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Ciara O'Rourke
By Ciara O'Rourke October 21, 2021

Old ‘clown purge’ warning spreads on social media again

If Your Time is short

  • This warning has spread on social media for years. It’s a hoax. 

"Coulrophobia" is a term that means an abnormal fear of clowns. 

Not such an abnormal fear, you might think, if you saw a recent social media post warning about a clown purge on Oct. 30. 

"Warning," the post says. "Clowns are allegedly planning their own purge the night before Halloween. Stay inside, keep all pets inside and keep all doors and windows locked. Share this post to show awareness to family and friends and anyone else who doesn’t really know about the clown purge spreading across towns and countries."

The warning isn’t explicit about what, exactly, a purge is. But for several years now, hoax threats about murderous purges à la the 2013 movie "The Purge" have spread online. In the movie, all crime is legal for 12 hours.

But the warning in the Facebook post is at least five years old, and there’s no reason to believe it’s true. The post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)

Back in 2016, Snopes debunked the clown purge rumor that was being shared online — the exact same text that appears in this year’s social media posts.

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In 2017, the hoax included a fake Department of Homeland Security warning

"We have escalated these threats to acts of domestic terrorism and are working closely with the Department of Homeland Security to keep Americans safe," a supposed law enforcement officer is quoted as saying in a fake news story Snopes looked at that claimed schools businesses, and churches had received threats of a "Halloween night purge." 

So many purge warnings, and yet news reports covering the purges themselves are pretty light — and that includes clown purges.

Police in Greenville, S.C., said in 2016 that the clown purge rumor in that town wasn’t a credible threat. The New York Times reported that false clown reports that year were a "contagion." On top of that, Vox said, people were using the hoax as an excuse to scare people. One man was arrested in clown clothes and a mask in Kentucky, for example. In Australia in 2017, a man in a clown costume was sentenced for chasing a group of girls near a shopping center.

Social media accounts such as "Australian Clown Purge" fueled some anxieties, but the user wrote that clowns "don’t mean to harm anyone," and subsequent clown sightings appeared to be isolated.

They certainly didn’t resemble the killing sprees in the "Purge" movies. And searching for any credible evidence of a clown purge planned for this year, we found none. 

We rate this claim False.


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Old ‘clown purge’ warning spreads on social media again

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