Police can't find evidence clown-luring tales were real.

North Carolina Police Arrest Man for Making Up Clown-Luring Tale

North Carolina Police Arrest Man for Making Up Clown-Luring Tale

The Slatest
Your News Companion
Sept. 11 2016 11:20 AM

Police Can’t Find Evidence of Clown-Luring Tales, Arrest Man for Making Up Sighting

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Clowns arrive ahead of the 70th anniversary Clown Church Service at All Saints Church in Haggerston on February 7, 2016 in London, England.

Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

It’s been several weeks since stories first started surfacing of creepy clown sightings with some witnesses saying they were trying to lure children into the woods. But so far, police have found no evidence that any of the reports were real. And on Friday, police in Winston-Salem, North Carolina made it clear they’re not going to take false reports of clown sightings sitting down. Police arrested 24-year-old David Armstrong after he admitted that the creepy tale of an ominous clown tapping on his window in the early hours of the morning had been entirely made up. Armstrong’s court date is Monday.

Armstrong’s arrest came shortly after Winston-Salem police said a separate report of a clown trying to lure kids into the woods was also false. They examined surveillance footage and didn’t find any evidence of someone dressed as a clown trying to get kids to go into the woods. There are still other reported sightings being investigated but no evidence has been found so far.

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The creepy-clown sightings began in late August in Greenville, South Carolina and then spread to Winston-Salem and Greensboro, North Carolina. “We’re still investigating to see what the actual purpose is, whether it’s for ill intent or if it’s a prank,” a Greenville police spokesman said, adding the sightings are still classified as suspicious activity.  

The alleged sightings have led to national and international news coverage and even horror master Stephen King weighed in on the whole thing, saying tales of supernatural beings who lurk in the shadow are a recurring thing. “I suspect it’s a kind of low-level hysteria, like Slender Man, or the so-called Bunny Man, who purportedly lurked in Fairfax County, Virginia, wearing a white hood with long ears and attacking people with a hatchet or an axe,” King told the Bangor Daily News. “The clown furor will pass, as these things do, but it will come back, because under the right circumstances, clowns really can be terrifying.” Even as he dismissed the sightings, King recognized he wouldn’t want to run into a clown in the wrong circumstances: “If I saw a clown lurking under a lonely bridge (or peering up at me from a sewer grate, with or without balloons), I’d be scared, too.”

Considering none of the clowns allegedly terrifying communities have been located, psychologists had been saying since the beginning that it was likely all a case of low-level public hysteria as fears begin to spread. “Sometimes this can create a ‘mass hysteria’ as perceived problems, such as presumed rashes, spread throughout a population,” a psychology professor told the New York Times recently.

Daniel Politi has been contributing to Slate since 2004 and wrote the Today’s Papers column from 2006 to 2009. Follow him on Twitter.