At first glance, video of Penn State students stampeding throughout campus would suggest that Drake was playing a free concert in the gymnasium, or that drinking fountains started spurting beer. But on Tuesday evening something quite different was happening. These students weren’t flocking to a frat party. They were hunting a creepy clown.
Rumors spread online that a clown was spotted near the university, and a group of 500 students immediately went on the offensive, charging toward the alleged intruder en masse. The group was motivated by the rash of creepy clown sightings that have captivated the nation in recent weeks, and tried to scare off the interloper with whatever force they could muster.
Except, as local outlet The Centre Daily Times reports, no clown was actually seen. Penn State police Sgt. Mike Nelson told the paper that authorities had no credible reports of an actual clown sighting, and that the whole thing was a social media-generated ruse.
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“The cause of this specifically was social media...If there were any clowns with this many students out there and with our police responding to calls, we would have ran into it. Some photos we’ve seen were photoshopped or incidents from across the country.”
Clowns have been lurking ominously in various states over the last few weeks, with enough cases to sow some minor hysteria. There's even a map of all the weird incidents, which have predominantly taken place on the southeast, midwest and east coast. Reports of some clowns wielding chains -- others trying to lure children into the woods -- have been undeniably strange and disconcerting. Some clowns have reportedly threatened or been sighted near schools, placing them on lockdown in Alabama, Texas and Illinois.
Although this isn’t the first spate of clown activity in the country -- in the 1980s, the Boston area fell victim to a similar phenomenon -- it’s been forcing people to reexamine just why clowns are so oddly terrifying. No one has been harmed by anyone with a bulbous red nose and white face paint, and many reports that snowballed on social media have been proven false. That means there's probably nothing to worry about. After all, college students are often prone to stampeding -- the phony clown sighting just gave them an excuse.
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Sam Blum is a News Staff Writer for Thrillist. He's also a martial arts and music nerd who appreciates a fine sandwich and cute dogs. Find his clips in The Guardian, Rolling Stone, The A.V. Club and Vice. He's on Twitter @Blumnessmonster.