Monday, October 27, 2008 Coulrophobia

I have no idea how I missed this story. From the Chicago Sun-Times for October 14th, 2008:

Clown attempts to lure children into vehicle with balloons

A man wearing clown make-up and a wig is using balloons in an attempt to lure children into his vehicle on the South Side. Police issued the alert about a week after a man with similar description was spotted on the West Side.

The incidents were reported in the 8300 block of South Mackinaw and the 10000 block of South Normal, according to a community alert by Calumet Area detectives.

The man, who wears clown make-up and a wig, approached children with balloons attempting to lure them into his vehicle, but the children ran and called 911, the alert said.

The attempted kidnapping/child abduction occurred on Oct. 7 at 5:55 p.m. and Oct. 10 at 8:55 a.m., the alert said.

Last week Harrison Area detectives issued an alert for a man matching a similar description.

That suspect was seen on foot in the Garfield Park neighborhood and near Beidler Elementary School, 3151 W. Walnut St., and Polaris Charter Academy, 620 N. Sawyer Ave., according to a community alert from Harrison Area detectives.

In both alerts, police said the suspect was driving a white four-door van or brown pickup truck.

Anyone with information or see any suspicious person should call detectives, (312) 747-8272.

Rumors of child-snatching clowns are nothing new. Jan Harold Brunvand devoted a small chapter of his 1993 book, The Baby Train, to the subject, noting cases from all over the country going back as far as 1981. The odd thing is that Chicago had a similar scare almost 17 years ago exactly, as reported in the October 11th edition of the Chicago Tribune. Then as now, the Chicago Police Department appears to have taken the reports seriously.

Clowns figure in child abduction and "organ theft" folklore not only in the US and Europe, but in Central and South America as well. And they have inspired other, creepier urban legends that are still passed off as real today:

Just had to share this with you! Last week my daughter's friend was babysitting for her baby brother and couldn't get the baby to sleep. She rang her mum, who said take all the stuffed toys out of the room. The daughter said she had done, except for the big clown in the corner of the room - to which her mother replied, we haven't got a big clown! Take the baby and get out of the house, and go next door.

It turns out that the clown was a man, who had dressed himself up as a clown and parked himself in the corner of the baby's room, pretending to be a toy! Mum rang the police and the clown was arrested.

Unbelievable but true. Apparently. And a bit scary! Close those windows.

Obviously, clowns are not to be trusted!