Ever since August, when several children in Greenville, South Carolina, told police a group of clowns tried to lure them into the woods with promises of money, “creepy clowns” have spread to almost every state.
While mysteries abound about the clowns, most incidents come in two forms: threats on social media, often directed at schools, or sightings of people dressed as clowns, some of which have turned violent.
The map below, compiled using media coverage in various states, shows founded clown sightings across the country. Due to the viral and unverified nature of social media threats, Business Insider omitted those from our analysis.
Business Insider couldn’t confirm sightings in just two states: Montana and Alaska.
In some cases, the sightings remain just that — sightings, albeit creepy ones. Currently, media in 48 states have reported sightings of varying levels of severity.
Some of these clowns, however, have chased or attacked people. A man in Colorado Springs suffered deep cuts to his head after an alleged clown attack in early October. And California police continue to search for a man in a clown suit who reportedly tried to kidnap a one-year-old girl a day earlier.
The incidents have increased in frequency since Greenville. Again in early October, an elementary school in Waterbury, Connecticut, among others in various states, was placed on lockdown after fourth grade students reportedly saw a clown during recess.
That’s not to mention the arrests. In Arkansas, a man was arrested on September 20 after taunting a store clerk and driving around in a clown mask police described as “very scary looking … with large teeth … and a very creepy smile.” A week later on September 29, Phoenix police arrested two teens on charges of committing armed robberies at a local Taco Bell and Domino’s while wearing clown masks.
Arrests for clown-related behaviour have occurred in at least 18 states.
While some police departments, citing free speech, have expressed hesitation over arresting someone simply for an outfit, state laws vary. For example, wearing a mask for the purpose of concealing your identity is illegal in Virginia.
In fact, the Greenville police chief — who oversees ground zero of the clown epidemic — promised to arrest anyone dressed like a clown, even for “politely terrorizing the public.”
A number of school districts and police departments have also put parents and teenagers on notice that clowning around could land them in serious trouble.
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