Clown concerns grow in Fort Collins as Halloween approaches

Rachel Saurer

Though authorities have received little reports of clown sightings, Colorado State University student remain wary as Halloween approaches.

The CSU Police Department has not received any reports or incidents on campus involving clowns in the past few weeks, said Dell Rae Ciaravola, Risk and Public Safety Communications Manager for the CSU Police Department.

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According to Colorado police reports, threats on social media and clown sightings have appeared in Denver, Larimer County, Adams County, Jefferson County, Mesa County and Weld County since September.

Photo courtesy of Graeme Maclean.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evil_clown#/media/File:Scary_clown.jpg
The idea of clowns started with Joseph Grimaldi in the 1800s. He was a performer who would wear crazy costumes, a lot of makeup on his face and a blue Mohawk. He specialized in comical acts, but he had a very dark life. His father was tyrannical, his wife died during childbirth, his son was an alcoholic clown and died at a young age, and Joseph Grimaldi’s slapstick acts eventually caused him to become disabled. However, Charles Dickens, who edited Grimadli’s works, was responsible for inventing the scary clown who took the memoirs and twisted them to show the dark side of the clowns. (Photo courtesy of Graeme Maclean.)

In the last week, however, Sergeant Laura Lunsford, School Resource Officer for the Fort Collins Police Services, said she has not had any reports of clown sightings or threats at schools, but this does not mean that they have not been spotted in the streets.

Dustin Weir, with the Fort Collins Police Department, said that there have not been reports on clowns being spotted in Fort Collins within the past few weeks and he personally has not seen any.

However, CSU students said they have heard of clown sightings on campus and the hoax across northern Colorado made them uncomfortable to walk home at night.

Brooke Hernandez, a Freshman at CSU, said that she hates clowns and thinks they’re terrifying.

“When the clown thing was super intense, for those few weeks, I was so scared walking in the dark by myself,” said Brook Hernandez, freshman sociology major. “I felt like there could be clowns anywhere.”

Hernandez said that some of her friends saw clowns on campus.

“I know that some people saw a clown outside the doors of Parmelee one night at like 10 or 11 p.m.,” Hernandez said.

Another freshman, Michaela Kelley, said that she is afraid of walking home alone in the dark since the clown reports started.

“Walking home at night really freaks me out now,” Kelley said. “I’ve always been scared walking around at night, but now I legitimately try to avoid it as much as possible. This clown thing going on is actually so scary, and I don’t know how I would react if I actually saw one of them in person.”

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Kelley said that some of her friends on campus had seen a clown recently.

“One of my friends did tell me she saw (a clown) as she was walking one night a couple weeks ago with her friends,” Kelley said. “But, she just said they all got scared and ran away, and the clown didn’t bother them. She said that it was just walking down the sidewalk near Allison Hall.”

Weir said advises people to use their best judgement if they happen to spot a clown.

“There is nothing inherently illegal about dressing up as a clown,” Weir said. “If you happen to see a clown, use good judgement.”

Weir, a former student at Colorado State University, said that in the instance that you see a clown and you feel uncomfortable, you can call the police nonemergency line. However, if the clown is behaving strangely and may be armed, call the emergency line. Weir encouraged CSU students to use the safe walk if you are feeling nervous about the clown sightings.

Michael Rairdon, sergeant at the Larimer County Sheriff Department, blames social media for the clown hype.

“Social media is good for keeping everyone connected,” Rairdon said. “But, it has a bad side too. Would all of this clown stuff have happened if we didn’t have social media? I don’t know. It’s entirely possible.”

Due to the clown hype, some stores have stopped selling clown costumes. Target has pulled clown-related costumes from their shelves and limited the number of costumes they sell online.

“We have made the decision to remove a variety of clown masks from our assortment, both in stores and online,” said Joshua Thomas in an interview with CBS News.

As Halloween approaches, Hernandez expects less people to dress as clowns for the holiday.

“People are probably going to be a lot more sensitive and cautious of clown costumes and I’m sure there will be a lot fewer people dressed as clowns to avoid getting in trouble,” Hernandez said.

However, Kelley said she thinks some people may dress up as clowns because of the hoax.

“I think either clowns are going to play a big role this Halloween or not a role at all, no in between,” Kelley said. “I feel like people will think it’d be hilarious if they dressed up as clowns because of everything that’s going on with them, or they’ll think that it’d be too far because of everything that’s been going on. I am honestly hoping they play no role at all because I will be totally freaked out if I see one.”

Rairdon offered advice for people if they see a clown, based on his experience speaking with a mugger. Rairdon said that if someone was looking down while they walked, the mugger considered them an easy target because they were not aware of their surroundings.

If that person is alert, they are more of a threat to the assailant, or to someone dressed as a clown. Raridon said to be aware of surroundings while walking at night.

“What really bothers me about this whole clown situation is that if a group of kids decide to dress up like clowns for any reason … you know, they could get shot,” Rairdon said. “Were they carrying a machete? No. Were they armed with a knife? No.”

Rairdon advised people, especially those walking while using a cell phone, to stop and look around every once in a while.

“Just be aware,” Rairdon said. “Especially now.”

Collegian reporter Rachel Saurer can be reached at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @rachbethsaurer.