It’s a craze that has left billions of people baffled and has resulted in scores of victims being scared out of their wits.
And it looks like creepy clowns might have hit Halifax. A reader sent this picture to the Courier of a clown he says was spotted in Pellon and warned people to “be careful”.
Dozens of ordeals across Britain have been reported to police, leading to officers from Scotland to Essex to warn that anyone caught clowning around will be arrested.
There have also been sightings of masked clowns at a fast-food restaurant in the Birmingham, lurking in an underpass in Leeds, wearing a blood-stained poncho in Manchester and riding a mobility scooter in Sheffield.
Girls were playing netball at a school in North Shields when a prankster in a red wig and blue jumpsuit scaled the fence and sparked panic.
Creepy Creepy clowns have also been spotted in people’s gardens and peering into their windows.
The so-called “killer clown” craze appears to have been inspired by terrifying pranks in South Carolina, where police first received reports of clowns lurking near launderettes and trying to lure children into the woods.
It is unclear what sparked the craze, although some claim it may be part of a horror movie publicity stunt or an elaborate hoax.
Since then, clowns have sparked thousands of copycats across the US and worldwide, with police in Australia also issuing stern warnings to would-be clowns.
The craze has also angered professional clowns, who work in circuses and as children’s entertainers, and who have said the “idiots” are bringing the “art of clowning” into disrepute.
“It’s incredibly frustrating,” said Rob Bowker, a spokesman for Clowns International, the world’s oldest clown club.
“These people are not clowns. They are just idiots wearing clown costume. It isn’t funny.”
Mr Bowker, who works under the name Bibbledy Bob, added: “Clowning is an art form and it takes years to learn. These people are hijacking the costume and scaring people.
”Children have nothing to fear from real clowns. They only want to make people smile. These people are nothing to do with us.“ Clowns have been around for thousands of years – dating back to the court jesters of Henry VIII and beyond – and were traditionally a vehicle for satire.
The word ”clown“ first appeared when Shakespeare used it to describe foolish characters in his plays.
The now familiar circus clown has its origins in the 19th century. Ann Featherstone, a research fellow in drama at the University of Manchester and an expert in Victorian clowns, said:
”There is a darker side. There have been nasty clowns throughout history.
“There has always been a suspicion about clowns. It’s to do with the grotesque mask and the make up, which emphasises the nose and the mouth and has no expression. We don’t know what clowns are thinking or what they will do next.”
Professional clowns say the “demonisation” of clowns started in the 1980s, when authors and Hollywood movie directors began depicting them as villains in horror stories.
Perhaps the most feared of all fictional clowns is Pennywise, the red haired clown with razor-sharp teeth, who appeared in Stephen King’s 1986 novel It and which was adapted for television in 1990.
One professional clown said the irrational fear of clowns – officially known as coulrophobia – originates from this period and is less seen in today’s children who have not been brought up with these movies.
But a recent survey found that clowns came in first place as the creepiest profession, followed by taxidermists, sex shop owners, funeral directors and taxi drivers.
Freaky Clowns first took on a sinister persona in the 1970s when serial killer John Wayne Gacy, who was known as the Killer Clown because he worked as a clown at children’s parties, murdered 33 young men in Chicago.
The killer clowns show no sign of being vanquished quickly from Britain, with thousands of shops now selling clown masks for Hallowe’en.
Two horror films featuring clowns are being released this year. The hated Pennywise will reappear next year in a movie remake of It.