The Law Blog of Oklahoma

Killer clown hoax makes its way to Oklahoma

Posted: Tuesday, October 04, 2016

Just in time for Halloween, a "killer clown" hoax that began in South Carolina has spread to numerous other states and into Oklahoma.

The recent rash of "creepy clown" stories began in late August in Greenville, South Carolina, where a child told his mother that he heard clowns whispering in the woods near their apartment complex. Initially, the mother thought her son's clown stories were the product of an overactive imagination, but an older son and other area children seemed to confirm the tales of clowns lurking in the woods, attempting to lure children away with promises of cash or candy.

The clown sightings quickly spread. In Florida, a man took a video of a clown lurking in the bushes, and a woman walking her dog ran home after two clowns began to follow her.

In North Carolina, a woman says a clown with a machete tried to lure her into the woods, and children reported that clowns were leering at them from the woods; two children said the clowns attempted to get them to follow them into the woods in exchange for candy.

Similar tales have come from Pennsylvania, where York College officials sent out a campus safety warning after receiving eight reports of clown sightings. Police in Virgina, Ohio, Wisconsin, and New York have also received clown reports.

Police have made arrests in Alabama, Kentucky, and Virginia for clown related incidents, including seven arrests for terrorist threat in Alabama, when people used Facebook to create profiles using clown names to make threats. Two juveniles face lesser charges in the same incident. 

And now, the killer clown threat has spread to Oklahoma. A Facebook page threatened "killer clown violence" in south Oklahoma City. Local residents have taken to social media to report clown sightings at a park near SW 59 and Western and near U.S. Grant High School. And last night, campus police at Oklahoma State University were inundated with calls about a killer clown on campus after they say a group text rumor spiraled out of control, with the rumor eventually evolving to say that the clown stabbed someone on campus. Both the Oklahoma City Police Department and OSU police say there is nothing credible to support the claims of creepy clowns in the area.

To date, none of the alleged clown sightings--except for the arrests in Alabama, Virginia, and Kentucky (which included two teens dressing up as clowns to chase little kids)--have yielded any credible evidence. 

Some have speculated that the "clown sightings" are a promotional gimmick for the upcoming release of Stephen King's It; however, the studio behind the film have strongly denied the allegation, saying, “New Line is absolutely not involved in the rash of clown sightings.

Creepy clown sightings have been around since at least 1981, and they tend to make a resurgence in the weeks leading up to Halloween. Coulrophobia, or fear of clowns, tends to be exacerbated during this time of year.

For those tempted to dress as a clown and get in on the hysteria, it might be wise to consider the possible outcome. Under Oklahoma law, a person could be arrested for wearing a clown costume to threaten, harass, or intimidate others:

It shall be unlawful for any person in this state to wear a mask, hood or covering, which conceals the identity of the wearer during the commission of a crime or for the purpose of coercion, intimidation or harassment. ( 21 O.S. § 1301)

Of course, misdemeanor conviction may be the least of one's worries if a prankster creepy clown puts a gun-toting coulrophobic in fear of his or her life. If there are threatening clowns lurking in the woods, Oklahoma seems a likely spot for them to get shot.

Image credit: 92KQRS

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