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By Kyle O'Brien, Creative Works Editor

October 12, 2016 | 4 min read

Clowns are all over the news lately, and that’s really bad news for those who actually earn a living by clowning around.

The creepy clown wave is washing over the nation, and considering the negative hype those donning disturbing masks and colorful outfits have had over populations from Oregon to Massachusetts, the UK to Brazil and Australia, real clowns are honked off and clowning in general has taken a hit.

The creepy clown hysteria purportedly started in South Carolina in late August, where children in Greenville County claimed to have been approached by clowns that tried to lure them into the woods. That launched a raft of social media claims of creepy clowns being everywhere and copycat clowners who dressed up and tried to scare others. College campuses have been particularly targeted by these big-shoed bullies, with clowns being spotted at the University of Miami, University of Pennsylvania, University of Pennsylvania, University of Connecticut, Penn State and many other campuses.

There have been multiple arrests around the nation, including clowns and those making false reports or threats and chasing people. Some schools have even been shut down because of the mass hysteria.

And all of it has been bad for real clowns – those who actually entertain children.

The Deseret News in Salt Lake City reported that local clowns have been on the wrong side of the hype. The paper said that Jeffrey Hansen, who works as JubJub the Clown, received 10 to 15 calls in one week but most were from kids asking if he was one of the killer clowns. Hansen, who usually books 8-10 shows in a month, has none since the craze started.

“They’re associating us with these idiots who are walking around with these masks on their face with professional clowns,” Tom Butte, who performs with his wife as Sammy T and Sunshine the Clown.

Even Ronald McDonald is not immune to the phenomenon. The BBC reported that the fast food giant is limiting appearances by its clown mascot.

"McDonald's and franchisees in local markets are mindful of the current climate around clown sightings in communities and as such are being thoughtful with respect to Ronald McDonald's participation in community events for the time being," a statement said.

WFMY in North Carolina reported on a couple, Joseph and Lisa Brown, known as Jazz and Jojo, who have made clowning a part of their livelihood but are thinking of giving it up because of the negative publicity.

“What would we run into?” asked Joseph Brown in the story. “Would we be pulled over by the sheriff or police? Would we be chased down by somebody?”

It’s a legitimate question, considering there have been bands of “search parties” – vigilantes – at Penn State, Belmont University and other places searching for clown pranksters with the intent on beating the red noses off of them.

But some clowns are fighting back through heavily makeuped activism. A “Clown Lives Matter” march is being planned on October 15 in Tucson, Arizona. People are invited to show up wearing full clown regalia and makeup. "This is a peaceful way to show clowns are not psycho killers. We want the public to feel safe, and not be afraid. So come out, bring the family, meet a clown and get a hug!" said a flyer for the event. There is even a #ClownLivesMatter trend on social media.

Trying to make light of the situation, the Dartmouth, Massachusetts police department made a video PSA to try to discourage people from dressing up in clown suits and menacing the public. It shows an officer pulling up to a man in a clown suit and asking him if he is harassing people. When the clown becomes cagey and says, “what are you going to do about it?” more cops get out of the car, a la circus clown style, and surround the offending clown. The message after states that anyone caught in a clown suit with the intent to harass may be arrested.

The end of the Halloween season may mean that things will go back to a semi-normal state with no wannabe Pennywise or Twisty anywhere to be seen, but for now, the hysteria is real and very much a threat to the clowning industry.

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