Police in the US city of Pittsburgh are looking into reports on social media and public complaints about “clowns” acting suspiciously.
It is unclear if the people dressing like clowns are pranksters just having a laugh or if they are up to something more sinister. Real clowns are irritated by the impersonators.
A number of US states have seen reports of suspicious clown-related activity.
Authorities in Greenville, South Carolina, were among the first to report such an incident in recent weeks. Late last month some children reported that clowns had offered them money to go into the woods.
Law enforcement officials said they could find no evidence of such activities.
However, since then, people in Alabama, Georgia, Maryland, North Carolina and now, Pennsylvania, have reported scary or suspicious encounters with people dressed like clowns.
Some of the reported sightings have been shown to be hoaxes but others have resulted in criminal charges.
A woman in Escambia County, Alabama, was last week arrested along with two underage suspects after a school was placed on lockdown following threats against students on social media accounts named Flomo Klown and Shoota Cllown.
In Athens, Georgia, an 11-year-old girl was arrested for taking a knife to school because she was frightened by social media reports that clowns were preparing to attack children.
Police seem to be taking the reports seriously but being careful not to stir up too much public fear.
Pottsville Police Chief Richard Wojciechowsky said there was a clown-related incident reported on Monday evening about 90 miles northwest of Philadelphia – but there was no cause for alrm
“Two knuckleheads with clown-like clothes on hopped out of a pickup truck and yelled at a group of young children and teenagers,” he said.
“It wasn’t a physical threat or a violent act. At best, (it’s) a misguided juvenile prank. Some of the older kids weren’t even frightened.”
Pennsylvania State Police trooper Adam Reed said citizens should “not confront the individual but rather gather information and report it to your local police”.
Tricia Manuel, owner of Mooseburger Clown Arts Camp in Buffalo, Minnesota, a camp which trains about 100 clowns a year is outraged.
She said: “When people report these things it should be ‘someone dressed like a clown’, a real clown would never dress or do anything to scare anyone.”
She said the reports have been bad for business.
“In South Carolina, two of the clowns were afraid to go out and perform, and they’re two of my customers. If they don’t perform, they don’t need supplies,” she said.
She said public perception of clowns has gone downhill since Stephen King’s 1986 novel It about a child-killing clown became a TV mini-series.
It’s unlikely she will be happy about a new film based on the novel coming out next year.