The Creepy Clowns of 2016- Scary Michigan Tales and Urban Legends

In the fall of 2016, weird stories of clown sightings swept throughout the country. Bizarre encounters and creepy clowns were reported in at least twenty US states and in over twenty Michigan cities.

Flint had numerous clown sightings.

What started this crazy clown craze? Was it a promotional stunt for a movie? Perhaps marketing for a haunted Halloween attraction?

No one knows.

The earliest clown sighting was in August 2016 in South Carolina. The New York Times reported that children were terrified of clowns trying to lure them into the dark depths of the forest. The sheriff’s department in Greenville County, S.C. confirmed that several adults and children in an apartment complex next to a wooded area said they had been terrorized by people in clown makeup. They were so scared that some residents fired shots into the woods.

For the next couple of months clown sightings were popping up everywhere. By early October the clowns had made their way to Michigan.

Some of the incidents were serious. A Walgreens in Brownstown Township was robbed by an armed clown.

In Sterling Heights a young boy claimed to be cut by a knife-wielding clown. The boy was not seriously hurt and the police did not confirm if a clown was actually involved.

Clown threats forced a Muskegon school into lockdown.

In Roseville two 18-year-old women were arrested after chasing two 14-year-old girls while wearing clown masks. They were charged with disorderly conduct.

A clown masked criminal robbed a hotel in Livonia.

Another masked villain robbed a business in Brownstown Township and two businesses in Ann Arbor.

October 3-7, 2016 was the timeframe for Flint’s most reported clown sightings.

Numerous calls to 911 had people panicking.

On October 4 the Mt Morris Police Department issued a statement on their Facebook Page:

Mt Morris City Police Department
October 4, 2016 ·
Regarding the clown post aimed at Mt Morris and Beecher Schools...the post has been traced back to a former student playing a prank. There is no cause for concern at this time. Should anyone see something or someone of a suspicious nature don't hesitate to report it to 911 so a car can be dispatched to check it out.

Here are some of the 911 Calls from the Flint/Genesee County area:

October 5, 2016 ·
SUSPICIOUS - Walton and Brown - Caller says there is a clown with a black and white face standing at the corner.

October 5, 2016 · Flint, MI ·
Flint- Walton and Brown
Suspicious. Caller said she seen a clown.

October 5, 2016 ·
SUSPICIOUS - (?) Blk of Neff Rd - Near the woods by (?) elementary. Caller’s son said he just seen a clown near the woods.

October 5, 2016 ·
SUSPICIOUS - E side of Linden Rd near (inaudible) caller seen a clown standing by the corn field.

October 5, 2016 ·
SUSPICIOUS - address inaudible - Clown walking in the parking lot behind the church. It has been there for about 15 minutes.

October 6, 2016 ·
Flint- 800 blk Moore
SUSPICIOUS, caller’s 6 year old son said he seen a clown outside.

October 7, 2016 ·
TROUBLE - (?) Blk of 12th St - South Western Academy - 13 y/o F student called her mom and said clowns were chasing the students and no one is being allowed in the auditorium, F is having a panic attack. PD is on scene and have been there since earlier this morning and is advising he is not seeing or hearing anything going on and that he has checked with the principal and they are not aware of anything going on either. Caller would like to speak with PD.

On October 6 my kids’ school district had to issue a letter to parents:

“As you may have seen on both local and national news in the last couple of days, a number of communities across the country are dealing with rumors circulating on social media that are related to “clowns” making vague threats to students and/or school communities. We have been made aware of one incident involving a Flushing student, and while the threat was not found to be credible, we are continuing to work with the Flushing Township Police Department to investigate it thoroughly. We have received calls from a handful of concerned parents throughout the day as false rumors of lockdowns or threats spread. I can assure you that student safety is our first priority, and that there has not been any reason to have our buildings in lockdown today.”

After similar events occurred in the Boston area in the 1980s, Loren Coleman, a cryptozoologist, came up with something called "The Phantom Clown Theory." This theory attributes the clown sightings to mass hysteria. But why would clowns spark mass hysteria?

Rami Nader is a Canadian psychologist who studies coulrophobia- the irrational fear of clowns. He believes clown phobias are “fueled by the fact that clowns wear makeup and disguises that hide their true identities and feelings.”

Fear of clowns is certainly nothing new nor is the evil clown trope.

Bad Clowns by Benjamin Radford, traces how clowns evolved throughout history into unpredictable, menacing creatures.

In the 1970s the connection between clowns and psychopathic killers was pushed into the collective unconscious of Americans thanks to the serial killer John Wayne Gacy, who used to dress up as Pogo the Clown for children’s birthday parties.

Authors, television show, and movie makers continue to play into our clown fears with books, shows, and movies such as Stephen King’s It.

Season Seven of American Horror Story was possibly inspired by the 2016 clown epidemic- it was even set in Michigan.

So were the creepy clown sightings simply a distraction during the emotional election season of 2016?  Or was something more sinister going on?

Did you encounter any creepy clowns in the Fall of 2016?

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