GREENVILLE, S.C. -- Police in northern South Carolina are increasing patrols and urging the public to be vigilant after aBut so far they haven’t been able to substantiate any of the reports, officials said Thursday.
“The clowning around needs to stop,” said Greenville police chief Ken Miller at a press conference Thursday. “It’s illegal, it’s dangerous, it’s inappropriate, it’s creating community concern.”
The first in what would become a string of bizarre incidents was reported Aug. 21, when a citizen saw what a police report described as a “suspicious character ... dressed in circus clown attire and white face paint, enticing kids to follow him/her into the woods.”
A woman told a responding deputy that her son had “seen clowns in the woods whispering and making strange noises,” according to the report, which was obtained by 48 Hours’ Crimesider.
She said the boy led her to where he saw the clowns, and then she also saw them “flashing green laser lights” before they ran away into the woods, according to the report. Around that same time, the woman’s older son reported hearing “chains and banging on the front door” of their residence.”
Investigators responded, but turned up nothing.
“They were not able to substantiate those claims through any kind of evidence at that time, and have not,” Greenville County Sheriff’s Office Master Deputy Ryan Flood said Thursday.
Since then, more reports of clown sightings have cropped up, and police and sheriff’s officials have tallied six in Greenville city and county combined. Several children in the area told police clowns had displayed “large amounts of money” in an attempt to lure them into the woods. The children said they believed the clowns lived in “a house located near a pond at the end of a man-made trail in the woods,” according to the police report.
But police have said they’ve located that house, and found it to be abandoned – with no evidence that anyone was occupying it. Flood said Thursday that police can’t find any evidence such as clothing, footprints or surveillance video to offer up clues.
Most recently, a woman said she was doing her laundry Wednesday evening when she saw a clown standing outside she described as wearing a white swimmer’s cap with neon or red hair coming out of the sides, and white face paint with a black painted line starting between his eyebrows and ending at his upper lip, according to CBS affiliate WSPA.
She said he was wearing a gray long sleeve tee shirt, white gloves and “balloon pants.” The clown didn’t approach her, and she notified her apartment manager.
Miller said the clowns are “striking fear” in the community. He’s not sure whether the sightings are the result of only one or two people, or whether it’s a group “doing it either for fun or for gags for kicks.” But he warned whoever is responsible could be prosecuted under a city disturbance ordinance.
“We want to encourage anyone who may be inclined to dress in clown outfits, not to do it,” Miller said.
Flood urged residents to remain vigilant and to call 911 “if you see anything suspicious, anyone dressed up in a clown costume.”
He also urged anyone who spots the mysterious clowns to try to get photos or video footage and turn them over to the police.