— Blaise Gomez (@BlaiseGomez12) October 3, 2016
Less than a week ago, we wondered when the creepy clowns that are terrorizing the nation would creep on up to NYC. The clowns have heard us, for they are always listening, and they are (almost) here: in addition to sightings in Phillipsburg, New Jersey last week, clowns have been spotted upstate and on Long Island, as well as in Pohatcong and Toms River in New Jersey.
There were four reported creepy clown sightings in Phillipsburg last week, including a report of a "jester" brandishing a sword and chasing a child. In Wilson Borough, Pennsylvania, three clowns chased a group of children near an elementary school.
On Long Island Friday, Lindenhurst school officials announced they would be keeping students inside during recess after "several reports" of clown sightings in the area and a "Tweet threatening that Lindenhurst would be the next area targeted by the clowns."
Photos began circulating on Facebook of an armed man dressed as a clown on Saturday. The man appears to be standing on the Hudson Valley Bridge in Newburgh and holding a rifle. According to the Hudson Valley Post, police are investigating the area.
But not all clown spottings are created equal—for every report of a person dressed as a clown threatening to kidnap children, there are plenty of copycat clown pranksters trying to exploit the public's fears.
In Ellenville, police were reportedly investigating reports of a man calling himself "Bubbo Theclown" on Facebook. In a Facebook post, Ellenville PD said there had been false reports of illegal acts being committed by someone in a clown costume.
"To many of us, this is not humorous in any way, and in fact causes unnecessary stress and in some cases, traumatizes the children who are the victims of these attacks," police said.
In Pohatcong, a clown was seen riding on the hood of a hearse. Police were able to track down the teenage boy who donned the costume. The boy's father father told Leigh Valley Live that the costume was a "joke that has gone overboard" because of "so-called clown hunters."
In Toms River, police are investigating several reported clown sightings and increasing security at all schools, but police suggest some of the photos taken of alleged sightings are hoaxes.
"The initial reports seem to stem from an organized movie promotion and have now morphed into copycat reports throughout New Jersey," Toms River PD said on Facebook. "The recent social media posts and threats to schools seem to originate from outside of New Jersey."
During Mayor Bill de Blasio's monthly crime press conference, John Miller, the NYPD's Deputy Commissioner for Counterterrorism and Intelligence, said his office had investigated several clown threats and "found none of these to be credible, and we've tried to avoid falling into the trap of putting extra police protection" in areas where the clowns were reported.
"We're tracking it, but we don't see any real threat here," Miller said. "Our main message is: don't believe the hype, and don't be afraid of the clowns."
Every few years, isolated sightings of creepy (yet possibly harmless?) clowns cause alarm. Two years ago, clowns were spotted roaming Greenwood Cemetery and throughout Staten Island. Although the latest clown epidemic is nothing new, and many of the sightings are hoaxes, some people are (rightfully) afraid of clowns regardless—according to Smithsonian, approximately 2 percent of the adult population has a fear of clowns.
And real-life clowns are outraged by the latest outbreak of hysteria.
"These aren't clowns, they're imposters," Randy Christensen, president of the World Clown Association told the Washington Post.
"If anybody dressed as a police officer to gain someone's trust, but the person wasn't really a police officer and they tried to kidnap a child, they wouldn't say 'Oh, a police officer kidnapped a child," Christensen said in a YouTube video addressing his fellow (real) clowns. "They'd say, 'Somebody impersonating a police officer.' And I think that's a differentiation we need to know."