Those of a coulrophobic disposition are advised to look away now: a creepy and anonymous clown has been terrifying residents of Northampton by standing around on street corners and staring at passers-by.
The clown, who bears a striking resemblance to Pennywise from the 1990 film It, adapted from the Stephen King novel of the same name, first appeared on Friday 13th and was spotted again over the weekend.
According to the Northampton Herald and Post the clown has appeared in several locations in the Abington and Kingsley areas of the town. On each sighting, he or she has worn the same white face makeup, red wig, all-in-one suit and oversized bowtie.
He is also sometimes seen carrying a clown teddy.
The newspaper also reports that the clown knocked on someone's door and offered to paint their window sills despite having no painting equipment. She reported the men to police for their suspicious behaviour stating they looked like clowns. The article stated: “A number of sightings of people dressed as clowns have also been reported across Northampton in recent weeks”.
The newspaper reported: "He doesn't juggle. He doesn't twist balloons into animal shapes. He just stares."
Reactions on a Facebook page with close to 40,000 likes that purports to represent the clown have been mixed. One user posted: “I think what you are doing in the town oft known as 'Nothing-happening-ton' is marvellous! Great to see some creativity & mystery too. I'm very glad to hear it isn't promoting anything either. Random art for all, carry on, please.”
However, many messages have expressed anger at the clown for scaring people, with one user writing: "You've been spotted now get out of the clown suit and start acting like a grown up that you supposing are and stop scaring people as some people do have real fears of clowns and you are terrorising them despite what you may say." Others have threatened violence should they see the clown.
He has also been forced to deny via his Facebook page that he had been carrying a knife after false rumours spread on social networks.
On his Facebook site, entitled 'Spot Northampton's Clown', he posted yesterday: “Too much hate not enough love. No, i don't have a knife on me!, thats just stupid rumours spread by stupid people. I'm also 'not' on twitter as it confuses the heck out of me.
“However, i might go for a jog around that pond in Abington park later as i'm really unfit... See you around! Beep Beep!”
Despite a largely negative reaction some people have embraced the presence of the mystery clown.
Jay Gould wrote on his Facebook page: “Poor clown just trying to liven up Northampton and people threatening to hurt him.”
Alex Wynick wrote on Twitter: "Genuinely do not understand the fear of the Northampton Clown. It's just a guy with too much time on his hands."
The sightings of the clown have prompted the Twitter hashtag #northamptonclown which is being used to speculate on reasons for the clown's appearance - with some suggesting it could be part of publicity stunt.
Speaking to the local paper, a spokesperson for Northamptonshire Police said on Monday: "We can confirm that we have neither arrested nor dealt with any crimes involving anyone dressed as a clown.”
There is some speculation that the clown has been unmasked, with the discovery of a video on Youtube titled “The Local Clown - A Short Mocumentary”, starring a man - believed to be a local actor named William Unwin – roaming around the city centre in a similar outfit. However, this connection has been denied on the clown’s Facebook page.
It seems though that the negative feedback is getting to whoever is behind the mask. At the time of going to press, the most recent post on the Facebook page read: “If what i am doing does get too much for people, I will have to stop.”
Coulrophobia: The fear of clowns
An irrational fear of clowns has come to be known as as coulrophobia. The prefix "coulro" comes from the ancient Greek word for "one who walks on stilts."
Symptoms include feelings of dread, increased heartbeat, sweating, nausea and anger.
A University of Sheffield study from 2008 found that out of 250 children aged four to 16 images of a clown were widely disliked. The researchers said clowns were "universally disliked by children" and that "some found them quite frightening and unknowable."
Perhaps the most famous killer clown was the child murdering monster Pennywise from the 1990 television movie IT. However the killer clown has been a regular feature of several horror films including Clownhouse, Mr Jingles and 2004's In Fear of Clowns.
The genre also includes the 1988 classic 'Killer Klowns from Outer Space', which had the tagline: "In Space No One Can Eat Ice Cream".