Pennywise the Dancing Clown: thought to be an influence for the 'evil clown' phenomenon that put a Berkeley school on edge Friday Oct. 7. Photo:
Pennywise the Dancing Clown based on the Stephen King book It: thought to be an influence for the ‘evil clown’ phenomenon that put a Berkeley school on edge Friday Oct. 7. Photo:
: thought to be an influence for the ‘evil clown’ phenomenon that put a Berkeley school on edge Friday Oct. 7. Photo:

The principal of King Middle School in Berkeley contacted the police Friday after becoming concerned about a threat posted on social media about ‘killer clowns’ coming to the campus, as well as to two other local schools.

Principal Janet Levenson sent an email, labeled ‘important message,’ to the school community around 2:45 p.m. explaining that many students had been “on edge all week for fear that these evil clowns will come to King or kidnap students on their way home.”

Levinson said one of King’s students showed her an Instagram posting that stated they “were going after BHS, Longfellow and King on Friday.”

Levinson said the rumor spread on campus that the clowns would arrive during fifth period. Erring on the side of caution, she contacted BPD.

While the ‘evil clown’ or ‘creepy clown’ phenomenon sounds bizarre, it has become more prevalent in recent years, fueled by social-media campaigns that go viral. Most threats turn out to be hoaxes, but they have prompted safety alerts at schools and other institutions all over the country. Earlier this week, Kron 4 reported that a man in a clown suit attempted to snatch a 1-year-old baby girl at a bus stop in Concord.

The Instagram account referred to by Levinson, which Berkeleyside will not name to avoid giving it more exposure, wrote: “Don’t Run — Going After Berkeley High, Longfellow middle school, King,” and has posted photographs of Berkeley High and Longfellow. The account only had 51 followers at press time.

Levinson stressed that the school takes all potential danger seriously, that safety officers were alert to keeping the campus safe, and that the school had lockdown procedures for dangerous situations.

There was talk about evil clowns on the King campus Thursday, too. A parent of a King student told Berkeleyside that her daughter reported lots of rumors going around the school. After hearing students discuss the issue, a teacher had advised students not to walk or bike alone in Berkeley.

Sightings and online reports of creepy clowns , some real, many fake, are keeping police departments busy nationwide. Last month extra security was assigned to schools in Gallatin County, Ky., after threatening messages were posted on Facebook by two people who used creepy clown photos as their profile photos.

The concept of the evil clown is related to the irrational fear of clowns, known as coulrophobia, and has been connected to Pennywise The Dancing Clown, the main antagonist of Stephen King’s 1986 horror novel It.

Berkeleyside has requested more information from the Berkeley Police and will update this story if needed.

Berkeleyside provides exclusive coverage of many Berkeley crimes. We welcome community tips about public safety issues and other newsworthy issues via email, Twitter or Facebook. Please alert us in advance if your tip is anonymous.

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Tracey Taylor is co-founder of Berkeleyside and co-founder and editorial director of Cityside, the nonprofit parent to Berkeleyside and The Oaklandside. Before launching Berkeleyside, Tracey wrote for...