British police have issued warnings after a spate of creepy clown sightings across the country, mimicking a prank that began in the United States and has spread across the world, Reuters reports.
Police forces said they had received dozens of reports of "killer clown" sightings in the last week where individuals dressed in clown outfits sometimes carrying knives have acted suspiciously or chased people, often young children.
"We believe this to be part of a much larger prank which is currently sweeping across the USA and parts of the UK," said Sergeant Mel Sutherland from Durham Police in northern England.
The clown sightings started around Greenville, South Carolina, in August, when police received reports of clowns standing silently by roadsides, near laundries and trying to lure children into the woods with bags of cash and green laser lights.
It is unclear what started the craze, although some have suggested it may be part of a horror movie publicity stunt or an elaborate hoax, and there have been similar reports sightings in Australia and New Zealand.
The incidents in Britain have been harmless but nonetheless frightening, police said. In Durham, four children aged 11 or 12, were followed to school on Friday by a man in a clown outfit who was armed with a knife.
"It is very alarming he was carrying a knife however we do not think he intended to harm the children and as far as we are aware, this is part of the prank," Sutherland said.
Thames Valley Police, which covers an area from the west of London to central England, said on Sunday it had been called to 14 spooky clown incidents in the previous 24 hours.