Lately, I’ve been shocked to see a common thread coming across my Facebook feed. Is it a crazy new recipe for pumpkin pie? Nope, “Creepy Clown” concerns. My friends all over the country are complaining on Facebook because schools are allowing excused absences due to creepy clown fear.

Then it hit home. I got a text from my kid’s school reporting they’re working with local authorities in response to said clown fears. Before I knew it, my phone was blowing up with text messages asking my opinion about keeping kids home from school.

If you don’t have school aged kids you may not be aware of this modern day urban legend. Generally, around the country kids are reporting to have information on either perceived or real threats to school from people dressed as creepy clowns. Social media has helped to make this story go viral.

It seems from my research the craziness started in Greenville, South Carolina. In August 2016, kids reported scary clowns were trying to lure them into the woods after dark. That’s all it took.

If you’re a Gen X’er like me this may sound familiar. Growing up in the 80’s (ahhh…the good ‘ol days) this same kind of hysteria started in Massachusetts. Back then a group of kids reported they were chased by phantom clowns. You might also recall the movie “It” by Stephen King that seriously freaked us all out. I can track my own fear of clowns back to that movie and maybe Poltergeist.

So, why does this kind of a story grow wings and fly? Our human love for a good story. The idea of scary clowns emerging near Halloween is both scary and exciting. The same reason ghost stories have been passed down for generations.

But what makes our current situation a little even scarier, is the emergence of school shootings. Back in the 80’s when we were growing up, it really was just a story. We could’ve never  imagined when we grew up there would be such a thing as an active school shooter resulting in mass casualties. But that’s our new reality.

Are there actually people dressing up like clowns to scare people? Yep, a few. For the most part, it’s just an urban legend, but recently there have been a few complete idiots actually trying to scare people.

So why are these knuckleheads doing this in the first place?

They’re idiots. In law enforcement, we used to say “we only catch the dumb ones.” This is a perfect illustration.

These same people haven’t taken into account their own safety.

Mobs of people (especially at college campuses) have formed groups to chase down creepy clowns. The video made me think of the Salem Witch trials with people in the streets wielding pitchforks and torches. Just replace the pitchforks with baseball bats and the torches with cell phone flashlights. Eventually, someone will get hurt.

Could it be a viral marketing campaign? Yep.

I haven’t found a company connected to the craziness yet. But I won’t be surprised when some person creates a name for him or herself on YouTube, SnapChat etc., by posting creepy clown videos. Alternatively, I’m sure costume companies have a lot to gain by the continued fascination with scary clown costumes.

I’ve been told there is an “It” sequel in the works. I hope movie producers wouldn’t prey on the fear of parents as a means to publicize a movie but I also wouldn’t put anything past Hollywood.

Worst case scenario, a true criminal utilizes the current climate to actually hurt someone. Could that actually happen? Sure. Which is why, unfortunately, law enforcement is having to waste so much time and effort responding to these concerns. Especially in schools. Back in the 80’s, it was probably a little easier for police departments to brush off scared kids and parents. But now when some of our worst fears have actually come true in the not so distant past, all threats (perceived or real) must be taken seriously.

Ultimately, I can’t tell you whether you should keep your kid home from school if you get a notification about a possible clown threat. Every family will need to make that decision on their own.

Just like you, the fear of school shootings has the potential to paralyze me every day. But instead, I have faith that the schools are more prepared now than they’ve ever been.

Our kids have practiced what to do in the event of an active shooter, just like they have practiced what to do in the event of a tornado or earthquake.

Bottom line, I’m still sending my kids to school. This makes me not very popular in our home.

I did suggest if they would like to stay home and work on a home project such as cleaning the toilets or picking up dog poop, I could probably make that happen. So far, no takers.

I hope this helps ease your fears a bit.

In a few weeks, I’ll fill you in on some general Halloween safety suggestions.

What safety concerns are you hearing about online? Anything you want to learn more about? Send me an email or contact me on social media. I would love to help!

Until next time…

Stay safe,


By | 2017-05-12T11:49:35+00:00 October 12th, 2016|Safety|0 Comments

About the Author:

After 14 years of interrogating predators as a Special Agent with the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS), Heather Ryan founded Safe in the City. Now she travels the country spilling the bad guy’s secrets. Heather speaks to corporations, universities, and women’s groups about intuitive leadership, teamwork, sexual assault prevention and social media safety. Visit her website at to learn how she can help empower members of your organization to become strong, self-assured leaders.

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