Disturbing sightings of clowns (some brandishing knives) are on the rise across America, a fitting (though terrifying) trend just weeks before Halloween. In response to the red-nosed horror that has swept the nation, McDonald’s is scaling back appearances of beloved mascot Ronald McDonald until the creepy climate has calmed down.
The phenomenon was first reported back in August, when residents of a rural area in Greenville, South Carolina, reported multiple creepy clown sightings in the woods or on the side of country roads. Since then sightings have spread to other Southern states as well as parts of the Northeast, and in the UK a middle-aged man was stabbed by an attacker wearing a clown mask.
"We are mindful of the current climate around clown sightings in communities are being thoughtful in respect to Ronald McDonald's participation in community events for the time being," McDonald’s spokeswoman Terri Hickey said in an emailed statement to NBC News. “This does not mean that there will be no appearances by Ronald McDonald.”
Although Ronald McDonald has been a prominent symbol in the past for the Golden Arches, in recent years, his appearances have dwindled, possibly due to an increased incidence of clulrophobia, the surprisingly common fear of clowns. The recent unsettling sightings may only have tarnished his reputation.