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UMass students say they overreacted to Merrimack College clown hoax

Morgan Hughes, Campus News Editor

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AMHERST — After a shelter in place order issued by Merrimack College over an alleged “creepy clown” sighting turned out to be a hoax, University of Massachusetts Amherst students admitted Tuesday they overreacted to the event when they embarked on a nearly 100-person clown hunt through the Southwest Residential Area Monday night. 

Concern over a tweet from unverified Twitter account @BestClownWatch about an armed “creepy clown” sighting sparked Merrimack College to issue the safety order. According Merrimack spokesman John Chiavelli, there was never a clown on that campus. 

As the shelter in place order grabbed social media attention, clown sightings poured in to @BestClownWatch. The account posted sightings in towns across the state including North Andover, Quincy, Milford and Springfield.

A tweet that claimed a clown was spotted at UMass near the Southwest Residential Area spurred a mob of roughly 80 students to patrol the area carrying baseball bats, hockey sticks and tension roads in search of the allegedly spotted clown.

 

Video by Morgan Hughes

UMass spokesman Ed Balguszewski said Tuesday morning the UMass Police Department responded to a call Tuesday night based on the clown sighting Twitter account and found nothing. According to Blaguszewski, there are no new developments regarding the incident.

Jake Morizio, a freshman chemistry major, detailed how the clown hunt started at James Hall in Southwest, where he lives.

“I heard there was a clown sighting on campus, and then everyone was supposedly being evacuated from Cance [Hall],” Morizio said. “The first stage was everyone was really scared, then everyone treated it like a joke, started going out armed with bats. Next thing I know I saw a surplus of armed people walking through Southwest trying to find a clown.”

Morizio said that the large mob may have resulted from boredom after a long night of homework.

“Everyone wanted to jump on it because it was a Monday night, and why not?” Morizio said.

Katherine Jarvis, a sophomore biochemistry major, said she locked herself in her dorm room in John Quincy Adams Tower while she watched the escapade unfold on Twitter and through her dorm room window.

“I was a little nervous about leaving JQA at first,” Jarvis said. “People were out there with bats wanting to hit someone.”

Jarvis described a group of “mostly sophomore males” exiting the building with baseball bats and coat hangers.

“I think it’s hilarious, it’s just a hoax,” Jarvis said. “But I like how people rallied, UMass students are passionate people.”

Alleged clown sightings are part of a larger trend sweeping the internet. Sightings have made local and national news across the country.

While most clown incidents are proven to be pranks, some have taken deadly twists.

Pennsylvania police are searching for the assailant who wore a clown mask and fatally stabbed 16-year-old Christian Torres of Reading, Pennsylvania.

Additionally, a teen girl from Florida claims she was chased by a clown on her way to her school bus stop.

Email Morgan at [email protected] or follow her on Twitter at @HughesMorgan_ .

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The digital-first, student-run magazine of the University of Massachusetts Amherst Journalism Department
UMass students say they overreacted to Merrimack College clown hoax