The Greeley clown threats are almost definitely a hoax, and the larger clown sightings phenomenon is a self-perpetuating way for bored people to get attention
I don’t know how to begin to explain the concept of “clown sightings,” so let’s just start by saying the city of Greeley is in a fairly significant tizzy.
Just about 750 people are now following “Greeley Clown Updates,” many of them apparently seriously discussing the possibility that spooky and/or deadly clowns are haunting about.
“It kinda feels like they’re treating this like dust under the rug…” one woman writes, linking to this summary of the national clown panic that has spread from the Southeast lately.
Another woman says that she was hearing from neighbors and friends about clowns with “guns and machetes,” but it just has not turned out to be true, according to both the poster and the Greeley police.
“I’ll tell you it was quite concerning and a lot of people were terrified,” she notes.
Scared enough, according to reporter Molly Hendrickson, that “half” of Northridge High School was out of school today on clown concerns.
The source of the threat seems to be “Clowny Clock,” a Facebook account that mixes weird clown images, shoutouts to teenage boys and the occasional misspelled threat.
Another student received a message from a clown profile named Sparkles: “Sparkles dont like u bye,” it read, according to the Greeley Tribune.
The Greeley Police Department was forced to respond (on Facebook, of course) that it was investigating but didn’t believe there was a credible threat.
So, why is this happening?
My best theory is that:
a.) Clowns are a particularly potent image, and it’s been clearly established from earlier clown stunts that dressing up as a clown is a great way to get attention.
b.) Teenagers love memes and are easily frightened. When they see a hint of this national trend appearing locally, they share it like crazy.
c.) Adults are forced to respond, especially as threats of violence get involved. (Maybe the clown persona makes it easier to make threats?)
d.) As everything snowballs, rumors start spreading (“guns and machetes”), mass hysteria ensues and media dummies like me pile on.
e.) All this is amplified by the fact that the pranksters can actually put on clown masks and do creepy things. Meanwhile, sadly, we as a nation are absolutely primed for the possibility of mass violence. The clown is just the ugly viral mask for that.
Moral of the story: The internet creates incentives for people to act crazy, and then provides the means by which to discuss it.
Anyway, here’s the strangest quote out of all this, from parent Julie Reed in the Tribune: ““I know the clowns have been popping up in states all over, and they’re not hurting anyone. But it definitely crosses the line when they’re targeting children and messaging them on social media.”