Halloween weekend is typically a time when children and young people can enjoy fancy dress, spooky decorations and party games.
The NSPCC is today issuing a stark warning to any individuals planning to spoil the festivities by deliberately intimidating children, reminding them that their behaviour could get result in police action.
In the last three weeks Childline has been contacted 462 times by children afraid of creepy clowns – providing 84 clown-related counselling sessions on one day alone.
Nearly a third of counselling sessions on the subject of clowns were with children under the age of 11 - reaching 139 in total - and three quarters of those who got in touch over clown fears were girls.
The deluge of contacts to Childline reflects a flurry of reported creepy clown incidents across the UK.
Police reports have included a clown with a machete threatening two teenage girls in Suffolk and in a separate incident in Deighton, West Yorkshire, three knife-wielding clowns tried to snatch a three-month-old baby from her mother.
In Dinnington, South Yorkshire, 17-year-old Owen Russell was left needing stitches after a man in an alleyway wearing a clown mask threw a branch at his head.
The contacts to Childline reveal a mixture of children afraid of clowns after seeing scary videos online and on social media, as well as those threatened or frightened by creepy clowns in their neighbourhood.
One boy, aged 11, said: “I’m really scared to go outside in case I see one of these clowns. There is stuff all over social media about it showing them hurting people. My mum has tried to reassure me but I’m absolutely petrified.”
And an 11-year-old girl said: “I have seen some clowns in my area and I’m absolutely terrified about leaving the house now. There are all these things going round about them on social media too and they have been making threats at people. What can I do?”
The NSPCC is advising children who are concerned about creepy clowns to:
· Talk to a parent or a teacher or trusted adult;
· Call Childline if they want to discuss their worries or get advice and support;
· Block and report abusive messages from people posing as creepy clowns on social media;
· Contact the police if they are threatened by a creepy clown in the street.
An NSPCC Scotland spokesman said: “Wearing spooky fancy dress for Halloween is a time-honoured tradition, but we fear the recent creepy clown craze could see Halloween used as an opportunity to molest, intimate or harm children. Creepy clowns are all trick and no treat; those dressing up with the intention of threatening children need to be aware that they could be breaking the law – particularly if they are carrying weapons.
“Young people who have seen scary clown videos on social media should report any inappropriate clips, and if they are contacted by someone posing as a creepy clown online – block them.
“Children who feel threatened by ‘creepy clowns’ in the street or near their school should tell their parents or the nearest responsible adult and report it to the police where necessary.
“If a child is worried they should call Childline on 0800 1111 or get in touch via chidline.org.uk”