Easily one of the most bizarre stories of 2016, the rash of clown sightings in North Carolina have been picking up steam in the news recently and giving everyone involved the chills. In case you haven’t been following along, the story goes something like this: Last week, the police department of a Greensboro, North Carolina neighborhood began receiving several calls that clowns — as in face-painted, big shoe-wearing clowns — were popping up all over the neighborhood and terrifying local residents. In one instance, a man chased one of the offenders with a machete. In another, a pair of clowns attempted to lure a pair of children into the woods with God knows what intent.

While at least one of these reports was later determined to be a hoax, and a similar clown sighting in Wisconsin turned out to be viral marketing for a horror short, the story has quickly become one of those national sensations that, like crop circles in the ’70s, is likely to continue self-perpetuating for the foreseeable future. Of course, you can’t really talk about clowns nowadays without it all tracing back to one man: Stephen King, whose 1986 novel (and subsequent 1990 miniseries) It set the gold standard for clown-based horror stories.

With a feature film adaptation of It currently in production, the timing of these clown sightings seems… coincidental to say the very least. Perhaps looking for the prolific author’s take on the story, The Bangor Daily News (who else?) reached out to King yesterday. His response was every bit as blunt as you might expect.

Stephen Kings IT Pennywise down the storm drain Stephen King Comments on Recent Rash of Clown Sightings

If I saw a clown lurking under a lonely bridge–or peering up at me from a sewer grate, with or without balloons– I’d be scared, too,” said King, continuing:

“I suspect it’s a kind of low-level hysteria, like Slender Man, or the so-called Bunny Man, who purportedly lurked in Fairfax County, Virginia, wearing a white hood with long ears and attacking people with a hatchet or an axe. The clown furor will pass, as these things do, but it will come back, because under the right circumstances, clowns really can be terrifying.

“Take a little kid to the circus and show him a clown, he’s more apt to scream with fear than laugh.”

This whole thing seems like it could be an ingenious way of getting some early plugs in for the upcoming It remake in as cost-effective manner as possible. Or, you know, maybe it’s just that North Carolina has a larger than average population of Insane Clown Posse fans who are already gearing up for next year’s Gathering of the Juggalos. That’s arguably the more frightening scenario, if you ask me.

It opens in U.S. theaters on September 8th, 2017.

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