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Penn State students flood downtown, campus over clowns

Penn State students have been known to rally for anything related to football.

But alleged clown sightings?

That’s never been a reason to run up and down College and Beaver avenues, start chants and gather at Old Main for hours on end — until Monday night.

Penn State police Sgt. Mike Nelson said that there were no real sightings of clowns known to authorities. That didn’t stop at least 500 students — Nelson’s minimum estimate — from latching onto the idea that there was one on the loose in the borough.

“Fortunately, there was no property damage, no injury and no violence,” Nelson said. “And there were no sightings.”

The rumor mill spread quickly, causing dozens of students searching for a clown to turn into hundreds. Police were inundated by phone calls about students gathering in places across the downtown area and on campus.

“The cause of this specifically was social media,” Nelson said. “If there were any clowns with this many students out there and with our police responding to calls, we would have ran into it. Some photos we’ve seen were photoshopped or incidents from across the country.”

The only real clown sighting, Nelson said, was a screen shot of a clown projected onto Beaver Hill apartments.

The Centre County incident is just the latest in a nationwide spate of clown-related hysteria.

Within the past 24 hours, there are reports of creepy clowns popping up in New Hampshire, Delaware, Texas, Connecticut, New York, Massachusetts, Washington, Oregon and New Mexico. Several are around college campuses, like the University of Connecticut and SUNY Cortland. Many of the reports have been called “unfounded” by police.

The reports generally concern people in clown costumes behaving in a suspicious manner or performing mischief.

State police say that unspecified clown sightings have happened in Huntingdon and Ebensburg, including reports of a peeping clown. Trooper Adam Reed said citizens should “not confront the individual but rather gather information and report it to your local police,” according to The Associated Press.

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