Clown scares prompt Halloween store to pull stock

Ian Thibodeau

Center Line — Would-be creepy clowns will have to save up their lunch money if they want to buy a mask at Crypt Keepers Halloween Emporium.

Owner Dave Douglas has stored all his cheaper clown costumes away for next year’s Halloween amid the national “creepy clown” craze that’s crept into Metro Detroit.

“It’s not worth the sale,” the small business owner said. “These people are causing an epidemic,” and he wouldn’t want to hear one of his customers hurt someone else or themselves by trying to take part in the frenzy.

Douglas said most of his clown masks are too expensive for someone looking for a cheap scare, anyway. He carries specialty masks of Stephen King’s “It” or the “Killer Klowns from Outer Space” in his seasonal shop, most of which run upward of $60.

People making the news recently are typically wearing cheap masks picked up at national chain stores, Douglas said. This year, he hasn’t had any customers come in yet looking for clown costumes. But said if they do, he will warn them against it.

“I wouldn’t let my kids go out as a clown this year,” Douglas said. Even if a customer didn’t plan to use the clown garb scare someone, Douglas said there’s a chance someone might try to hurt them.

Douglas’ decision came hours after two Roseville women were locked up on $10,000 bonds Friday on allegations they dressed up as clowns and terrorized two teenage girls.

The women, dubbed “morons” by police, allegedly donned “full clown regalia from head to foot” and scared two 14-year-old girls walking near 13 Mile and Gratiot. The women are accused of chasing them down the street and screaming at them.

The incident was the latest in a series of clown scares reported across Metro Detroit. Clowns are also popping up nationwide, causing police to treat them as a potential threat to public safety.

Officials from Plymouth-Canton Community Schools, Warren Consolidated Schools and the Troy School District have contacted parents to address clown sightings near schools.

A letter sent to Plymouth-Canton parents Thursday said the “24-hour news cycles and social media have resulted in increased tensions within the community,” and reminded parents that masks were not allowed on campuses, even during Halloween events.

Troy’s police department on Wednesday declared their schools “a clown-free zone” after threats were allegedly made on social media to scare students, and at least one individual visited the campus of Troy Athens High School and frightened students.

“(We) will be taking a ‘no warnings’ approach to clowns on school property,” the department’s Facebook statement read. “You will be arrested for and charged with Unauthorized Use of School Property.”

Sgt. Meghan Lehman said “the schools are really impacted by this (craze) because the kids are so scared. ... We’re just interested in preserving the school as a place where people can feel safe.”

Candace Roen, who is the president of the Parent Teacher Organization for Troy Athens High School, said parents are worried for a few reasons.

“Parents are upset that this is interfering with education, and there is a fear that someone they know could be pulling a prank and get injured,” she said.

Lehman said Troy police have increased patrols around schools. Though there aren’t any plans for Halloween clown procedures, Lehman said even people hoping to play a prank need to be wary in light of several incidents in Metro Detroit where clown-mask-clad criminals have committed robberies, carjackings and other attacks.

Meanwhile, Renee O’Brien said she won’t be taking any of the masks at Screamers Costumes Halloween Superstore in Clinton Township off the racks.

“There’s a lot of good clowns ... (this) really puts a whole group of people out of business,” the store owner said.

She echoed Douglas, saying her clown masks are typically out of the price range of an ill-intentioned teenager.

“We certainly don’t promote any evildoing,” she said. “We can’t quiz all of our customers on what they buy and what they (intend to do).”

Managers at area Party City and Spirit Halloween stores said they were barred from commenting on clown mask sales. Communications officials for both organizations did not respond to requests for comment on clown mask commerce.

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Twitter: @Ian_Thibodeau