Fun or Fear?

As clown sightings have reached record highs, a fear sparked in the ‘80s has returned

By Claire Ward & Lisa Zuiderveen

“I do not want any killer clowns anywhere near here, or fake killer clowns. No clowns of the killer variety.”

Senior Gigi Eisele has an opinion that many can agree with. She, like others student at Dexter High School, has heard the stories. The ones where a bunch of friends are hanging out on a Friday night, driving to a friend’s house when something catches their eye from the side of the road. As the car pulls back around to check it out everyone realizes what the figure standing on the side of the road is.

Dressed in rainbow polka dots, big shoes, and that classic red nose, he stands on the side of the road with a balloon in his hand.  Speeding away, they can see him running at the car through the back window, moving faster than what seems possible in a costume like that.

This is the basic story for so many people across the United States lately. It started in Greenville, South Carolina, with the first report to police on September 29. From here, sightings spread around Greenville, and as word grew, across the U.S. By the middle of October, sightings had been reported in nearly all 50 states, 9 of 13 Canadian provinces, and 18 other countries. The threat of killer clowns used to be an idea that was laughed at, saved only for theaters. Now, it’s become a worldwide epidemic.

Police warn people of the threat clowns pose, especially over Halloween weekend. The typical playful costume has now become dangerous. Major retailer Target pulled clown masks and costumes off its shelves for the holiday, but places such as Party City still sold the costumes – even with “scary” versions.

One thing is for sure, stepping outside in clown attire is not safe anymore. Officer Jeremy Hilobuk warns students to be cautious, and “be aware that this is something to be aware of.”

So far, clown sightings have spread across the state, reaching from Manistee to Detroit, and endless cities in between. Flint and Jackson have both received reports of clowns, and with Jackson only 30 miles from Dexter we’re left to wonder how long until the clowns make their way into our town.

Eisele believes that DHS will   remain relatively safe from the clowns, but is not completely sure. “Someone did paint a clown on the rock,” she said.

Meanwhile, senior Madison Delacy believes students should keep clowns out of the classrooms; “I feel like clowns shouldn’t be a joke at school because some of them really scare kids,” Delacy said. “I don’t think it’s okay to go around wearing a clown outfit either. That’s just creepy.”

A survey of 100 DHS students showed 29 percent would run if they saw a clown, and 25 percent would do something violent. The 46 percent said that they wouldn’t do anything.

Others, like senior Luan “Tom” Nguyen, stated that they would turn to social media. Nguyen, an international student from Vietnam, said he would “take a picture, put [it] on Facebook and ask ‘If you saw a clown what would you do?’”

“I think it’s kind of funny when you see clowns walking around, but it’s not funny when it’s threatening people’s safety,” Nguyen said.

Many DHS students agree with this statement as 69 percent of students surveyed think that dressing up as a clown isn’t funny.

The anxious feeling many get when thinking about, looking at, or hearing about clowns is not rare. The term “coulrophobia” was developed in the ‘80s to give name for the irrational fear of clowns. Stephen King’s “It” was published in 1986, with the movie following in 1990. Other movies such as “Killer Klowns from Outer Space” and “Poltergeist” add to the terror. Serial killer John Wayne Gacy was running wild in the mid-70s dressed in clown attire, arrested for the sexual assault and the murder of 33 young men while under the name of Pogo the Clown.

Just as every fashion nightmare returns, so have clowns. Hilobuk believes that the clown issue, while “it’s kind of died down in the past few weeks” is still something students need to be cognizant of.

“[We] still need to be aware of it,” he said. “Something like that doesn’t necessarily go away.”

The majority of Dexter students claimed if they saw a clown they wouldn’t do anything, but some mentioned calling the police. DHS English teacher Barry Mergler said assessing the situation first is key.

“It depends; at a circus, okay that fits. Walking around at night, avoid it and keep moving. Maybe call the police if my kids were with me” Mergler said.

The clown frenzy that filled the end of the millenia seemed to die down for the early 21st century, but clowns have made a comeback.

As Delacy said, “Clowns are now like a weird trend to scare other people. As someone who is afraid of clowns, I’m not a fan.”

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