The creepy clown epidemic continues to spread in New Jersey and all over the country.

So far in the Garden State this week, police have responded to creepy clown threats in Elizabeth, Hamilton, Deptford and Washington Township in Gloucester County.

Rutgers University sociology professor Deborah Carr believes there is a fear of creepy clowns because throughout the years there have been many horror movies with crazed clowns attacking and killing people.

“Every generation has a film they saw as a child that featured a scary clown, so I think there is this universal fear of clowns,” she said.

The professor pointed out “the features of these clowns we’re seeing now look like people who are scary, they have wild hair and deranged eyes, and they really feed into people’s nightmares about what a potentially dangerous person might look like.”

And there is also a strong curiosity factor at play.

“None of us can figure out why these clowns are cropping up in New Jersey. I think we’re all scratching our heads collectively trying to figure out why this is happening,” she said.

Carr noted creepy clowns are also popping up in other states in the northeast as well as the rest of the nation.

“Why would someone dress up like a clown and terrorize others? We just can’t figure it out,” she said.

In Gloucester County on Monday, police arrested two teenagers for making online clown-related threats against the Washington Township School District.

In Morris County, police determined that a teen wearing a clown mask and a plastic machete was behind the Monday night scares at a Parsippany Quick Chek on Monday. Police said the juvenile had engaged in a “misguided prank” and didn’t charge him with any crime.

Carr believes the media coverage of the clown sightings could be encouraging the frenzy.

“Whenever something odd and newsworthy happens there are almost always copycat crimes. But I think your average, emotionally stable, kindly person probably isn’t going to be provoked to dress up like a clown having seen these articles on a website,” she said.

As far as who these creepy clowns are, she said “maybe there are some people who are unstable doing this but I suspect it’s jokers more than anything else. I think somebody struggling with a major mental illness probably has other challenges, and dressing up like a clown is not at the top of your to-do list.”

If you’re wondering how best to deal with a creepy clown, the professor stressed it’s important to not overreact.

“The clowns are scary, but are they actually aggressing against anyone or really frightening children? If they’re just out there doing a joke, it’s annoying, it’s silly, but it’s probably not a situation where the police are going to get involved,” she said. “This will fade when the media attention fades. These clowns will go back to doing something else productive during the day.”

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