Officials in at least four towns in New York and New Jersey said they've been investigating reports of creepy clowns trying to scare children and others recently.
Authorities in Suffolk County and the Ulster County village of Ellenville in New York and Toms River and Pohatcong in New Jersey said that they'd received reports of creepy clowns in recent days in what appears to be the latest in a nationwide trend of reports of clown sightings.
In Lindenhurst, school officials said in a Facebook post that they were keeping students inside during recess after reports about people dressed as clowns in North Babylon and Brentwood. The district also alluded to a tweet that indicated that the village might be the next target.
"Out of an abundance of caution, we will be keeping elementary school children in during recess today and our security team is on high alert," the district said in the post.
The district said it's referred the matter to the Suffolk County Police Department.
Suffolk County police added that investigators haven't been able to confirm any sightings in the county and that no officers had seen anyone wearing a clown costume.
"We understand this may be a social media prank throughout the country, but we take quite seriously all calls that involve intentional harassment, trespassing, disturbing of the peace, and reported activity that results in the citizens of our county feeling threatened," the department said.
Parents at the school on Friday were split on the reports. At least one said it sounded like a joke, and another said that they're worried that coverage of the clowns could make for meaner pranks.
"I think you're just going to make whoever is doing this say, 'Ha, I got them. What else can we do? Let's take it up a notch," said Jessica Kulish.
In Ellenville, police said they were investigating false reports of acts committed by a clown who calls himself "Bubbo Theclown" on Facebook. The department said in its own Facebook post that any purported crimes committed by "Bubbo Theclown" were hoaxes.
"This is not humorous in anyway, and in fact causes unnecessary stress, and in some cases traumatizes the children who are victims of these heinous acts," the department said.
In Pohatcong, New Jersey, authorities cited an 18-year-old riding on the hood of a hearse at a Wal-Mart on Tuesday. Police there said the man hadn't made any contact with shoppers and called the episode a "hoax."
"This odd phenomena is happening all over the country but it will not be tolerated in this township," said Pohatcong Mayor James Kern III. "Hopefully those considering these type of actions will now think otherwise."
Authorities in Toms River are likewise investigating reports of clowns, though police didn't confirm any sightings in the Jersey Shore town. Authorities in the town said that there had been threats to schools that originated from outside the Garden State and they haven't found any credible threat from the clown reports. Still, additional officers will be posted at schools in the town.
The incidents are among the latest in a series of frightening encounters involving clowns nationwide. Since August, people South Carolina, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Georgia have reported scary or suspicious incidents with people dressed as clowns.