An unusual epidemic in the country is fueling both fear and intrigue: scary clowns.
Since August, multiple – mostly unsubstantiated – incidents of people dressed as clowns have been reported in more than two dozen states.
It started in Greenville, South Carolina, where an apartment complex complained about masked figures approaching kinds, trying to lure them into the woods. A few days later, police in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, received a call about someone dressed as a clown trying to do the same. Around the same time, in Greensboro, a machete-wielding man reportedly chased a clown into the woods.
The frenzy spread from North Carolina, to Georgia, Alabama, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Florida, New Jersey, Idaho, Connecticut, Texas, Tennessee and Phoenix.
A majority of the sightings turned out to be either rumors or hoaxes, leading to 12 arrests, according to the New York Times.
Clown-involved social media threats even led a Texas school district on lockdown twice this week.
Despite the fact that it has been nearly three months since the hysteria took off, the mystery behind of these unusual clown sightings is still not known. While some believe it could all be a big hoax, a marketing stunt or another social media fad, others are concerned it could be a legitimate security threat since a lot of the episodes involved children.
"Rumors can have consequences," Benjamin Radford, folklorist and the author of the non-fiction book Bad Clowns told CNN. "This isn't just fun. People are scared, there have been cases where people have become violent. I think the important thing for the public to realize is underneath all of these sensationalized headlines, there isn't any original threat. The real threat is overreaction to the story, not the clowns themselves."