Elon University’s campus was briefly gripped by panic late Monday night as reports of a clown sighting spread from student to student. University Police and Town of Elon police confirmed that they never received any actual calls reporting a clown or any other suspicious person.

Rumors of a clown sighting arose shortly before midnight on Monday, but many students stayed awake until the hysteria fizzled out around 1:30 a.m. Tuesday. Some students gathered outside residential neighborhoods to spot the clown themselves, while others stayed in their rooms seeking updates on social media, as networks such as Twitter and GroupMe buzzed with rumors.

“At 11:46 p.m. I received a couple GroupMe notifications, particularly one saying, ‘Everyone is screaming because apparently there was a clown sighting by Global. What is clown protocol?’” said junior Meg Hinote, a resident in the Global Neighborhood. “As RAs, we attempted to maintain the peace and ensure no one panicked until we knew this rumor was true.” 

Hinote’s story reflects how many students heard about the alleged clown from unsubstantiated rumors in text messages and group chats. The rumors first indicated that a clown was spotted in the Global Neighborhood, but after students roaming the area failed to locate one, reports on social media said that someone in a clown costume had been arrested in the Colonnades Neighborhood. Following these reports, students gathered in the Colonnades quad, some armed with flashlights and golf clubs.

At one point, video of a clown outside a window began to circulate, with some saying that the video was shot from inside Carolina Hall. Worries were quickly dismissed, as the video was deemed to have originated at a different university.

Concern regarding clown sightings spread to a national level in late August, after reports of clowns trying to lure children into the woods in South Carolina were made to local police. More recently, police received a report of an armed clown sighting in the town of Green Level, North Carolina. Green Level is about 20 minutes east of Elon.

Elon was not the only college with a clown situation last night: Universities from Pennsylvania to Texas and Massachusetts to Tennessee had similar reports on Monday.


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