Is it an elaborate marketing stunt for the upcoming adaptation of Stephen King's novel IT or is it something more sinister? This is the question that many people have been left asking following the mysterious appearance of several red balloons on sewer grates across a borough in Pennsylvania. The appearance of the balloons has led to residents experiencing a mix of amusement and concern, due to the imagery that the balloons denote.
The Lititz Borough Police Department has said that officers:
"Want the local prankster to know that we were completely terrified as we removed these balloons."
The department feel the pranksters are doing this in conjunction with the release of IT, which opens in theatres across the world on Friday. The horror movie tells the story of an evil and deranged clown named Pennywise who makes it his sole purpose to stalk and pursue children across the town, luring them into the sewers and drainage pipes by using colourful red balloons.
Sgt. Stephen Detz with the Lititz Borough Police Department recently told CBS News:
I don't think we have an accurate balloon count, but it's definitely above 20. They pretty much hit the entire town and the area around the town.
Sgt. Detz continued to describe how there are:
"IT" fans within the department, so when officers saw the balloons they immediately caught the reference.
The police department posted about the incident on their Facebook page on Tuesday. The post gathered a lot of attention with as many as 4,000 people sharing the message.
The post provided some assurance for worried residents of the town. One woman stated how she:
"Was wondering what those balloons were for! I had no idea."
Another person commented how:
"Lititz is now officially the creepiest little town in America."
Whilst the police department and Sgt. Detz have commended the prank as being "clever" and a very good marketing move for the release of the movie, Pennsylvania state police have warned about the reemergence of the clowns that appeared in towns and cities across the world in 2016.
The release of IT in tandem with the clown-focus in the latest series of American Horror Story has local police fearing the worst. The state police recently stated how:
"The creepy clown craze in September 2016 resulted in at least a dozen [arrests] in Georgia, Alabama and Virginia for either taking part in the menacing stunt or for making false reports."
The clown sightings set off a wave of disturbances in: Alabama, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and Wisconsin. The Pennsylvania state police described how:
"With the fall of 2017 upon us, it is anticipated that similar 'creepy clown' sightings could be reported starting as soon as September, in part due to the fact that the movie 'It' will be released. There's always that possibility, especially with the popularity of this movie."
Although wearing a creepy clown costume is not illegal, Sgt. Detz has reminded people to behave accordingly if they do choose to dress up in such a costume.
"They should respect others boundaries. Simply wearing a clown mask or dressing up as a clown isn't a crime — that's when they begin harassing or assaulting people or things like that. If they are showing support for a movie that's not a problem. It's when they start trying to harass or annoy people with their presence."
IT is out in theatres across the world on Friday, September 8 and the latest series of American Horror Story has already begun. We sure hope the clowns and balloons don't get out of hand!