In Brief

'Creepy clowns' spark calls to Childline

Charity joins police in condemning menacing fad after receiving 120 calls in one week

Clown

Childline has become the latest organisation to criticise the growing number of 'creepy clowns', after the charity received 120 calls from frightened children over the past week.

"People getting dressed up as 'creepy clowns' and frightening children should take a long hard look at themselves," A spokesman for the NSPCC, which runs Childline, said.

"Increasing reports that these 'clowns' are not simply seeking to frighten children but using them to intimidate, commit crimes, abuse or bully are deeply worrying and this trend needs to be stamped out."

Callers came from across the country, added the charity, with a quarter of them from children under the age of 11. One child said his little brother was "crying" after being chased by a clown, while a 12-year-old said he had heard there were knife-wielding clowns in his area.

Typically the incidents see pranksters dressed as clowns jumping out and scaring passers-by. The offenders usually wear masks and are sometimes covered in fake blood or brandishing weapons, both real and fake.

Police have been called to an increasing number of incidents of children being frightened by an attack.A clown said to have a knife followed a group of children to school in County Durham, while after-school activities in the Milton Keynes area were suspended after a child was chased down the street.

Hundreds of such episodes took place in the US and Canada over the summer. Police say those scaring people in the UK face arrest.

Infographic by Statista for TheWeek.co.uk

Creepy clown craze spreads to the UK

11 October

Police have issued a warning after a spate of "clown" attacks across the UK, part of a creepy craze that originated in the US and has since gone global.

"We will respond if someone feels threatened and the culprit could end up being arrested and then they won't find it so funny," said Inspector Simon Starns, of Sussex Police.

The attacks see pranksters dressed as clowns, typically wearing masks and sometimes covered in fake blood or carrying weapons, both real and fake, jumping out and scaring local residents.

One of the "most dramatic" incidents occurred last week, when a masked man carrying a knife chased a group of schoolchildren in County Durham, The Guardian reports.

The children were unharmed and police say they believe the man had simply wanted to frighten them.

The trend has been dismissed on social media as "harmless fun", but experts warn it could spiral out of control.

"It's a bit of a joke, a bit of a prank, and they don't realise that it can actually be quite frightening for some people," says psychologist Kirstin Bouse. 

"Then there are others who I think actually enjoy the anonymity that it gives them because it enables them to safely engage in behaviour they want to engage in with less likelihood of getting caught."

Professional clowns have also condemned the craze, saying it threatens their livelihood and their own safety and risks permanently damaging the reputation of the art form.

"This is nothing to do with clowning; it's to do with people hijacking a costume and for some sinister reason trying to scare people," said Rob Bowker, a spokesman for the UK-based Clowns International.

He added that his ten-year-old daughter had asked him to walk her to school on Monday because she was afraid of "scary clowns popping out".

"I have been a clown since before she was born," he said. "Still, she vocalised that she was really scared about it and it's all the talk of the playground. It's really tragic. Look at the harm they are doing."

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