Sightings of people dressed as the creepy clown from the Stephen King novel ‘It’ have been reported in Ripley in a craze sweeping the country.
A Freedom of Information Request has revealed Derbyshire Police received 29 reports of people dressed as the clown based on the book, which was also turned into a hit film starring Tim Curry, in November.
A group of girls were chased by one such impersonator in Ripley, and there were also sightings of a man dressed as a clown outside Swanwick Post Office, the request has revealed .
The copycat craze is believed to have started on social network site Facebook and involves people dressing as the creepy character to surprise passers-by in public places.
The trend has led to several police forces issuing warnings across the country.
A spokeswoman for Derbyshire police says such sightings appear to have been a flash in the pan.
She said: “It seems to have been a bit of a fad that we are no longer getting any reports of. One or two people have been scared by it yes.
“It was something that started on Facebook and it seems people locally have picked up on what’s happening in other areas of the country and for whatever reason decided to dress like a clown.”
The craze is believed to have started in Northampton, with the ‘Spot Northampton’s Clown’ Facebook page now having more than 200,000 likes and sees a man dressed as the clown called Pennywise, appearing in various places around the town, waving mysteriously or jumping out at people.
The craze has led to numerous copycat Facebook sites across the country, with a page set up for a Chesterfield Clown performing similar acts around the town.
The Spotted: Ripley’s Clown page has 700 likes.
Police say there were two reports of masked pranksters scaring people in the town. At around 5.15pm on Sunday, November 17, a group of girls spotted a man dressed as Pennywise in the car park of the Pear Tree pub on Derby Road, Ripley. He was said to be wearing a clown mask with curly hair.
Police say the girls reported being chased by the man after they ran off in the direction of Ripley hospital. Officers were called on another occasion that day after being spotted by the public.
On November 14 there was a report of a clown at a bus stop on Peasehill, Ripley, and on November 15, an impersonator was waving outside Swanwick Post Office.
Facebook users have criticised the impersonators for creating panic and scaring innocent people on the Spotted Ripley’s Clown Facebook page.
And the trend is unpopular with professional performers too, with many suggesting the clowning trade has suffered from the sightings. Carlo The Clown, aka entertainer Cliff Carlton, of Ilkeston Road, Heanor, said: “I think it’s being carried out for a bunch of idiots and giving us a bad name.
“I even had one youngster call me to ask me if I was the Mansfield Clown!”
Mr Carlton, a performer of 30 years, said colleagues of his had experienced a drop in trade while the sightings had been going on.
“Generally I don’t get much negativity from people,” he added.
“They know I’m there to entertain people.”