CINCINNATI -- Gretchen Cox, who has performed for almost a decade in Greater Cincinnati as “Cookie the Clown," is worried.
Although some local “creepy clown” threats have been resolved with arrests and other disciplinary action, more continue to crop up. It turns out that the internet, like a tiny car, contains more clowns than anyone anticipated, and fear of their threats becoming reality cancelled classes at Reading Community Schools on Friday.
Cox said Friday night that this environment both saddens and frightens her. The trolls behind these incidents aren’t just threatening the safety of high school students and other local people, she said. They’re also threatening the livelihood -- and possibly the physical wellbeing -- of professional clowns like Cox.
We livestreamed an interview with Cox on our Facebook page, and negative comments appeared almost immediately.
"I hate all clowns so this is a PSA do not come near me (sic) I'm locked and loaded," wrote one Facebook user.
Another took it even further: “Kill it its (sic) a clown"
Cox said she has indefinitely suspended all of her clowning appearances for fear of harassment or violence from people who conflate the masked attackers and anonymous social media accounts with professional clowns.
"Clowns bring joy. They bring love and fun, and I don’t want anybody to take that away from us," she said. "This is not the way to do it. (The people making these threats) are not clowns. They're just wearing makeup."
As Cookie, Cox regularly appears at Coney Island, Newport on the Levee and local public libraries. She said she enjoys working with children, and she does face-painting and makes balloon animals at her public engagements.
To the people posing as clowns on social media and in real life, she had just one thing to say:
"Please stop - and for real, get a life."
The news isn’t all bad: During our stream with Cox, many commenters chimed in to voice their support for professional clowns and express sympathy for those who have been negatively affected by the spate of threats.
Police in multiple Tri-State communities have said they will keep a close eye on new developments and possible threats, and the studio behind Stephen King's "It" has denied involvement. For now, it seems that the best thing for us to do is wait for this circus to pack up and leave town.