SAN FRANCISCO (KTVU) – “Sparky The Clown” has spent the past 31 years bringing happiness to children and seniors, but the recent scary clown phenomenon sweeping the country means his bookings and business are down.
“I’m brokenhearted over it,” Sparky said. “I got to tell you, I have friends who are suffering even more than I am and there’s no need for it.”
The trend of threatening clowns seems to have started in South Carolina in August where there were reports of clowns trying to lure children into the woods. Since then, there have been scary clown sightings in Georgia, Missouri, Kansas, and Texas. A school district in Connecticut is banning students from wearing clown costumes for Halloween.
In California, the cities of Fairfield, Elk Grove and Modesto are the latest cities to have scary clown sightings or have someone posing as a clown to threaten schools on social media.
“It’s called being creepy,” Sparky said. “There’s no need for it. All it does is just hurt everyone and there’s no purpose to it.”
Sparky, whose real name is Brian Wishnefsky, said he believes it is all part of a publicity stunt for the next scary movie that may premiere. He said the people behind it are just seeking attention.
“I understand it’s Halloween and they like to have scary clowns, but when it becomes insane like this it’s ridiculous,” he said.
Wishnefsky, owner of Pranks for Memories based in San Francisco, said he has performed at Carnegie Hall and been featured in Esquire Magazine.
In all his years of work he said it is rare to encounter a child or an adult who is afraid of him. He said he knows there are some people who are truly scared of clowns, but that’s never been his intention. He wants to see the scary clown phenomenon go away.
“The joy I bring is immense and to have it ruined over something this cynical and jaded is horrible,” he added.
Gaurav Suri, assistant professor in the Psychology Department at San Francisco State University, spoke to the scary clown phenomena and called it social contagion.
He said it is much harder to construct a schema from scratch than it is for someone to copy the schema of someone else because the idea has already presented itself, as in the case of a scary clown sighting. Suri said trends can easily start and adding social media to the factor could explain why we may be seeing so many clown copy cats across the country.
By KTVU reporter Cristina Rendon.