• France's news in English

Fear of 'armed clowns' grips northern France

Joshua Melvin · 17 Oct 2014, 17:36

Published: 17 Oct 2014 17:36 GMT+02:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit


Just like in the UK and the US, clowns in France have a surprising capacity to freak out even the most rational of people and this week they have been busier than usual.

Between Monday and Wednesday students in the suburbs around the town of Douai, northern France, near the border with Belgium, reported three not very comic incidents in the area involving clowns.

Armed clowns on the loose?

It all started in the town of Sin-le-Noble on Monday when a girl told police she was chased by an armed person in a clown costume. Next on Tuesday in Lambres-lez-Douai a middle school student said she was attacked by a clown.

Finally on Wednesday in Flers-en-Escrebieux a student said he was threatened by a clown with a knife near a primary school.

No one has been arrested, though police did pick up a homeless man for questioning. The man happens to wears a black wig and red clown nose in order to set himself apart from other homeless people.

Local cops have an explanation for the trend, but their theory has little to do with killer clowns.

“There is surely some semblance of truth to these reports, but it’s all become clouded,” an unnamed police officer told French daily La Voix du Nord. “For some people it’s turned into a phobia. One mother even asked us if she should keep her kids in school. There is an uncontrollable snowball effect here." 

He added: "It’s difficult to fight against something that maybe doesn’t exist.”

Social media

In an example of fear starting to do funny things to people, a mother called the local France TV station and reported clowns with fake guns had appeared in front of her kid’s school during recess.

The TV reporters checked with the school and guess what they learned?

“We haven’t seen any clowns, a lot of students were anxious, we had to reassure some of them,” the school principal told France TV. “This phenomenon of rumors has more of an effect on young people. Two parents even called us to find out if school entrances were secured.”

There's a pretty simple explanation for where the panic over armed clown might be coming from.

A quick check of Twitter reveals scores of tweets from young people in France on the subject of armed clowns. While there are plenty who point out the whole thing is pretty ridiculous, others are doing the contrary.

Story continues below…

Tweeter @Zinedine_Mzt wrote: “Clown seen in Wazemme (Lille). On top of it, it’s really not a joke, stay vigilant and don’t hesitate to go out armed”

Since being posted Thursday night at 11:14pm it has been retweeted 432 times. 

Joshua Melvin (joshua.melvin@thelocal.com)

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Homeless man dines at top tables in France, then runs off
Photo: Prayitno/Flickr

"A man's gotta eat," he told police, after racking up gigantic bills in some of France's plushest restaurants.

Underwater museum hopes to make a splash in Marseille
A similar underwater museum piece by Jason deCaires Taylor. Photo: julie rohloff/Flickr

Don't forget your scuba gear...

Why Toulouse is THE place to be in France right now
Photo: Jacme/Flickr

Move over Paris...

And France's top chef of the year is... 'Monsieur Idiot'
Alexandre Couillon might have an unfortunate name, but he can sure cook!. Photo: AFP

Look beyond the name. He's the man who turned his family's humble "moules frites" joint into one of France's best seafood restaurants.

Could France do more to ease the worries of 'Brexpats'?
Photo: AFP

Paris is rolling out the red tape for British firms, so why not British citizens in France?

Brexit: Brits in France could face 'cataclysmic' impact
Photo: AFP

Can't France make it easier for Britons to get French nationality?

In their own words: Why French police are in revolt
"Solidarity with our colleagues". Police protesting near Paris. Photo: AFP

Police have staged protests for three nights in a row across France. Here's why they say they're fed up.

France leaning right six months before election
Candidates for the right-wing Les Republicains Alain Juppe and Nicolas Sarkozy. Photo: AFP

... and the left has been left in suspended animation.

Disgruntled French police stage protests for third night
Photo: AFP

The French government is struggling to deal with a revolt among the country's police force.

Scarlett Johansson to run Paris gourmet popcorn shop
Photo: AFP

She'll even be serving customers apparently.

Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
Video: New homage to Paris shows the 'real side' of city
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
The 'most dangerous' animals you can find in France
Swap London fogs for Paris frogs: France woos the Brits
Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
Anger after presenter kisses woman's breasts on live TV
Is France finally set for a cold winter this year?
IN PICS: The story of the 'ghost Metro stations' of Paris
How to make France's 'most-loved' dish: Magret de Canard
Welcome to the flipside: 'I'm not living the dream in France'
Do the French really still eat frogs' legs?
French 'delicacies' foreigners really find hard to stomach
French are the 'world's most pessimistic' about the future
Why the French should not be gloomy about the future
This is the most useful French lesson you will ever have. How to get angry
Why is there a giant clitoris in a field in southern France?
French pastry wars: Pain au chocolat versus chocolatine
Countdown: The ten dishes the French love the most
Expats or immigrants in France: Is there a difference?
How the French reinvented dozens of English words
The ups and downs of being both French and English
How Brexit vote has changed life for expats in France
Twelve French insults we'd love to have in English
What's on in France: Ten of the best events in October
Want to drive a scooter around Paris? Here's what you need to know
jobs available