Several costume hire stores across New Zealand have withdrawn clown outfits and masks from their shelves for Halloween after a recent rash of creepy clown incidents.
A report of a clown scaring children at a Porirua school emerged last week, while Hamilton police are currently hunting two clowns believed responsible for a recent attack on a woman as she walked home from the pub in the early hours.
The fad has also been linked to a spate of threats and violence in the United States, Australia and the United Kingdom.
The Wear It Out hire shop in Tauranga has removed clown masks from display and hidden them behind the counter as a precaution.
“We have had a few dodgy messages on our website from anonymous people in Auckland asking if we sell scary clown outfits, but I didn’t reply to the inquiries,” owner Stacey Scott said.
“Until this whole phenomenon blows over we are only giving clown outfits to people we know. We will not be sending orders out around the country.”
Wannabes in Howick, east Auckland, has also stopped renting out clown outfits for the meantime.
“A local teacher wanted one for a school gala but I decided against it,” shop manager Nora Lunjevich said. “And if anyone comes in asking for a clown outfit for Halloween I’d have to say no because of this craze for frightening people.”
Horror industry professionals are also concerned.
Christchurch-based Fear NZ, which runs horror-based events for charity, has stopped sending clowns to parties and events while the creepy clown phenomenon is sweeping the country.
Fear NZ boss Rory Foley believes the craze could seriously harm the horror industry’s reputation – and lead to someone getting seriously hurt.
There had been a recent spike of people wanting to hire clown costumes from the company, requests he said he had refused.
“I know exactly what they’re trying to do, and I don’t want to encourage them,” he said. “We have also had customers calling and asking us not to send anyone dressed as a clown to parties and events just now because some people are scared of them.
“A lot of people have a very real phobia about clowns, you would be surprised how many people have this problem.
“Our actors are very understanding and if there is an incident they know to rip their clown masks off immediately.”