ROCKINGHAM — Idiotic and evil.
That’s how Delia Michael describes the recent rash of reported clown sightings in the Carolinas.
“I’m really tired of people giving clowns a bad rap,” she said.
Michael, who masquerades as Deedle the Clown, has been “clowning” professionally since 2000 — starting in Moore County before moving to Richmond County the same year — following in her mother’s footsteps.
“Mom was a clown growing up, so I never had a fear of clowns,” she told the Daily Journal in a telephone interview on Thursday.
Michael said she is just “trying to make the world a better place” and has even helped a few people get over their coulrophobia — fear of clowns.
She doesn’t wear a wig, or red nose or over-sized clown shoes, opting instead for just face paint, like a mime.
“I try to keep it real,” she said. “I try not to be the scary clown.”
But some communities across North and South Carolina in the past several weeks have gotten cautious.
Reports began surfacing in South Carolina late last month of clowns allegedly trying to lure children to into the woods.
Police in Winston-Salem said they would step up patrols in one neighborhood after a similar situation was reported there Sunday, according to the Associated Press.
Greensboro police say officers responded to a 911 call Tuesday at an apartment complex where a witness reported seeing an individual wearing a clown mask, red wig, blue clown pants and clown shoes. Another witness allegedly chased the suspected clown with a machete, the AP reports.
The same day, there were reported sightings in Hope Mills and Fayetteville, and another in Hope Mills on Wednesday, according to the Fayetteville Observer, which also reports there have been at least eight sightings investigated in High Point.
Closer to home, Laurinburg Police Chief Darwin “Duke” Williams said one resident reported what appeared to be the “shadow of a clown” on someone’s porch and another resident told police that a clown was spotted in the woods, according to the Laurinburg Exchange.
Police have not found evidence of clowns in any of the cases.
In a news release from the Greensboro Police Department, officials said it is lawful to dress as a clown, but “given the heightened tensions about these entertainers,” the department is “discouraging copycat behavior by individuals who may find it humorous to mimic the suspicious behavior that has parents on edge.”
Chief Williams agreed.
“People need to be careful …. someone dressed as a clown could end up getting killed if they step on the wrong person’s property,” he said.
So far, there have been no reported sightings in Richmond County, according to the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office and Rockingham and Hamlet police departments.
Some of the clowns were reportedly wearing “scary clown” masks.
“First off, I don’t know why a kid would follow a clown like that into the woods,” Michael said, adding that she is concerned about the safety of children.
But that’s not the only thing that worries her.
“I wonder how much that’s going to affect my business,” she said. “I hope it doesn’t keep people from wanting clowns at their events.”
Michael, as Deedle, was in Hamlet on the Fourth of July making balloon animals and recently volunteered for a back-to-school bash at The Hive Recreation Center.
With movies, like Stephen King’s “It” — a 1990 miniseries starring Tim Curry as the child-killing clown Pennywise, based on King’s 1986 novel, which is also currently being remade — Michael said there is a already a number of people who have a fear of clowns “without idiots making it worse.”
In an email to the Bangor Daily News in Maine, King said he suspects the recent sightings as “a kind of low-level hysteria.”
“The clown furor will pass, as these things do, but it will come back, because under the right circumstances, clowns really can be terrifying,” he said.
Michael said that “it’s really sad” that clowns are portrayed in a bad light, hurting children, when they’re “something that shouldn’t be a scary thing.”
“As a clown, as a mom, as a regular human being, I think it’s idiotic and it’s evil,” she said. “I hope they catch them.”
The Associated Press and Nolan Gilmour from the Laurinburg Exchange contributed to this story. Contact Gilmour at 910-276-2311. Reach William R. Toler at 910-817-2675 and follow him on Twitter @William_r_Toler.