In France, people were optimistic that the nation’s clown problem was behind them. Sadly, this is not the case as new clown-related unrest flared up again in the south of the country over the weekend. Saturday evening was especially tense as multiple clowns were arrested in the town of Agde on the Mediterranean coast. It is not clear if any of the clowns taken into custody were responsible for a spate of recent terror attacks on civilians or whether they were merely copycat clowns.
Police in the town were called upon to respond to a number of complaints regarding armed and menacing clowns. A clown in the nearby city of Montpellier was arrested for assaulting a passer-by with an iron bar and other clowns – or, perhaps, the same one – were said to be terrorizing motorists. The problem is not confined to the south of France, however; in the eastern town of Mulhouse, tensions appear to have been running so high that a small group of teenage vigilantes took to the streets, armed with tear gas, a hammer and other improvised weapons in a bid to protect pedestrians from dangerous clowns.
Other clown activity has been reported in northern France and as far away as the United Kingdom and the United States, where residents of a California town were recently spooked by numerous random sightings of a sinister clown. Further exasperating the situation in the US is the new series of the controversial anti-clown television series American Horror Story: Freak Show, which, according to a complaint from the organization Clowns of America International, unfairly portrays clowns as evil and is contributing to an epidemic of coulrophobia, a near-fatal – but not quite – fear of clowns.
Police in France are attempting to control the growing panic, reassuring the public that the clown situation is not as serious as it seems and may have been driven by nothing more than social network hysteria. “Since mid-October, a rumor inspired by videos published on the internet is worrying the population about the presence of threatening and aggressive clowns in France,” said the police. “Symptomatic of the impact of the internet, this phenomenon can lead to damaging individual acts and disturbances to public order.” The police statement pointed out that there had been “only a few sightings of people dressed as clowns having fun scaring passers-by.” Although the police did not choose to make the point, no known clown-related fatalities have occurred.
Coulrophobia has been on the rise since the 1990’s and there is no known cure. Some estimates say that as many as 12 percent of Americans suffer from it. Washington D.C. is known to have the largest per capita population of clowns in the world. There is no estimate available for the scale of the problem in France. Health experts believe that up to 100 percent of the population of North Korea suffers from a morbid fear of clowns although this figure has been disputed by those who point out that there is only one known clown in the reclusive dictatorship.
In northern France, where clown terror was first reported, the authorities are anxious about public reaction to the incidents. “There is surely some semblance of truth to these reports, but it’s all become clouded,” said a police officer, who wished to remain anonymous because he was talking to the press about clowns. “For some people it’s turned into a phobia. There is an uncontrollable snowball effect here.”
The European Union has no regulations, regarding the wearing of clown costumes in public or the performing of clown-like antics. Despite an abundance of very small cars in Europe, no more than four clowns have ever been seen emerging from one.
Satire by Graham J Noble