Clowns fear they are getting a bad name after a raft of complaints about impersonators of the circus character scaring people.
Britain’s clowns are concerned their good reputation has been tarnished after police forces revealed the scale of incidents of people in costume scaring members of the public – including a report in Derbyshire of a clown carrying a knife and gun.
A report also came from South Yorkshire of a clown staring through the windows of people’s homes. South Yorkshire Police recorded 28 incidents involving people dressed as clowns which also included a clown standing in a park and jumping out at somebody in the street.
The copycat craze, believed to have been started by a man known on Facebook as the Northampton Clown, involves people dressing as the circus characters to surprise passers-by in public places.
Several police forces have issued warnings after reported sightings and now details released under the Freedom of Information Act have revealed the extent of the trend.
Tony Eldridge, secretary of Clowns International which represents the entertainers in Britain, said the situation had escalated beyond harmless fun.
Mr Eldridge, whose clown name is Bluebottle, said: “This is doing clowning no favours and is harming society. The people behind it might see it as a bit of a laugh, but for the victims it can be a horrible experience. The fear of clowns – coulrophobia – is a real thing and some people will react very badly to this. Not to mention people who are elderly or vulnerable. This has nothing to do with clowning, it’s a small group of people with stupid views and it spoils the fun for everybody else.”
He added that most legitimate entertainers follow a code of clown conduct which includes not wearing their costume in public.
The trend first emerged when the Northampton Clown rose to prominence over the summer, gaining nearly 200,000 “likes” on Facebook.
Ian Radforth, professional clown and children’s entertainer from Ossett, said: “It is quite damaging to the name of the clown.
“Clowning is about enjoyment and making people smile. When you hear people have been going around scaring and terrorising people, it’s not good.”