Clown sightings: Australia police 'won't tolerate' antics

A man dressed as the clown from Stephen King's novel 'It' plays with a girl at the Anime Friends, a gaming and comic event in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on 24 July, 2016. Image copyright AP
Image caption Pranksters in clown masks are stalking Australia - and not everyone is laughing

Australian police in Victoria have warned the public not to engage in "intimidating" behaviour after reports of clowns terrorising people in Melbourne.

Sightings of creepy clowns have sparked minor hysteria across the US since August.

People in clown masks have reportedly chased others and tried to lure children into woods.

Victoria police warned that such escapades would "not be tolerated".

More on the marauding clowns:

Creepy clown sightings leave US baffled

'Killer clowns' come to Canada

Lurking clown arrested in Kentucky woods

In a statement on its Facebook page, which appears to have since been deleted, the force wrote: "Victoria Police are aware of people who are parading in public wearing clown masks.

"The clown purge appears to be a copycat of incidents being seen in the USA recently.

"Any intimidating and threatening as well as anti-social behaviours will not be tolerated and will be investigated by Police."

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Clown sightings are now spreading across the world

Clowns have also been spotted in Sydney, with one pictured loitering outside a fast food restaurant in the Campbelltown area.

Australians have responded by setting up Facebook pages dedicated to "clown hunting", as the sightings spread.

One theory has it that the upswing in "killer clown" antics is linked to the release of novelist Stephen King's new film, It.

The plot involves a child-slaughtering being which takes the form of a clown called Pennywise to lure its prey.

But King has criticised the craze. This week, he tweeted: "Hey, guys, time to cool the clown hysteria - most of em are good, cheer up the kiddies, make people laugh."

Image copyright Twitter/StephenKing
Image caption Novelist Stephen King suggested it's time to end the craze

The sinister craze began in South Carolina with reports that men dressed as clowns were trying to coax children into the woods with money. It was followed by sightings in Alabama, Georgia and Pennsylvania.

Schools in Texas and Alabama have even shut down over the phenomenon.

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Media captionClown sightings in the UK

On Tuesday, White House press secretary Josh Earnest told a press briefing that President Barack Obama had not been briefed on the issue, but added, "this is a situation that local law enforcement authorities take quite seriously".

Reports suggest New Zealand has also been sucked into the epidemic, after a clown "lurking" at a school spooked parents on Wednesday.

Some professional clowns fear the negative trend may put them in physical danger.

Professional clown Jordan Jones, who goes by the name Snuggles, has started a #ClownLivesMatter movement, inspired by the #BlackLivesMatter campaign, to remind the public that real clowns want to spread happiness, not fear.

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