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Vigilantes held as clown panic spreads in France

Ben McPartland · 24 Oct 2014, 10:13

Published: 24 Oct 2014 10:13 GMT+02:00

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It began in northern France and it now appears to have spread to other parts of the country.

Coulrophobia, or the fear of clowns, swept small towns in the Pas-de-Calais region last week and this week a similar panic took hold in the town of Mulhouse eastern France.

After reports that an aggressive clown was threatening people in the town centre spread on Facebook, five youths took it up themselves to hunt down the joker.

They armed themselves with baseball bats, knuckle dusters, a hammer and a canister of tear gas, and went in search for the fake clowns, intent on meting out their own form of punishment.

But police got to them before they could get to the clown, if there was even a clown, of course.

They were all arrested and placed in custody and will be judged at a later date.

It appears the panic over armed clowns is as much to do with scaremongering on social media as it is with genuine incidents.

However it’s not all just wild rumours.

Earlier this week The Local reported that a 19-year-old “fake clown” was arrested last Friday after waving a stick resembling a long knife while chasing a group of teenagers, who had to seek refuge in a chip stand.

He was also sentenced to 105 hours of community service and banned from carrying a weapon for five years.

After receiving some 20 calls on Friday, police took to social networks to warn citizens to be aware of the trend.

Story continues below…

Using fake weapons these "clowns" have been "mostly spotted outside schools, but also on public roads, in bushes, in a square. Their targets are often young children or teenagers, but also adults," a police source told AFP.

"They take their inspiration from American horror movies," the source said, adding that the trend appeared to have started from a Facebook challenge.

The wave of clown threats even prompted the region's local government representative Denis Robin to take to his official Facebook page to condemn "these misdemeanours".

"It is absolutely unacceptable that children are held hostage by such acts," he said, warning that those guilty of using weapons could face three years in jail and a fine of €45,000 ($57,500).

Ben McPartland (ben.mcpartland@thelocal.com)

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