The Wash
This message appeared on the Columbia Heights NextDoor forum on Nov. 13, 2019. (Sianna Boschetti/The Wash)

Satire: Are creepy clowns roaming the streets of Columbia Heights?

An online rumor suggests that clowns could be in Columbia Heights at night. The Wash debunks whether the 2016 clown pandemic has returned to our own backyard.

Three years after the creepy clown pandemic of 2016, when clowns took to the streets with masks, red noses and sometimes even weapons to instill fear into the hearts of people across the nation and even the world. The District even had its own clown scare at McKinley Middle School when a 14-year-old student called in a clown threat.

By now, the clown scares have mostly receded, but last month that may have changed. On Nov. 13, a message appeared on the Columbia Heights NextDoor forum titled “Clowns running through the streets.”

The message quickly made its way to Twitter, where residents dismissed the post as a joke. But with the 2016 creepy clown pandemic just a few years behind us, The Wash decided to investigate the question central to this post: are there clowns roaming Columbia Heights at night?

In an email statement, the Metropolitan Police Department reported they have received zero complaints of clowns in the Third District, where Columbia Heights is located. “However, if anyone feels unsafe, they should contact 911 immediately so MPD can respond and address any concerns,” said Public Affairs Specialist Alaina Gertz.

The clowns themselves could tell a different story, though. Christopher McCarthy of Melbourne, Florida, played a role in the 2016 clown pandemic. In October of that year, McCarthy put on a clown mask and drove around North Melbourne with a friend, with whom he shared a popular live streaming channel. The mask was later discovered in his car and police knocked on his door, but McCarthy is now glad to share his side of the story.

“We just thought it’d be a funny video, to just drive around with the mask on, just get people’s reactions,” he said.

Though he was not charged with a crime, McCarthy said the Melbourne Police Department later asked him to take down the video.

Creepy clowns exploded in popularity in 2016 when several cities reported clowns threatening residents. McCarthy, however, noted that they’ve been part of the popular imagination for quite some time. He first encountered coulrophobia, or a fear of clowns, with his aunt.

“I asked her, ‘Why are you deathly afraid of clowns?’ And she said that back in the ‘90s, she saw the first It movie,” McCarthy said. “That petrified her.”

Regardless of whether the NextDoor post was a hoax, Columbia Heights residents were simultaneously entertained by the concept and less likely to believe the clown epidemic has returned in 2019.

When asked if clowns have been roaming the streets, resident Dylan Waldner said, “I think I’ve seen some in the corner of my eye, but it’s a fleeting glance. I don’t know for sure.”

Aaron Rosenthal added, “I have not seen any clowns like my friend here, but I trust him, so stay safe out there.”

Sianna Boschetti

I’m a graduate broadcast student at American University covering social justice issues. I graduated with my bachelor’s degree in English from Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida, where I was Co-Editor-in-Chief of the campus literary journal, Brushing, a regular contributor to the award-winning magazine The Independent and a staff writer for the school paper, The Sandspur. Also, I’m a professional comic book grader.

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