Poor, sensitive America has been terrorized by menacing clowns and clown hoaxes over the last few weeks, a phenomenon that is both disturbing and...slightly hilarious. Twitter jokes aside, though, killer clown panic has had an impact on professional clowns, many of whom are concerned this wave of hysteria will cost them gigs or even cause them physical harm.

Harold Moeller has been a clown since the mid-'90s, getting his start with the Ringling Bros. Circus and since going on to tour professionally with various vaudeville and circus acts. The Brooklyn resident says the recent clown paranoia has his colleagues on edge. "I think it's definitely something we're afraid of," Moeller told Gothamist. "There's already an ingrained fear [about clowns], and this is going to make matters worse." Moeller says he hasn't lost any work yet, but he's already seeing a negative impact from the menacing clown threats.

"I went back to Cincinnati to visit some folks, and I posted about it on Facebook," he said. "Everyone knows I do clowning, I post pictures of myself as a clown, and people know my history. But as soon I posted, people were instantly commenting, 'Really? You're admitting you're going back to the city knowing what's happening?' I mean, I'm not coming in clownface."

Professional clowns are apparently so concerned about the clown threats, they've taken to social media to advertise that real clowns do no harm. The World Clown Association has condemned the clown hoaxes:

We understand that some people enjoy the "horror genre" of entertainment, but we find that many people are confronted by images of horror characters (impersonating clowns)and are startled by them...which is obviously the goal of these horror characters. In my opinion, these horror characters are not clowns.

Just as a Haunted House event may have a "doctor" wearing surgical gear, carrying a bloody chainsaw, people need to understand that this character is NOT a real doctor. He is a person portraying an evil character in order to scare people. In the same way, people dressed as horror clowns are not "real clowns." They are taking something innocent and wholesome and perverting it to create fear in their audience.

And in Tuscon, Arizona, a group of clowns have organized a regrettably named "Clown Lives Matter" march that's set to take place next Wednesday. Attendees are encouraged to show up in full clown makeup and outfit. “This is a peaceful way to show clowns are not psycho killers,” a flyer for the march reads. “We want the public to feel safe, and not be afraid. So come out, bring the family, meet a clown and get a hug!"

Other clown-awareness hashtags include #RealClownsAreAboutLove and #ClownSpotting.

"A couple people I know have started trying to get these hashtags trending, and to get people to post pictures and stories about good experiences they've had [as clowns]," Archie Cobblepot, who's been performing as a clown in the tri-state area for the better half of a decade, told Gothamist. "As a clown what we do is really selfless, we don't care about our wellbeing, we don't care if we get hurt. We want people to be happy and to laugh and enjoy themselves. The idea is to help out other people."

Cobblepot pointed out, among other community programs, the large number of hospital clown programs designed to use humor therapy to help sick children, and said that the clown hoaxes were "tarnishing any good name" clowns had left. Indeed, according to Cobblepot, the bulk majority of people aren't even afraid of clowns, though some people do harbor legitimate coulrophobia.

"The majority of it is people thinking it's cool to say clowns are creepy, and some parents that have bad thoughts about what clowns are," Cobblepot said, noting that stories about clown serial killers like John Wayne Gacy have created serious clown-related fear. "But you'll never see an actual clown approach someone with that sort of apprehension. A clown is never going to force anything on them."

Meanwhile, recent bans on clown costumes and threats of violence against people dressed as clowns is causing even more unease in the clowning community. Moeller says it hasn't affected him yet, though he keeps his profession low-profile in public. "If I do a gig, I won't walk down the street and hop on the subway in clown makeup. I'm just asking for it anyway if I do that," he said.

Cobblepot said he was "a little scared" of the anti-clown atmosphere. "I haven't received any [threats] directly myself, but a friend of mine had to turn down a clown gig because he didn't feel safe," he told Gothamist. But he has no plans to hang up his red nose just yet. "I'm not going to turn anything away. If we do that, the terrorists win."