TEMECULA (CBSLA/AP) — Halloween is still almost a month away, but dozens of scary clown sightings have already been reported cross several U.S. states – and now Southern California.
Clown sightings have been reported on social media in Murrieta and Temecula at locations including the Promenade mall, Murrieta Mesa High School and Rancho Vista High School, according to The Press-Enterprise.
Someone posted a photo on Twitter of a reported sighting near the Ronald Reagan Sports Park, which is located about a mile from Rancho Vista, along with the caption “Clown spotted in Temecula! Stay alert everyone!”
The unidentified clown was photographed next to a “garage sale” sign, but it wasn’t clear whether the clown and the sign were connected.
School and police officials told The Press-Enterprise most of the sightings were likely hoaxes since they have not received any reports.
The sightings were reported just as a Connecticut school district announced a ban on clown costumes and any other “symbols of terror” during this year’s Halloween season as authorities investigate the authenticity of a number of clown-related social media posts.
While no threats to Southland schools have been reported, one Instagram account uploaded four photos showing menacing-looking clowns with captions telling several Connecticut schools to “watch out” and “wait and see” whether the alleged threats are fake.
Some of the reported sightings have been hoaxes, like the four young children who told police they made up stories about spotting clowns in unusual places in and around Annapolis, Maryland, or the 24-year-old man whom police in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, charged with falsely reporting that a clown knocked on his window.
Other related cases weren’t so harmless and have resulted in criminal charges.
Deputies in South Carolina increased patrols after getting new reports of people dressed as clowns trying to lure children into the woods.
The sheriff in Escambia County, Alabama, last week arrested a 22-year-old woman and two juveniles after Flomaton High School was locked down and searched when students were threatened on “Flomo Klown” and “Shoota Cllown” social media accounts. And in Athens, Georgia, an 11-year-old girl was arrested for taking a knife to school on Friday because she was frightened by social media reports and other rumors that clowns were preparing to attack children.
(TM and © Copyright 2016 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2016 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)