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Not foolin': French town's Halloween without harlequins

A French town has banned clowns older than 13 this Halloween. The decision follows a series of incidents nationwide in which scary scamps have spooked children and, in several cases, assaulted people.

After a string of incidents in which provacateur Pierrots have taken the fun out of funny, Vendargues Mayor Pierre Dudieuzere has issued an "absolute" ban in his southern French village on teenagers' and adults' dressing up as clowns for Halloween and November 1. After that, any teenager wanting to don the wig of everyone's favorite fool will have to ask for official authorization.

With the anti-jester gesture, Vendargues, population 6,000, wants to "avoid any disruption ... by evil clowns," Bruno Giraudo from the village hall told the news agency AFP on Thursday: "It's about protecting children by preventing any ill-intentioned clowns from mixing with residents."

The mixing of evil and ill-intentioned clowns with residents has proved a disturbing trend in the US, the UK and elsewhere in recent years, but rarely have the madcap mock madmen proved so menacing as in France, where gagsters have formed gangs and some punchinellos have turned punchy.

Weapons, not whimsy

Police have jailed or arrested more than a dozen comically clad teenagers whose accessories were no laughing matter: At times, the youth armed themselves with pistols, knives or baseball bats. Residents increasingly reported spotting clowns "outside schools, but also on public roads, in bushes, in a square."

In one incident, an adolescent assaulted a passerby with an iron bar. Over the weekend, police arrested 14 teenagers dressed as clowns and carrying weapons in the Mediterranean port town of Agde.

The phenomenon has even prompted anti-clown vigilantism, forcing police to step in to try and quell growing hysteria over the humormongers. The phenomenon has spread over the past few weeks on Facebook, with groups tracking clown sightings across the country. However, until Vendargues, no other town had banned the bozos.

The town plans to enforce the restriction throughout November for everyone 13 and older. Until then, residents will have to find less-threatening ways

of scaring one another silly

.

mkg/av (AFP, AP)

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