9 Oct 2016

Police investigate Hamilton clown assault

3:02 pm on 9 October 2016

Police are continuing to investigate an attack in Hamilton where a young woman was assaulted by two men dressed as clowns.

The 22-year-old woman suffered moderate injuries after she was attacked in the early hours of Saturday as she was walking home.

Police said it was a very frightening experience for the young woman, and they wanted to hear from anyone who saw the men.

People in clown masks have caused fear and panic in the US, reportedly threatening children and forcing some schools to shut.

Police in Australia said the so-called "creepy clown" trend had spread to Victoria, and they warned they would take a zero-tolerance approach.

Police in Melbourne said they dealt with three separate clown reports on Friday.

The paranoia has even reached the White House, where press secretary Josh Earnest had to field questions about president Barack Obama's stance on "creepy clowns" during a press briefing on Thursday.

Mr Earnest said the president has not been briefed on this issue.

Benjamin Radford, who wrote a book about clown sighting, traced the phenomenon of these to 2013, when a young filmmaker from Northampton, UK started dressing up as a clown and posting photos on Facebook as a viral social media experiment.

"They're just basically sort of doing a combination of prank and performance art," he said.

Soon, copycats spread across Britain, Ireland, France and the US. In 2014, French police arrested 14 teenagers who terrorized local residents by dressing as clowns and carrying weapons.

Clowns occupy a powerful place in our pop psyche, Radford said, as a symbol for both the terrors and joys of childhood.

"People love to have two sides of the coin, the things that make us laugh and the things that make us scream," he said.

Unlike classic urban legends, which tend to stick around for decades and are retold consistently over time, Evans said internet myths like "killer clowns" have a tendency to come in waves and then burn out.

Mr Radford said sighting sprees, like the current one, would likely peter out after Halloween.

But he said he doubted they were gone for good.

"I guarantee you that within five or six years there will be another clown scare like this," he said.