In light of the creepy clown hysteria, the World Clown Association is speaking out and hoping to clear the good name of clowns everywhere. It’s also equipping its members on how to stay safe and acclimate.
Clown hysteria started back in August when local police in Greenville, South Carolina, got a handful of calls about clown sightings. Since then, “creepy clowns”—the moniker given to this craze—have made appearances in more than a dozen states, including Arkansas, Texas, and California. They’ve also materialized in the UK, Canada, Australia, and France.
Police have responded by arresting the creepy clowns, who have frightened people in person and via social media. In early October a pair of Baytown, Texas, teens were arrested for dressing as clowns and chasing people with sticks. Police also arrested a 14-year-old in Fresno, California, who used social media with clown imagery to threaten violence at an area high school.
When unmasked, most of these creepy clowns are turning out to be nothing more than teenage pranksters, but police are fed up—and so are real clowns.
“A person wearing a Halloween mask is not a clown,” said Randy Christensen, president of the World Clown Association, told Associations Now. “The people that are out trying to terrify people—these are just people that bought a Halloween mask and are out trying to scare people. They’re not clowns.”
Later, Christensen told the Detroit Free Press that clowns “are professional performers who visit children in hospital wards … they go to senior homes and they perform for veterans. We have people who do rodeos, circuses, and charity work. Most of them take it up as a hobby.”
But the creepy clown hoax has some WCA members a little worried. “A number of our members aren’t sure what to do,” Christensen told the Detroit Free Press. “There’s a grandma who was about to do a clown show for a first-grader’s birthday party … but now she’s afraid to do the party because she’s getting prank calls from people who are saying they want to hunt her down because she’s a clown.”
The clown perception problem isn’t a new one for WCA. The association, which represents some 2,000 clowns around the globe, has lost about 1,000 members over the last dozen years—some of which is likely due to the trade’s declining popularity. But even though public perception issues around clowns aren’t new, the recent creepy clown frenzy doesn’t help.
“Whoever is doing this crazy stuff is not a clown,” Christensen said in a video address. “This is somebody that is trying to use a good, clean, wholesome art form and then distorting it.”
To help reclaim the good name of clowning, Christensen has been getting the word out about the difference between real clowns and these so-called creepy clowns. To do that, he’s spoken to more than 160 media outlets in just the last week. His team over at WCA is equipping members with practical tips and talking points, which will be printed in the association’s email blasts and bimonthly magazine. In addition, he’s coordinated with WCA regional directors to answer their questions and offer advice, but perhaps Christensen’s biggest advice is that WCA members lead by example.
“Go out and provide a positive image of clowning,” Christensen said in a video address. “Show them what it is really all about. Gain their confidence, make them enjoy it, make them laugh and they will come to realize that not all clowns are a scary-type character.”