCH OUT Clown Sighting in Tacoma, WA on 26th St. be careful when walking around. pic.twitter.com/M5Yjl1b64j
— Ryan Naylor (@RyRynaylor) October 3, 2016
What appears to have started as a prank has taken a sinister turn in some cases. There have been reports of people in clown costumes approaching children. And a 13-year-old girl was arrested in Virginia after asking a person posing as a clown on social media to kill one of her teachers, The Associated Press reported.
The girl was charged with one count of threatening to kill by electronic message.
Police in Toronto say it isn’t a laughing matter.
Const. Jennifer Sidhu said at this moment there have been no reports of killer clowns in Toronto.
“It is not illegal to dress up in a clown costume … It’s the actions that the person does or takes while dressed up in any costume that will lead to them possibly being charged if it is an infraction against the criminal code,” said Sidhu.
“We are aware of the incidents in the States, but as of now there is nothing on file of killer clowns in the city.”
Sidhu added that any complaints will be fully investigated and dealt with on a case-by-case basis.
One Toronto teacher reached out to CityNews on Twitter to say her students have been talking about the clown at school.
Shawn Hamilton owner of Amazing Party Store said he has seen an increase in killer clown costumes this year.
“They are looking for something scary, evil-looking, and they will put their own slant on it with knives and blood,” Hamilton said.
He receives a handful of calls every day asking for the killer clown costume.
Hamilton believes the demand is due to the “instances of supposed killer clowns doing pranks.”
Many of the images appearing on social media haven’t been proven as real.
Professional clowns in Montreal said their craft shouldn’t be confused with the creepy clown sightings over the past few weeks.
Stacey Laureyssens, interim president of the 150-member Clowns Canada, says the distinction between the fear-sowing tricksters and the real thing should be clear.
“What these people are doing is acting like monsters in clown costumes to prank people. They are not clowns,” she said.
It’s not clear if the prank is related to the movie It, based on the novel by Stephen King, featuring a demon that takes the form of a sadistic clown. The film is currently being remade in Toronto and set to be released in 2017.
Clown costumes have been banned from Connecticut School District, and a school in an Ohio School District cancelled classes on Friday because of a creepy clown threat.
Hamilton said he hopes people don’t take the killer clown costumes too seriously.
“I hope it is just for fun, [that] the pranks are safe and they don’t harm anybody.”
With files from The Canadian Press and The Associated Press.