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Clown crimes spook Target into removing some Halloween masks

Clown sightings reported across the country this fall have triggered police investigations, threatened schools and inspired attempted copycat crimes. Now, they’re spooking retailers — at least for the Halloween season.

Target told ABC News that it is removing clown masks from its stores out of “sensitivity to the issue at hand,” the network reported Monday.

“We had a few masks in stores, which we began to pull last week,” a spokesperson told ABC. “We also have edited down our assortment online. You’ll still find clown masks there, but we made the decision to pull back on the number.”

Target did not disclose whether clown mask sales had increased in recent months with the spike in reported sightings, ABC reported. But at least one retailer — Halloween Express — has seen a rise in clown mask sales, though spokesman Brad Butler told TheWrap that he was unsure why more of the most popular masks this year were clown-themed.

“Scary clown masks have always been a popular Halloween mask,” Butler told the website. “As a retailer we try not to over-analyze why an item is selling better from one year to the next. Consumers can be fickle in that regard.”

Clown sightings date back years, but the most recent set of appearances to draw national attention started with reports in South Carolina of children claiming clowns had tried to lure them into nearby woods. Sightings have also been reported in several other states, including North Carolina, Alabama and Georgia, and at least one school district in Connecticut has banned clown costumes for Halloween, PIX11 reported.

Nor is Target the only business to acknowledge the ongoing trend of clown sightings. McDonald’s, the fast food giant, announced last week it would minimize the appearances of its clown mascot Ronald McDonald for the foreseeable future, “mindful of the current climate around clown sightings in communities,” a spokeswoman said, according to NBC News.

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