Creepy clown trend spread outside of the United States
There is little doubt that the "creepy clowns" craze sweeping across the UK should not be laughed at.
Police have repeatedly called on these pranksters in disguise to stop scaring children or they could face arrests and possible criminal prosecution. Several clown-related incidents across the UK have left people — children in particular — scared, anxious and intimidated.
Now, Childline — a 24-hour counselling service for children — said it has received 120 calls in the past week from children terrorised by pranksters dressed up as creepy clowns.
A quarter of the callers were under 11. The majority came from Birmingham, Manchester and Nottingham.
A 14-year-old described being chased by a clown while walking with his brother. "My little brother has not stopped crying, and I am really worried about him," he told the helpline.
Another serious case involved a 10-year-old boy in Plymouth being chased by a clown with a hammer. A 11-year-old in Workington, Cumbria, was also chased by an axe-wielding prankster.
Concerned parents have shared their stories of creepy clowns scaring their children on Facebook. They were commenting on a post of a woman who published a picture of a boy who had been injured in a clown-related attack:
Children have also been targeted online. In one instance a 13-year-old girl was messaged on Instagram from someone posing as a clown who threatened to cut her throat and rape her.
"People getting dressed up as 'creepy clowns' and frightening children should take a long hard look at themselves," Jon Cameron, NSPCC head of helplines, said.
"Clowns are meant to make children laugh but these people are abusing this idea and turning it into something twisted and warped."
"Increasing reports that these 'clowns' are not simply seeking to frighten children but using them to intimidate, commit crimes, abuse or bully are deeply worrying and this trend needs to be stamped out."
This is the advice released by Childline on what to do if you see a creepy clown:
Talk to a parent or a teacher or trusted adult
Contact the police if they are threatened by a creepy clown in the street
Call Childline if they want to discuss their worries or get advice and support
Block and report abusive messages from people posing as clowns on social media
Schools are also releasing guidelines for headteachers on how to deal with these kinds of incidents.