Clown mischief in Waterloo an unfunny nuisance

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Police in the region have had their hands full recently with a rash of suspicious and dangerous activity perpetrated by people wearing clown masks. The last reported incident, occurring in the early hours of Oct. 13, took place near King and Ezra. The clown was seen brandishing a stick and acting suspicious, although no threats were made from the clown. Earlier incidents that involve suspects in clown masks all appear to be focused in the university area with sightings at Albert and Hazel streets, again featuring a person carrying a stick, acting suspicious, and bedecked in a clown mask.

Waterloo Regional Police have addressed the creepy trend, noting that because of a similar sighting in the same area, officers will be conducting extra checks in the future. However, they did advise citizens to use their best judgment on reporting clown sightings. The Waterloo Regional Police’s Twitter account tweeted,“WRPS receiving calls regarding possible clown sightings. Some appear to be hoaxes. Please don’t waste police resources if no real emergency!” on Oct. 16.

UW director of Police Services Dave Gerencser is not fazed by the minor incidents.

“There has been a significant amount of Internet traffic concerning this issue. Much of this is coming out of the United States. We should expect increased sensitivity and attention to the issue leading up to Halloween. I am not aware of any incidents or sightings occurring on campus to date, but UW police will continue to monitor the situation while ensuring a safe environment for our campus community,” Gerencser said.

These strange occurrences seem to be imitating the Internet trend popularized in South Carolina, where people would wear clown masks and try to lure children into forests. The exact cause of why people choose to do this is unknown, but public fear is certainly fuelled by the macabre clown masks and their timely arrival in the month of October.

Students on campus do not seem overly concerned about the reports.

I think a bit of extra surveillance is a good idea, even though most people are probably playing pranks. You can never be too sure and it’s extra sketchy when they’re wearing a mask,” said Natalie Maduri, a third-year Arts and Business student.

There are a number of theories as to why people find clowns extra spooky. One theory proposes that a fear of clowns can develop when people are toddlers. At this point in development, children are sensitive to seeing familiar shapes paired with unfamiliar shapes so seeing a regular body with a contorted, painted face can truly confuse and frighten children.

Those in the anthropology community suggest a theory that is more socially-based: we fear clowns because their face is hidden or obscured. The thought of someone having a level of anonymity from their actions is scary to adults — it reminds us of the unpredictable nature of humans.

Students are reminded to always be aware of their surroundings and to report any suspicious activity to campus police, even if it may be Halloween prank-related.

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