Panic ensued Sept. 20 when a local Facebook page, Westmoreland County Fire Alerts, posted that there were multiple clown sightings in Greensburg, as well as surrounding areas of Manor, Sewickley, Smithton and Hempfield. The post received over 5,000 shares.
The post has since been disproved and taken down, but immediately rumors flew that the clowns were on Seton Hill University’s (SHU) campus and that students had to call campus police to escort them to their cars.
The Greensburg Police released the following statement regarding the original Facebook post:
“The City of Greensburg Police Department has had no reports of any “clowns” in our area, friendly or otherwise. Apparently, Westmoreland County Fire Alerts FB page indicated “small pockets in Greensburg” to have clown sightings. We can assure everyone we do not have any rogue clowns running around town. Please refrain from possibly tying up our emergency lines in reference to their post.”
Westmoreland County Fire Alerts released an apology and has since deleted both the post and their page off Facebook.
Clown sightings became rampant after multiple reports of clowns attempting to lure children into the woods in South Carolina back in August. Since then, there have been countless copycat sightings along the east coast. Hitting a bit closer to home, a 16-year-old boy was stabbed to death by a man over a dispute involving a clown-like mask in Reading, Pa. in September.
Adding fuel to the flames, many pranksters have created Facebook pages and other social media accounts for local clowns, messaging and harassing people over the already widespread fear. There have been numerous arrests over false claims and unlawful conduct.
From movie stunts to a child wearing a Stephen King “It” mask, these clown sightings have people sitting on edge. It certainly doesn’t help that some of these clowns sighted are waving around knives and guns. It’s important to be smart and to be safe this Halloween.
The fear of clowns is known as coulrophobia. But is everyone really afraid of heavily face painted, colorful kids’ party entertainers, or is there something more sinister here? We’re left to ask ourselves: “Are they really just people playing an elaborate practical joke? Are they just copycat hoaxes? Is there a secret clown cult running amok somewhere?”
Have you seen a clown? Do you know of someone who has? E-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org with your stories.
While the costumed holiday falls on a Monday this year, that won’t stop trick-or-treaters and costume-goers from partying the weekend prior. Here are some tips to have a fun, safe Halloween:
1. Travel in groups. There’s safety in numbers. Use the buddy system, even when going to the bathroom.
2. Bring a flashlight or other reflective device. As the night goes on, it will help you watch your step.
3. Use common sense. If you see something out of the ordinary or something that gives you a bad feeling, get out of there.
4. Whether you’re driving on or off campus, make sure to be super careful and slow. Kids (or college students, for that matter) on candy are unpredictable, and you should keep an eye out for them.
5. If you decide to go for that free candy haul (and who wouldn’t, right?), check your treats before you eat them. Or, if you’re being dragged around by a younger sibling, make sure to check their sweets as well.
6. Trick or treat? This year especially, aim for treat. If pulling an elaborate prank on your friends, be positive that no one will get hurt, emotionally or physically.
Costume shops have seen a huge increase in the sales of clown costumes, but they are also warning customers to make safe decisions. And if you’re thinking of dressing up as a clown for Halloween and running around Greensburg just for a laugh, it is strongly recommended not to do so for fear of getting hurt.