British police on Wednesday were investigating dozens of reported incidents involving people dressed up as creepy clowns across the country.
The craze began in the U.S. in August with reports of people dressed as clowns trying to lure children into the woods in South Carolina.
Armed officers from London's Heathrow Airport checked into a report Tuesday about a driver wearing a clown mask brandishing a suspected gun in a nearby neighborhood. The man was arrested on suspicion of possessing an imitation firearm and remained in police custody Wednesday.
The incident is the latest in a string of incidents of clowns terrifying people on Britain’s streets.
Simon Chinery, 28, said he was left permanently disabled after he grabbed a 10-inch blade that a clown who crept up behind him was carrying in Blackburn, northern England, British media reported Wednesday.
In London, reports include a clown confronting a man with a hockey stick, clowns chasing children and a knife-carrying clown on a bicycle following a woman.
Police in Kent, southern England said, they had 59 reports of incidents involving clowns between Friday and Monday.
The Russian embassy in the U.K. appeared to warn Russian citizens Wednesday to be aware of British “clowns" whose purpose was “to cause fear and bewilderment.”
On Tuesday, Kenny Ojuederie, a 19-year-old university student in London, apologized after he was arrested for public order offenses after he was seen chasing two men with a chainsaw while dressed as a clown, the Evening Standard reported. He told the newspaper he was filming a prank for his YouTube channel, and that the people he chased were his friends.
In Manchester, northwestern England, Kurtis Mulvaney, 29, said two people dressed as clowns approached his car, one of them carrying a machete, the Manchester Evening News reported.
In Walsall, central England, Shaniece Price, 22, said that a clown chased her until she entered a pub, stood in the doorway and stared at her for five minutes before leaving, according to the Birmingham Mail.
Western Australia Police arrested a 19-year-old man for terrifying a group of teenage girls at a shopping center in Northam, a town northeast of Perth, while dressed as a clown, local media reported. A Clown Sightings Australia Facebook page has attracted more than 27,000 likes.
In Canada, police in Cape Breton and Bowmanville, Halifax, Gatineau, NovaScotia, Ontario, Ottawa, Quebec and Toronto have all investigated incidents involving creepy clowns, according to the BBC.
The craze has prompted McDonald's to keep its iconic clown, Ronald McDonald, out of sight for now. The company said it is "mindful of the current climate around clown sightings in communities" and is "being thoughtful with respect to Ronald McDonald's participation in community events for the time being," in a statement to The Arizona Republic.
Julian Bennett, a Scotland Yard commander, said incidents involving clowns were expected to rise leading up to Halloween.
"Our primary responsibility is in identifying and investigating those incidents where a criminal offense has occurred,” he said. "However, anti-social behavior can leave people feeling scared, anxious and intimidated and I would urge those who are causing fear and alarm to carefully consider the impact their actions have on others.”
Professional clowns have condemned the craze. “This is nothing to do with clowning, it’s to do with people hijacking a costume and for some sinister reason trying to scare people,” Rob Bowker, a spokesman for the U.K.-based Clowns International, a clown organization founded in 1947, told the Guardian. Bowker works under the name "Bibbledy Bob."
“My fear is that hospitals will say, ‘Oh, we can’t have clowns in because the children are getting scared,’ or stuff like that. And then all that work that’s been done over the years will be undone,” he added.