CINCINNATI — My Nose Turns Red theater company founders Steve Roenker and Jean St. John aren't slowing down despite a rash of "creepy clown" reports and threats throughout the Cincinnati area.
Classes have been canceled, seven juveniles have been arrested, and at least one woman has reported being grabbed by the throat in recent days as the phenomenon has spread through the city. At least seven jurisdictions have reported clown-related threats this week.
Dozens of schools and law enforcement agencies have taken to social media to quell the fears, and the World Clown Association even felt compelled to release a statement.
"Just as a haunted house event may have a 'doctor' wearing surgical gear, carrying a bloody chainsaw, people need to understand that this character is not a real doctor," said Randy Christensen, World Clown Association president. "In the same way, people dressed as horror clowns are not 'real clowns.' They are taking something innocent and wholesome and perverting it to create fear in their audience."
Christensen explained that horror and comedy can both be enjoyed, but he hopes the American audience realizes there are different categories in entertainment.
Professional clowns across the nation are responding to the hysteria.
Professional clown Sandy “Sunshine” Johnson of Maryland said clowns aren't meant to scare people. Johnson, who's been a professional clown for the past 37 years, said an interview with The (Salisbury, Md.) Daily Times her character always strives to set good examples for children.
It seems even law enforcement gets the point.
"This is what law-abiding clowns look like," Butler County Sheriff Richard K. Jones tweeted with a photo of three big-shoed companions.
This is what law abiding clowns look like.. pic.twitter.com/VSXlVXnC3D— Richard K. Jones (@butlersheriff) September 30, 2016
"This is what we've asked for by going to see those movies and supporting the idea of a scary clown," Roenker said.
Roenker and St. John began touring as theatrical clowns Juice and Shootang. Now, My Nose Turns Red operates a youth circus camp, but the couple isn't scared of the creepy clowns hurting their business. The type of clown work they teach doesn't involve wigs and big shoes; it instead dates back to the 1600s.
"All throughout history, every culture has its own clown. It's an archetype. Everybody has the clown," St. John said. "Every culture has the person that plays the fool, the jester. So, all of the kind of clowning that we know of today has been passed down the ages."
It's this standard clown image that has been twisted in movies, television and even by real people. In modern American culture, the creepy clown might be considered a more common archetypal character than the fun-loving entertainer of children.
Pennywise from Stephen King's "It" broke out of the pages of the original novel and found a home on the big screen, and the film is currently being remade. The 2014 season of the popular "American Horror Story" featured a murderous clown as its antagonist. Clown and other Halloween-themed masks were featured in "The Purge" and its follow-up films.
In the 1970s, John Wayne Gacy, the killer of 33 people, was dubbed the "Killer Clown" after the public learned that he performed as a clown at fundraising events, parades and children's parties.
With all of this, Roenker believes the positivity of the clown will overcome these menacing images.
"Whether it's the theatrical clowning that we're interested in or more like the circus clowns with the wigs, I think people going out and entertaining families will outlast this," he said.
Liz Holland of The (Salisbury, Md.) Daily Times contributed to this report.