After weeks of sightings in the US, the first 'creepy clown' in Germany has been reported in a western town. The trend of dressing up as a so-called 'horror clown' has caught on in several neighboring European countries.
According to German police, two men in the German town of Wesel were left shaken over the weekend after they were approached at a train station by an armed man disguised as a clown.
The clown, who was reportedly carrying a knife and a gun, threatened the 17- and 22-year-old men in German and English.
The incident on Saturday night is thought to have been influenced by the "creepy clown" trend in the US which sees pranksters dressing up as scary clowns in a bid to frighten members of the public. The clowns have often been sighted lurking close to woodland, grave yards and remote streets.
In recent weeks, the craze has spread to a host of other countries including the UK, France, Canada and Australia. In Sweden a teenager was stabbed in the shoulder on Thursday by an attacker wearing a clown mask. A day earlier, two other people, also dressed as clowns, threatened to kill a young woman.
Threat to party clowns
A long-time favorite at children's birthday parties, professional clowns now fear that the craze could be detrimental to their vocation.
Second Vice President of Clowns Canada, and a member of the World Clown Association, Miles Leahy told Canadian local "The Telegram" that he hoped the trend wouldn't change public views of professional clowns.
"This is disturbing, it’s disappointing," he said. "I’m just really saddened by this."
Back in the States, the controversy over the "clown sightings" has even affected McDonald's mascot Ronald McDonald who announced last week that he was taking a break until the hysteria passes.
Clowns, although traditionally known as comedic characters, have become associated with a much sinister image in recent decades, particularly since the 1986 publication of Stephen King's thriller "It," which was turned into a mini-series four years later.
The US author called on pranksters earlier this month to "cool down the clown hysteria."
Coulrophobia or the fear of clowns is a relatively new term used to described the phobia which isn't officially classified as a disorder.
"Clowns can be seen as creepy because you can't read a clown's face, and 80 percent of communication is non-verbal," sociologist Robert Bartholomew said.
"If a person is wearing makeup or a mask, it is hard to know whether they are friend or foe," he added.
A similar craze in France in 2014 led to the arrest or imprisonment of a dozen teenage "killer clowns." At Halloween that year,the mayor of the southern French town of Vendargues banned any provacateur Pierrots over the age of 13.