Creepy clown sighting on local road sparks concern

DUHRING, W. Va. — Call it a gimmick, call it a prank. Call it a bad promotional effort to plug an upcoming horror movie. Whatever it is, it’s not the clown making balloon animals from your child’s birthday party.

A photograph of a creepy clown standing along a rural West Virginia road is creating a stir on social media while leaving some area officials and residents anything but laughing.

The clown was photographed standing roadside about two hours south of Charleston, West Virginia, in Duhring, West Virginia at night — just weeks after similar clown sightings in North Carolina and South Carolina gained national media attention. The photograph in question has since gone viral, having been shared via Facebook more than 700 times. It also was shared with the county sheriff’s office.

The sightings reported last month in North Carolina and South Carolina, caused both fear and a number of questions regarding the legitimacy of clowns emerging from wooded areas in both states. According to national media reports, the alleged individuals dressed in the clown suits have been trying to lure children into the woods.

Reports of the clown capers in North and South Carolina also have spread via social media, sparking their own unique commentary that ranges from speculation to hilarity. However, no associations have been made between the sightings and the photo.

Deputies with the sheriff’s office are investigating the photo and attempting to determine where it originated from, Chief Deputy Darrell Bailey said.

“Again, we don’t know the person’s purpose, and if someone took the picture just to scare folks,” Bailey said. “But it’s dangerous, and dangerous for them if it’s a joke. We would like to put a stop to it — whatever it is. I have a deputy working on it, and trying to figure out where the picture originated, and who was the first person to post it.”

Facebook posts commenting on the West Virginia clown sighting have varied — with some comments ranging from the clown being “kinda creepy” and “causing nightmares” to looking like “a dork.” Another person responded by posting the hashtag #clownlivesmatter.

Bailey said he didn’t know if the person dressed as a clown locally was inspired by stories of the sightings in the Carolinas or not.

“I feel like that is why this picture at Duhring was taken just to shake folks up,” Bailey said. “I feel like it was a set-up, but there were a couple of people who saw the guy. From the picture to me it appears to be someone in an orange jumpsuit with some kind of mask on. From the picture, you can’t tell if it is a clown mask or some type of Halloween mask. So we are trying to find out the source of that picture to see if someone has done it as a joke.”

Donna Lowe, who works nearby, said she believes the photograph is a prank.

“I have no reason to be concerned because I feel like it was just a prank,” Lowe said. “At this point, I don’t feel like there is anything more to it than a prank.” 

Bailey said there is a section of state code in West Virginia that prohibits the wearing of a mask in public. Bailey said anyone who sees such a clown standing along the road — creating a potential hazard — is asked to call 911 or their local law enforcement agency.

Owens writes for the Bluefield, West Virginia Daily Telegraph.

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