A local mum has told how her children were left frightened after being confronted by youngsters dressed as “killer clowns” in Larne.
The craze, which originated in America, sees individuals deliberately donning sinister disguises to scare people.
The killer clowns have so far been spotted in Dixon Park, Craigyhill, Linn Glen, Main Street, the town park, and the harbour.
A social media user who identified himself as a ‘killer clown’ from the local area has issued a warning that the sinister costumed figures will be active in several locations around Larne in the run up to Halloween.
He stated: “We shall be about Larne 10 days prior to Halloween do not approach us, we shall be active in these areas of Larne�: Town Park, Dixon Park, Smiley Park, Larne Main Street, Craigyhill, Antiville, Boyne square, Harbour.
“Every night there will be another one of us “I am legion for we are many”.���
In separate posts he added: “No one will be hurt unless they mean us harm?
“We are armed and ready...”
One concerned parent, who did not wish to be named, told how her five-year-old daughter has been unable to forget meeting a group of four youngsters in clown masks armed with baseball bats and hurling sticks in Dixon Park.
“They had hurling sticks, one had a baseball bat and they were wearing quite sinister clown masks,” she told the Times.
“I went up to them as they were quite small, around 11 or 12 years old, and I asked them to remove their masks as they were scaring the little kids.
“I told them not to put the masks on but when they went onto Bryan Street they put them on again and when we walked down there a group of wee girls came running over to us and shouted: ‘The killer clowns are coming!’”
“My five-year-old daughter has said she couldn’t get the clowns out of her head, she was scared.
“Then when my seven-year-old son was walking his friend home up the Roddens they bumped into the boys again and it scared them.
“Afterwards he said he didn’t want to go out on his own any more.
“I’m not going to let my kids go out on their own as I don’t want them coming home freaked out, and other parents have said they are concerned for their kids’ safety.”
The local mum is now calling on schools to educate youngsters to prevent them taking part in the craze.
“The kids talk about it in school and it’s getting a bit hysterical,” she continued.
“I don’t think the boys in masks we saw were going to harm the kids but the scary clown masks are quite an ugly image to see.”
The situation provoked fury on social media, with several parents saying their children had been left “terrified” and afraid to enjoy Halloween.
One mother stated: “This is making me so angry-can’t I take my kids to the park anymore without worrying about them getting scared witless?
“They usually love Halloween but I think we might be keeping a low profile this year.”
Another added: “I guess they think this is all good fun, but when little children are scared to go out it is taking it too far.”
General Secretary of Larne YMCA Joy McNally urged youngsters to consider the effect of their behaviour on others.
“I would urge young people to be mindful of the effect of their actions on other people and encourage parents to be aware of what they are doing,” she stated.
“We want young people to have fun but if it starts to negatively impact on someone else or be intimidating that’s not what anyone wants.”
A PSNI spokesperson said police had received a report of four youths dressed as clowns in Dixon Park carrying baseball bats and hurling sticks but found no trace of them when they checked the area.
“Police are aware of a growing number of reports across Northern Ireland regarding the so-called ‘Killer Clown’ craze and are appealing for people not to become involved,” the spokesperson continued.
“We are aware of posts on social media platforms where individuals have suggested dressing in clown costumes and going to schools to scare teachers and students.
“Reports have also been received of people dressed as clowns in a number of areas.
“Patrols have been briefed in relation to this and they will take appropriate action should they encounter any criminal behaviour.
“Members of the public are also encouraged not to approach anyone they witness taking part in this behaviour, but instead call police.”
Assistant Chief Constable Stephen Martin, District Policing Command stated: “I would advise anyone who may be considering posting information on social media platforms to consider what they’re saying. Encouraging behaviour that has the potential to generate fear or indeed posting threatening messages can lead to a criminal record.
“Crime is crime, whether in the virtual world or the real world and there are consequences. Please don’t get caught up in something that could jeopardise your future.”