MELBOURNE • Numerous sightings of creepy clowns in several Australian cities appeared on social media in the early hours yesterday, in what appeared to be copycat acts in Australia and New Zealand after the trend went viral in the United States.
The spooky sightings were first reported in August in South Carolina, when police received reports of clowns standing silently by the roadside, lurking near launderettes and trying to lure children into the woods with bags of cash and green laser lights.
Since then, videos and pictures of clowns scaring residents in various US cities have appeared on social media. It is unclear what started the trend, although some have suggested it may be part of a horror movie publicity stunt or an elaborate hoax.
The trend now seems to have moved to Australia and New Zealand.
One woman in Brisbane told local media that she was chased by a clown holding a knife.
And in the New Zealand city of Hamilton, a 22-year-old woman was assaulted early last Saturday by two men dressed as clowns, said police.
"This was a very frightening experience for the young woman," police said in a statement.
Australian police have issued strong warnings to those who dress up as clowns, saying they could be committing criminal acts or become victims if frightened citizens attack them.
The spurt in clown sightings "appears to be a copycat of incidents seen in the US", police in the Australian state of Victoria said in a statement posted on social media. "Any intimidating or threatening as well as antisocial behaviour will not be tolerated and will be investigated."