In Salem, Massachusetts way back in 1693, a whole bunch of people allowed a bunch of bratty youths to convince them that their town was overrun with witches. Wild accusations led to a bunch of executions, and ever since then, we've referred to any outbreak of baseless public hysteria as a "witch hunt." You might think that after such a powerful display of how quickly reason can abandon us, we would spot every potential mass panic from a mile away and nip it in the bud with logic and rational thinking before anyone got burned at the stake (literally or figuratively).
But that's not the case. As it turns out, we love witch hunts. We do them all the time, whether we're freaking out about clowns, the poor, or yes, even goddamned vampires. For instance ...
We've Been Having Mass Scary Clown Sightings For Decades
Over the past year, there's been an apparent wave of appearances of rogue clowns, waiting in the bushes to jump unsuspecting citizens with their possibly murderous and definitely excruciating comedy routines. In response to the public's growing anxiety over clowns, some towns banned clown costumes during Halloween, and Target even took clown masks out of their stores, because Target is often our first line of defense. So that's weird, right? Is this yet another example of 2016 going completely off the rails?
@wascoclown/Instagram At least this one didn't run for president.
Well, perhaps not. As it might surprise you to learn, these were far from the first sightings of creepy roving clowns. One of the first recorded was in 1981 in Massachusetts, when schoolchildren reported seeing a van full of candy and men in scary clown suits. The police warned some of the nearby schools, and from there the phobia quickly spread, with clown sightings soon being reported in a number of nearby cities.
Kolbz/iStock Which means they're mobile.
In fact, waves of clown sightings seem to come every three to four years, and generally follow the same pattern: Some kids tell the police about a clown offering candy or making ominous balloon animals or whatever, and when that story hits the news, other people begin reporting similar incidents. Yet every time the police look into it, they find no evidence of a sweeping movement of clown predators. In fact, few adults ever actually see any of the clowns. The whole thing soon dies down, and we all get back to our regular, clown-free lives for the next few years.
In the few verified cases in which a person has dressed up in a clown costume in any kind of menacing way, it's almost always been proven to be a viral movie marketing move, or a bank robbery or something harmless like that.
murderpediaOr enthusiastic community leaders.