Clowns seem to have a category all their own in the Fortean World of High Strangeness. The latest: clowns freaking people out in Greenville. Understandably, the authorities are not amused. And as much as I detest clowns, and understand the communities' ire, since when is it against the law to dress like a clown? Isn't that unconstitutional or something? The response of the police is as Fortean as the rest of this weirdness.
Addressing the incidents at a media conference Thursday, Greenville Police Chief Ken Miller said officers will arrest and charge anyone dressed up as a clown.It's unknown why people are dressing like clowns, standing silently while staring at people. Fears about child napping clowns abound.
"It's illegal. It's dangerous. It's inappropriate, and it's creating community concern so it needs to stop," Miller said. Source: Greenville Online.
It may seem odd that that the police are threatening arrest of those in clown costume, it's a law on their books:
According to South Carolina state law, no one over the age of 16 can appear in public wearing a mask "or other device which concealed his identity." The statute makes exceptions for people whose trade or employment involves wearing a mask. There's also a city of Greenville ordinance that prohibits "molesting, disturbing or following persons." (Greenville Online.)The anti-mask wearing law still seems unconstitutional, and the part about "…following persons" seems subjective.
Laws aside, it is unnerving -- I wouldn't want to come across some creepy clown standing around, wordlessly staring at me -- but far more disturbing is the affect on children. The following is from Cleveland's Fox 8 news:
Deputies confirmed Monday they were called to the apartment complex on Aug. 21 to investigate after residents reported seeing “a suspicious character, dressed in circus clown attire and white face paint, enticing kids to follow him/her into the woods.”
Investigative reports state police met with a mother, whose name was redacted, who witnessed the clowns in the woods after her son notified her of their presence. The woman told deputies the clowns were shining green laser lights in the woods.
Another resident also reported seeing a “large-figured clown with a blinking nose” standing under a streetlight near the trash dumpsters.
Deputies spoke with children who told them clowns tried “to persuade them into the woods further by displaying large amounts of money.”
The Greenville clown scare is only the latest in a wealth of historical clown strangeness. All you have to do is Google something like "clowns Fortean" and all kinds of items come up. The first one being a 2007 blog entry about a Fortean Times article on clown appearances by, of all people, debunker Benjamin Radford. Which only adds to the high strangeness factor.