GREENVILLE, S.C. — Multiple law enforcement agencies are investigating a rash of incidents involving a clown sighting at apartment complexes and other areas of Greenville and Spartanburg counties, according to WHNS.
Both the Greenville Police Department and Greenville County Sheriff’s Office have open cases and the Spartanburg Police Department confirmed Thursday that clown sightings had been reported at an apartment complex there.
“The clowning around needs to stop,” said Ken Miller, the Greenville police chief who previously worked as the police chief in Greensboro, at a press conference Thursday, according to CBS News. “It’s illegal, it’s dangerous, it’s inappropriate, it’s creating community concern.”
Captain Art Littlejohn with the Spartanburg Police Department said officers were called to Canaan Pointe Apartments Wednesday night for reports of a suspicious person. The complainant, a woman, told officers that a person dressed as a clown was standing in her backyard. She snapped a photo and the person ran off. Littlejohn said the responding officer tried to view the photo on the woman’s phone but the image was too dark to make out.
Deputies in Greenville County said the clowns were initially seen in wooded areas, where they reportedly tried to encourage children to join them, but the situation escalated to reports that clowns were also knocking on the doors of homes.
Investigators said no conclusive photo or video evidence has surfaced and no suspects have been named in any of the incidents.
Officer Gilberto Franco with the Greenville Police Department said the biggest obstacle investigators are facing is the lack of detail in the descriptions they are receiving of the clowns. Franco said that of the three reports his agency is investigating, not enough information was received about the costumes, hair colors, and whether or not the suspects had on masks or painted faces.
The warning letter
FOX Carolina begin looking into the clown sightings after residents at Fleetwood Manor Apartments shared a letter they found on their apartment doors that left them concerned for the safety of their neighborhood.
The letters, which were reportedly posted at the apartment complex on Fleetwood Drive on Aug. 24, stated the property management has received complaints of a person dressed as a clown trying to “lure children into the woods.”
The letter, which appears to be printed on Fleetwood Manor Apartments letterhead, reminds the public children should never be alone or walking through the woods at night.
The property management in the letter indicates Greenville County law enforcement is conducting daily patrols of the property due to the reports. Below is the full text of the letter:
To The Residents of Fleetwood Manor
There has [sic] been several conversation [sic] and a lot of complaints to the office regarding a clown or a person dressed in clown clothing taking children or trying to lure children in the woods. First and foremost at Fleetwood Manor Apartments childrens [sic] safety is a top priority. At no time should a child be alone at night, or walking in the roads or wooded areas at night. Also if a person or persons are seen you are to immediately call the police. Greenville County Police Department is aware of the situation and have been riding [sic] the property daily. Remember there is a 10pm curfew for the property so to ensure your childrens [sic] safety please keep them in the house during night hours and make sure at ALL times children are supervised. Anymore information that becomes regarding this issue will be sent out to all residents.
Donna Arnold, one of the people residing at the complex who received the letter, said she called the Greenville County Sheriff’s Office to come out to Fleetwood Manor after her son and others reported seeing clowns behind the basketball court.
“I thought my child was seeing things,” Arnold said. “And then the next day I had about 30 kids come up to me and say, ‘Did you see the clown in the woods?”
Community activist Bruce Wilson said he is getting involved at the apartments to make sure children are safe, even if the sightings turn out to be harmless.
“We have about two to three hundred children out here,” Wilson said. “I want to make sure that law enforcement is doing the right thing.”
The Greenville sightings
Deputies confirmed Monday they were called to the apartment complex on Aug. 21 to investigate after residents reported seeing “a suspicious character, dressed in circus clown attire and white face paint, enticing kids to follow him/her into the woods.”
Investigative reports state police met with a mother, whose name was redacted, who witnessed the clowns in the woods after her son notified her of their presence. The woman told deputies the clowns were shining green laser lights in the woods.
Another resident also reported seeing a “large-figured clown with a blinking nose” standing under a streetlight near the trash dumpsters.
Deputies spoke with children who told them clowns tried “to persuade them into the woods further by displaying large amounts of money.” The children advised they believed the clowns lived in an old house near a pond, accessible via a trail behind the apartment complex.
The house near the pond was located, but deputies said they found no signs of suspicious activity or clowns.
According to the investigative report, deputies also received two prior calls about clowns in the area and one call about gunshots being fired at clowns.
At about 8:30 p.m. Monday, Greenville County Deputies made their way to the Emerald Commons Apartment Complex on White Horse Road after a child said he saw a man dressed in a clown costume about two hours prior.
Another clown sighting was reported at the Shemwood Apartments in Greenville shortly before 10 p.m. on Monday, according to the sheriff’s office.
A 12-year-old told deputies two clowns were sighted in the backyard area, one with red hair and another with a white mask and body suit. The juvenile also told deputies that a person was taking photographs of children.
Four deputies were sent out to patrol the area.
Both incidents at Shemwood Apartments and Fleetwood Manor are being actively investigated by the Greenville County Sheriff’s Office and patrols have been increased in the area to ensure the safety of the public.
Deputies have not been able to substantiate any claims through evidence or video surveillance, but they said they don’t have any reason not to believe the claims.
“This type of call in particular where people are alleging that the clowns are being used to lure children, of course, we are going to take that seriously,” Greenville County deputy Ryan Flood said.
One Tuesday night, the Greenville Police Department reportedly received two new calls about clown sightings at Shemwood Apartments, within hours of each other.
Callers said kids started chasing two clowns through the complex before the clowns ran to a wooden fence and broke through it to get away. One clown was waiting in a car and the other two clowns jumped in and they took off. Witnesses said the car appeared to be a newer-model black Honda.
The children told officers one clown had a red nose and red hair but no face paint.
On Wednesday police said a young girl walking home from school reported seeing a clown in the wooded area by Hughes Academy in the Pleasant Valley area. Officers are en route to investigate near Rice Street and Deoyley Avenue.
Evan said his football practice was canceled, so he got home earlier than normal. The boy said he called his mother after the clown encounter. His mother then called police.
“My mama told me that she called the cops and I knew she wasn’t playing and I’m being serious about this,” Evan said. “I’m not gonna joke around about something like this, this is serious.”
Officer Gilberto Franco with the Greenville Police Department said Wednesday that there were still many unknown variables.
“(Investigators don’t know) if there’s any ill intent towards it, or if it’s just somebody that is out there causing a disturbance,” Franco said.
Franco admits, officers have never received reports quite like these, but if it turns out that masked men are behind it, they could face charges.
“It’s unlawful for you to wear a mask in public whether it’s a mask itself or conceal your face while you’re out in public,” Franco said.
Police are also encouraging parents to be extra cautious until the situation is resolved.
“We want to make sure parents are still remaining vigilant and to make sure you keep track of your children playing, don’t leave them playing isolated.”
The community impact
Community activist Bruce Wilson, founder of Fighting Injustice Together, is calling for the clown terror to stop “before someone gets hurt.”
Wilson said a news conference will be held Thursday at 6:30 p.m. at Pleasant Valley Connection on Old Augusta Road.
“We plan to publicly ask whoever is behind this senseless action of scaring child to stop before someone gets hurt,” Wilson stated. “We will also be asking law enforcement, both Greenville city police and Greenville County Sheriff’s Office, to increase patrols in these neighborhoods and to ensure that officers do not simply sit in patrol cars but actually walking the perimeter of these apartment complexes.”
Clown performers weigh in
FOX Carolina also reached to Upstate party clowns for their take on the situation.
Kelly Montfort owns Over the Top Entertainment. He’s better known for birthday parties and special events as Mr. Twister.
Montfort said his clown antics are only aimed at making people happy and is concerned that the clown sightings in Greenville may be bad for business.
“I am terrified of that actually,” Montfort said. “I truly hope it’s being made up. I truly hope there is not a psychopath that is going after kids, and if there is, I hope that someone catches them.”
Montfort suspects the clown sightings are not part of a sinister plot but rather part of a marketing strategy.
“I believe there is a chance that it could be a big publicity stunt for someone, a haunted house or some sort of production that will be coming in the next few months.”