There's clown panic in at least one California city. Creepy photos circulating online show someone -- or several someones -- in clown costume hanging out at local landmarks after dark.
The Instagram photos of the "Wasco Clown" are enough to make any coulrophobic break out into a cold sweat. They show someone dressed as a clown, at night, holding balloons in what would be otherwise non-threatening locations in Wasco as well as nearby communities such as Bakersfield and Delano.
The clown bears some resemblance to Pennywise, the evil character at the heart of Stephen King's "It" who was memorably portrayed by Tim Curry in the film of the same name.
Some of the photos posted online include captions which suggest there's more than one clown on the prowl:
In another image, the clown appears to be re-enacting a moment from "Singin' in the Rain," minus the raindrops and plus balloons:
Not everyone is spooked, though.
“Some of the residents go in cars searching for him. They have flashlights and try to spot him in neighborhoods after he posts to Twitter,” Noah Sanchez told local news station KFOR. “It’s kinda fun though to get us in the Halloween spirit and all of us in the community."
At least one person appears to have posed for a clown selfie:
The clown sightings haven't always been benign. Police in Bakersfield told the Los Angeles Times they've had at least 16 reports of clowns holding weapons.
"We've been having sightings all over the city," Bakersfield Police Lt. Jason Matson told Reuters. "They range from anywhere from a guy carrying a gun to a guy carrying a knife running up to houses."
A 14-year-old boy who was arrested on Thursday after dressing up like a clown and scaring children told police he did it because of social media postings he had seen, according to Bakersfieldnow.com.
KERO reports that the teen was booked into juvenile hall.
One local news website claims the Wasco Clown photos are part of an art project from a husband-and-wife team who plan to post new images throughout the month.
Kern Golden Empire says the couple, who wish to remain anonymous, mean no harm and don't condone violence from copycats.
Wasco police told the website they haven't had a criminal clown problem yet.
"I am unaware of any crimes committed by clowns," Wasco Police Sgt. Ian Chandler told the website. "We have had no reports of any assaults by a clown nor have we any arrests of any clowns at any time I have been here and I have been here two years."
In Bakersfield, police were less understanding.
"We will make arrests on this," Bakersfield Police Sgt. Joseph Grubbs told the Los Angeles Times. "We want this to stop."