Appearance of Creepy 'IT' Balloons Has Small-Town Cops "Completely Terrified"

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IT fever is sweeping the country. With the big screen adaptation of Stephen King's gargantuan horror novel arriving in theaters this weekend, there's never been a worse time to be a non-scary clown -- or a totally normal red balloon. Luckily, when it comes to creepy floating objects, the police force in Lilitz, Pennsylvania is on the case.

According to a post on the Lititz Borough Police Department's Facebook page (via LancasterOnline), a prankster decided to serve as a marketing street team for the heavily hyped movie, and tied a series of red balloons to sewer grates throughout the small town, mimicking an image in the trailer and a scene from the book. At least that's what the police are saying. Pennywise, the clown from King's novel, could not be reached for comment.

"We give points for creativity, however we want the local prankster to know that we were completely terrified as we removed these balloons from the grates and we respectfully request they do not do that again," the police department wrote in its cheeky Facebook post. "If you're not sure what we're talking about, search 'It' and watch the preview, but we suggest watching the preview with a friend or coworker with all the lights on and the sound down low." 

Take a look at the photo that accompanied the post below:

This balloon incident is only the latest news story about elements of the movie bleeding into the real world. A week ago the Hollywood Reporter pointed out that the upcoming blockbuster was causing legit clowns to lose work, with professional clowns citing the movie's chilling effect. "It's a science-fiction character," said World Clown Association president Pam Moody in the article. "It's not a clown and has nothing to do with pro clowning." (The recent season of American Horror Story can't help either.) 

Even Stephen King has gotten involved in the balloon-related promotion. The Bangor Daily News recently reported that the bestselling author placed a red balloon in his mansion window, while small-business owners in the author's hometown have also decorated their establishments with balloons as well. The lesson is clear: Stay away from Maine. And sewer grates. 

IT floats into theaters this Friday.

Update: Shockingly, there is not a killer clown running around Lilitz, Pennsylvania. As Mashable points out, the culprits of this balloon have been caught -- or, at least, they identified themselves on social media. It turns out the prank wasn't the work of a studio marketing department. It was five teenagers just looking to freak out their classmates. Once the local police department's Facebook post went viral, Peyton Reiff decided to go public with the prank with the tweet below.

She breaks down the prank even further on her Facebook page. "Don't worry no clowns here in Lititz," she writes in the post. "Just 5 teenage girls having fun!"

Hopefully, the residents of Lilitz can sleep easy now. 

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Dan Jackson is a staff writer at Thrillist Entertainment. He's on Twitter @danielvjackson.