'Creepy Clown' Hysteria Highlights Deep Fissures Within Legit Clowning World

IT Clown - H 2016
Courtesy of ABC

The pros are up in arms over these dangerous pranksters. Says "Clowns Lives Matter" founder Snuggles: "They're a bunch of fakes. They have a sickness."

There's a creepy clown epidemic currently plaguing our country. No one yet has been seriously hurt, but several of the masked menaces — some of whom have reportedly wielded real knives and issued threats to schools — have been arrested.

The fad has gotten so out of hand, it has warranted a statement from White House press secretary Josh Earnest, who said on Tuesday that the president had not "been briefed on this particular situation" but that law enforcement is "taking [it] quite seriously."

Also taking it seriously? Professional clowns — both of the cuddly and terrifying variety.

In one corner you have kid-friendly "traditional" clowns, who are dismayed that the joy-inducing craft they have devoted their lives to has been co-opted for cheap thrills at Halloween attractions and in pop-culture properties like American Horror Story — a genre which now has spilled out into the streets.

"We believe the art of clown is something to be treasured and enjoyed by audience's worldwide," says Randy Christensen, president of the World Clown Association. "We bring a happy, joyful, creative, caring, positive and fun experience to our audiences."

Christensen feels that scary clowns — even the legit ones like those running around big-ticket scare events like Universal Studios' Halloween Horror Nights — are not clowns at all.

"Just as a haunted house event may have a 'doctor' wearing surgical gear and carrying a bloody chainsaw, people need to understand that this character is not a real doctor. He is a person portraying an evil character in order to scare people," he says.

"In the same way, people dressed as horror clowns are not 'real clowns.' They are taking something innocent and wholesome and perverting it to create fear in their audience."

But the folks who make a living playing those evil clowns are just as upset that their artful scares are being co-opted by marauding packs of honk-nosed hooligans.

Every fall, Jordan Jones, 22, plays Snuggles the Clown at Screamland Farms, a haunted attraction in Frederick, Maryland. Jones was so upset about the spate of clown pranks recently reported in almost 40 states, he decided to start "a movement" via his Facebook page: "Clown Lives Matter."

(Coincidentally, another Clown Lives Matter campaign sprouted up in Tucson, Arizona, where a "peaceful" kiddie-clown parade is scheduled for Oct. 15.)

"These clowns out in communities making people afraid for their safety, they're not clowns. They're a bunch of fakes. They have a sickness," Jones says.

"I'm a professional actor. I've been doing this since I was 13 years old. Sweat and tears I put in this. I can legally entertain people when they come to Screamland Farms. I would never, ever get in my clown suit and walk around the public and scare people."

As far as the World Clown Association's fundamentalist claims that scary clowns "are not clowns at all," Jones counters that "there are all different meanings of clowns. There are party clowns with cute face paint. Those are birthday clowns. But what I do? I'm a clown!"

"We work on haunted hayride," he continues. "We do a 20-second skit. We attack the wagon. We laugh, we clown around — it's a great thing!"