You are going to think I am making this up, that this is a joke. I am not making it up; it is not a joke. I received this e-mail at 2:03pm on Tuesday from the Auburn University Public Safety & Security Department. This is a straight-up copy and paste job from the e-mail. It is possibly the most amazing thing I have ever received from the campus cops.
From: Auburn University Public Safety & Security
Date: Sep. 20, 2016, 2:03pm
Subject: Rumors of Clowns on Campus
Auburn University Community:
On Monday evening the university and Auburn Police Division received a few reports of people dressed in clown costumes on campus. There were also several social media posts that suggested the same. We have seen similar reports of clown sightings at other universities and towns across the State of Alabama and the Southeast.
Auburn Police officers were on patrol and immediately responded to the areas reported but were unable to locate anyone. Auburn Police will continue to patrol our campus and investigate any suspicious activity. We are not aware of any danger or threat to our campus community.
We also had a report of students walking around looking for people dressed as clowns. For your safety, we strongly encourage you to leave this job to Auburn Police. Please use good judgment and avoid wearing clown masks, as it could be perceived as a hazard or threat to others.
We urge our campus community to be vigilant and always report anything suspicious by dialing 911. If you have information or questions, you can call the Auburn Police Division’s non-emergency number at 334-501-3100.
Another resource that is available to students is the free Rave Guardian app. Features of this app include the ability to send tips and photos to Auburn Police or set a safety timer to allow friends and family to help look out for your safety. Get the app and register with your AU email to maximize the features available.
We would also like to take this opportunity to remind you about the Night Security Shuttle which provides safe on-campus transportation and operates from 6:00 p.m. – 7:00 a.m. (while the Tiger Transit is not running). To request a ride on the security shuttle, please call 334-844-7400. This on-campus service is free to our campus community.
The safety of our students, employees and visitors is our priority and we will continue to do everything possible to keep our campus safe.
Over at Reason‘s Hit and Run blog, here’s Jesse Walker on the Great Clown Panic of 2016 as it comes to higher education and secondary education in Alabama.
The Great Clown Panic of ’16 began in August, you’ll recall, when children at an apartment complex in Greenville, South Carolina, claimed to have spotted some malevolent clowns in the woods, sparking city-wide chatter about clown conspiracies. Before long, the delirium was spreading across the Carolinas. In Winston-Salem, two kids claimed that a clown carrying candy had tried to lure them into the forest; not long after that, in nearby Greensboro, a man called 911 to report a clown, who he then supposedly chased into the woods with a machete. (“Officers responding to the call could not find the clown,” the local News & Record reported.)
The meme had marched into Georgia by mid-September, when two Troup County residents claimed to have seen some clowns trying to lure kids into a van, then confessed that they had made it up and were charged with making a false report. Last week a Georgia girl was arrested for bringing a knife to her middle school. She said she needed it to protect her from the clowns. By then the currents of coulrophobia had flooded into Alabama, where Facebook posts about the clown threat prompted schools across the state to go on lockdown, and where yet more hoaxsters were eventually arrested.
Now the Alabama wave has hit the world of higher education.
Amid this cascade of hoaxes, pranks, and schoolyard rumors—and possibly, at some point, a sighting of an actual professional Bozo on his way to a birthday party—there have been exactly zero confirmed cases of harlequins plotting to kidnap or molest children. But you knew that already.
Meanwhile, in the Lee County high schools, it looks like a teenager, allegedly a young woman at Beauregard High School, used the clown panic to get on social media and make threats of a school shooting, either against Opelika City Schools or against Beauregard High School or against Beauregard Elementary School. The Lee County sheriff said there is no evidence that the threat is
credible, but Beauregard schools announced they’ll be under a
heightened sense of awareness for the rest of the week, which means, more or less, that they’ll be swarming the campus with cops from the sheriff’s office; and Opelika City Schools placed schools on
lockdown yesterday. The sheriffs office announced that they had used tracking technologies to identify, track down and arrest the female student allegedly responsible for the video (
We used technology available to us to identify who she was. –Sheriff Jay Jones.) They will be charging her with felony charges for making
terroristic threats. Meanwhile, people in the newspaper comment threads are more or less overtly threatening to shoot people for wearing clown suits, and newsmedia stories continue to relay reports of an amorphous clowning menace lurking in the shadows of social media and the dark edges of the piney woods:
The Lee County Sheriff's Office isn't the only agency in the area to receive reports of creepy clown threats.
LaGrange police took to Facebook to warn the public about several calls they received Set. 12 about clowns in a van and wooded area trying to talk to children. There were also threats made on Facebook media the previous weekend from "clowns" threatening to commit crimes at LaGrange schools.
Police determined that the threats were not credible. By Friday, they arrested four people who allegedly made "creepy clown" threats toward LaGrange High School.
Two were arrested in Troup County Sept. 14 after falsely reporting creepy clown sightings in Hogansville, Ga.
–Sarah Robinson, Hundreds checked out of Lee County schools following !!!@@e2;20ac;2dc;creepy clown threat'
Columbus Ledger-Enquirer, September 21, 2016
Wednesday afternoon a customer at Walmart on Highway 280 called police to alert them to a person dressed as a clown in the parking lot.
The caller told dispatchers that she saw a male, dressed in a clown costume in an older model red pickup truck with a confederate flag showing in the back.
Officers were dispatched to the parking lot, but found the vehicle empty when they arrived. They backed off and waited for the occupant of the vehicle to return. But when the owner returned, there was no white makeup, no red nose, no rainbow wig and not a single balloon animal. The man wasn't even wearing size 24 red shoes.
After questioning the man for a few minutes, police left and the man went on his way, and was seen dialing a cellphone to tell someone what had just happened.
While this turned out to be nothing, Alexander City Police issued an alert via social media on the subject.
"We have received social media messages in reference to clowns posting threats on social media pages" a post attributed to Deputy Chief Jay Turner reads. "The threats have not been credible and as written in the article it takes a considerable amount of time to investigate the alleged threat.
"The easiest solution is to change your social media security settings and only allow those you know to post on your social media page; this will eliminate receiving posts from these fake profiles being used in this current fad of clown hysteria."
Elsewhere, police are locking people up when they track them down.
After threats were made to schools in Baldwin, Bibb, Calhoun, Escambia, Etowah, Geneva, Jefferson, Mobile and Montgomery counties, there have been several arrests. A 16-year-old from Pleasant Valley, an 18-year-old in West Blocton, 22-year-old Makayla Smith and two juveniles from Flomaton and four Geneva juveniles, three students at Geneva Middle School and one Geneva High School student, have all been arrested and face charges. Several are charged with making terrorist threats.
–Mitch Sneed, Clown sighting at Walmart proves unfounded
Alex City Outlook, September 21, 2016
- If you want some corroboration, here is the Plainsman story issued about “Clown Sightings on Campus” shortly after the e-mail blast was sent out.↩
- Sic. There’s no such thing as a meme. —Ed.↩