In the News
Greenville, S.C.—Due to numerous sightings and threats by people dressed as scary clowns, many towns and school districts have banned clown costumes this Halloween. The creepy-clown craze, which appears every few years, re-emerged in August with reports of clowns luring children into the woods. Numerous arrests and school lockdowns have occurred, and one fatality was reported in Pennsylvania.
Although most clown sightings have turned out to be hoaxes, officials are on high alert. “Obviously, this is the type of claim we need to take seriously whether it’s valid or not,” says South Carolina sheriff’s deputy Ryan Flood.
By early October, schools were announcing bans on clown outfits and other “symbols of terror.” A Missouri county, concerned that citizens might overreact if they saw a clown on their property, made it illegal to appear in clown garb until November 1
The Internet deserves much of the blame for the recent craze, psychologists say. Social contagion is intensified online, where threats and pranks spread quickly. Troublemakers also are empowered by the anonymity of cyberspace and may enjoy the attention they receive.
Unusual behaviors such as creepy clowns are more common during times of national stress and conflict, says social psychologist Craig Parks. “You may have people who don’t like the way the world is going, who feel that their economic situation is not improving or are very upset about the high-tension presidential race,” he says. “All things being equal, that could incline them toward deviant behaviors.”
Most people arrested during the recent clown craze have been young males who are disaffected outsiders. Author Bess Lovejoy, writing about the sinister history of clowns, says, “At a time when so many [young people] are cut off from power and opportunity, perhaps it’s no surprise that they’re drawn to the garb of a scary outsider who’s allowed to tell the truth. That’s a potent role.”
Sources: techtimes.com, theguardian.com, seattletimes.com, nytimes.com
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Discussion Starters for Student Small Groups
What effects, if any, has the creepy-clown craze had on your school or community? Do you find the phenomenon frightening? funny? annoying? other?
How do you feel about the bans on clown costumes? Are people overreacting or just being appropriately cautious? Does the clown craze change your thoughts about Halloween? make you fear for your safety? Explain.
In your opinion, have the media overblown this trend? In what ways have the Internet and pop culture perpetuated the concept of scary clowns?
Do you agree that the current state of the nation is playing a role in the clown craze? Why or why not? If people are upset about politics or the economy, how else might they be able to vent their frustrations?
Think of a time you’ve felt powerless or stuck. What led to that, and how did it affect your everyday life? What impact did that experience have on your relationships with other people? with God?
How do you know when behavior crosses the line from merely odd to deviant? Should young people be allowed to do crazy things, especially if they don’t hurt anyone? Explain.
What are your thoughts about Halloween? Is the holiday harmless fun, or does it often cross the line into supernatural danger?
Do you enjoy being frightened or spooked? If so, what’s the appeal? Why would people put themselves through man-made frights, such as haunted houses, when the real world seems plenty scary on its own?
What are your biggest fears—for yourself, for your loved ones, and for your country? In general, do you think things are out of control, or do you trust that everything will work out for the best? Explain.
To what degree do you trust that your life and the world are in God’s hands? How can you cling to that during times of testing and trouble?
Scripture links: Psalm 23:4; Isaiah 35:3-4; 1 Corinthians 10:18-22; 2 Corinthians 11:13-15; Ephesians 6:10-13; and Philippians 4:6-7.