‘Creepy clown’ posts keep Connecticut campuses and communities busy

NEW HAVEN - The Ansonia Police Department is one of the latest local law enforcement agencies dealing with social media posts featuring clowns threatening violence at schools.

The department released the following statement:

"The Ansonia Police Department is aware of the social media postings threatening violence at the Ansonia schools tomorrow, 10/5/16. While we do not believe the threats to be credible we are investigating and will have increased police presence at all schools tomorrow. We ask anyone with specific information regarding the person or persons responsible for the postings to contact the Ansonia Police Department at 203-735-1885."

The Cheshire Police Department is also investigating social media threats of the creepy clown at schools and said residents can expect an increased police presence at schools in that community.

The Simsbury Police Department released thee following statement on their Facebook page Tuesday night:

Many schools in communities across the state and country are experiencing threats through social media involving clowns. The social media posts refer to a serial killer clown who killed children in the 1960s. Naugatuck, New Haven and Simsbury are a few of the communities that have been mentioned. Social media posts surfaced today about clowns arriving at the Simsbury High School on Wednesday. The Police Department and Public Schools are aware of the posts. Although the threats are not considered credible, the posts are taken very seriously and will be investigated thoroughly by the Police Department. There will be an increase in police presence at the schools and heightened awareness by police and school personnel. If you have any information about the posts, please contact Simsbury Police Detectives at (860) 658-3145.

And, Salvatore F. Menzo, superintendent of Wallingford Public Schools sent a letter to parents on Tuesday night:

It has come to our attention that an Instagram message was sent stating, "Lyman Hall better watch out" from newhaven.clown. We were in immediate contact with the Wallingford Chief of Police. As a result, there will be a police presence at Lyman Hall High School tomorrow. Please be assured that we take the safety and security of our students and staff very seriously. We will continue to monitor the situation and work collaboratively with the local authorities. We appreciate your support.

Wallingford Police said there was chatter on Instagram but no direct threat made. Lyman Hall was mentioned and police will have a presence to put everyone’s mind at ease.

The proliferation of creepy clown-related social media posts, and unsubstantiated sightings, also has officials in New Haven concerned.

Tuesday afternoon, outgoing Superintendent of Schools Garth Harries, and Officer David Hartman of the New Haven Police Department, addressed two Instagram posts over the weekend threatening New Haven schools.

"As we've looked at this situation and became aware of it yesterday morning, our sense is there is no actual credible threat of violence," said Harries.

One of the two Instagram posts, from a person using the screen name New Haven Clown, wrote, "If you go to Career (high school), watch out." Another stated "Then Hillhouse, Cross, Eli Whitney, Co-Op, Sound. You really think it's fake? Wait and see."

"If I say, everybody at, you know, and I list eight high schools in New Haven, better watch out, that's not a threat. It just isn't," Harries said.

New Haven police are still investigating and have not ruled out making any arrests.

Harries says there was an incident at one of the middle schools Tuesday, when students were discovered with a clown mask outside of the school.

"The administrator went out. They (students) didn't run away. They were horsing around. They confiscated the mask, contacted the parent, not a big deal. But, you know, it's a reflection of what this kind of thing turns into," Harries said.

Police and school officials in Naugatuck are also dealing with social media posts mentioning schools.

The Naugatuck Police Department said they arrested two juvenile females under the age of 14, one living in Naugatuck and the other from Stratford, in regard to the “creepy clown” social media postings that were made Monday.

Both were charged with disorderly conduct and conspiracy to commit disorderly conduct.

Police said the arrests stem from a social media profile the girls created by the name of “Jackson the Clown” with a posting of “Will be in Naugatuck / Be careful / Lock your doors / which school wanna go first?”

Police said the posts were made with various photos of clowns attached. The posts made by the teens yesterday led in part to a decision to place police officers at each Naugatuck school today as a precaution and added safety measure.

Colleges are not immune to this kind of clowning around, either.

"I was laying in bed and one of my roommates texted me and was like 'hey I'm stuck in class we can't leave because there is supposedly a clown on campus ," said Quinnipiac Freshman Eric DeFrancesco.

These claims, Monday night, were proven untrue at both UConn and Quinnipiac University .

"We started seeing a number of social media posts about there being a lock-down in the library, there being a lock-down in our Ccenter for Communications and Engineering," said John Morgan, a Quinnipiac spokesperson.

There was never a lock-down on either campus.

Why are clown threats going viral? One Quinnipiac professor said it is  fueled by a demographic that's grown up with fear, due, in part, to terrorism.

"So anything that hints at danger is going to be transmitted at the speed of light across social media," said Rich Hanley, an associate professor of journalism at Quinnipiac.

Another professor believes that clowns creep some out so much because they tap into a collective feeling of uneasiness.

"And, I think it sort of builds upon images that we see in popular culture over the years," said Lauren Sardi, an associate professor of sociology at Quinnipiac.