MARSEILLE (AFP) - A French village has banned teenagers from dressing up as clowns for Halloween after people kitted out as the colourful pranksters have sown terror and violence in several parts of the country.
The 6,000-strong village of Vendargues in southern France wants to "avoid any disruption... by evil clowns," Bruno Giraudo from the village hall told AFP on Thursday.
"It's about protecting children by preventing any ill-intentioned clowns from mixing with residents."
The eerie trend of fake, evil clowns terrifying passers-by has hit several parts of France over recent weeks in what many see as a follow-on from hugely popular YouTube prank videos.
Police have jailed or arrested more than a dozen teenagers after they dressed up as the pranksters and wrought havoc on the streets, at times armed with pistols, knives or baseball bats, sometimes beating people up.
The phenomenon in France has even prompted anti-clown vigilantism, forcing police to step in to try and quell growing hysteria.
According to an order published on the village hall website, "individuals or groups of people aged 13 or more" are banned from dressing up as clowns on streets and in public spaces on Oct 31 and Nov 1.
After that, any teenager wanting to dress up as the funny men so dear to children will have to ask for official authorisation.
The phenomenon of terror-inducing clowns appeared earlier this month in the north of France.
According to police, people increasingly reported spotting clowns "outside schools, but also on public roads, in bushes, in a square."
Last week, a 19-year-old got a six-month suspended jail term for threatening passers-by while dressed as a clown in the town of Bethune.
And the phenomenon has spread across the country.
Police at the weekend arrested 14 teenagers dressed as clowns and carrying weapons in the Mediterranean port town of Agde.
Not far away in Montpellier - which is very near Vendargues - a fake clown chased a man down a street and beat him with an iron bar, prompting a court to jail him for four months.