Childline calls over creepy clown craze
The "creepy clown" craze has led to a deluge of calls to helplines from youngsters left terrified by the sinister phenomenon.
The NSPCC said Scotland's two Childline bases had conducted 22 counselling sessions to help frightened youngsters since the craze began last week.
The fad has left police dealing with a wave of incidents, with forces warning pranksters will face arrest.
Childline said a quarter of calls about clowns came from children under 11.
More than a third came from terrified youngsters between the ages of 12 and 15, added the charity.
'Twisted and warped'
The US-born craze has seen cases of clowns chasing children with weapons such as knives or baseball bats, in some instances specifically targeting schools.
Staff at the Childline base in Glasgow said they had conducted 12 counselling sessions with worried children, while staff in Aberdeen have taken part in 10.
In Dunbar, East Lothian, a clown was spotted chasing terrified school children and stopped traffic by jumping onto the road.
Children have also been targeted online, in one instance in which a 13-year-old girl was messaged on Instagram from someone posing as a clown who threatened to cut her throat and rape her.
An NSPCC Scotland spokesperson said: "People getting dressed up as 'creepy clowns' and frightening children should take a long hard look at themselves.
"Clowns are meant to make children laugh but these people are abusing this idea and turning it into something twisted and warped.
"Increasing reports that these 'clowns' are not simply seeking to frighten children but using them to intimidate, commit crimes, abuse or bully are deeply worrying and this trend needs to be stamped out."
The NSPCC urged children who seen a 'creepy clown' out on the streets or lurking near their school to contact an adult or the police.