By Jonece Dunigan AL.com
Threats of clowns luring kids into woods or attacking students at school have been spreading fear on social media and causing school lockdowns across Alabama for the past several weeks, authorities said.
There is little evidence sinister clowns are anywhere to be found in Alabama and officials across the state are trying to put an end to the "creepy clown" sightings.
Some police departments have identified and arrested suspects who have used the clown persona to make threats against schools. Other law enforcement agencies are still trying to catch those behind the threats and pranks.
The sightings started last month in South Carolina and North Carolina. Now the problem has hit home in Alabama. Security was heightened at multiple schools throughout the state on Monday.
Clown chases kids: 'Somebody's going to get hurt,' chief says
The incident happened about 8 p.m. on Huntsville Avenue in Brighton. Police Chief Ray Hubbart said the clown jumped into a white van and sped off after chasing the two young teens.
Extra deputies patrolled Saks Middle School in Calhoun County after someone threatened on Facebook to start shooting at the school. A 16-year-old Pleasant Valley resident was arrested and charged with terrorist threats. Since the suspect is a minor, their name was a not released. Calhoun County Chief Deputy Matthew Wade described the incident as troubling.
"It's really disturbing in today's world that people are doing this to scare others," he said. "We are going to find the people who did this. There are consequences when you make threats."
'Clown' posts reported in Etowah, Calhoun counties
A 9th grader at Gadsden City High School is being questioned.
In Etowah County, a social media post hinting about a clown visit at Rainbow Middle School and John Jones Elementary caught authorities attention on Sunday. Police presence was increased at the schools on Monday and a Gadsden City High School freshman was questioned by Rainbow City Police about the matter. Chief Jonathon Horton said the department is collaborating with juvenile probation and the Gadsden City School system to figure out how to move forward in the case.
"He (the student) invented the hoax and originally said he was dared to do it," Horton said. "Then he told us he just did it on his own because he'd seen (where) other people had done it."
By Monday afternoon, the Etowah County Sheriff's Office investigated a 911 call saying clowns were attacking Hokes Bluff school. Authorities didn't come up with anything, but did find out that the call originated from Georgia.
A similar incident occurred at schools in the Birmingham area. Shades Valley High School in Irondale and Holy Family Cristo Rey High School in Ensley were placed on "soft" lockdowns after receiving tips that clowns were going to show up on the schools' campuses. Irondale police said a student alerted authorities about the possibility of a clown sighting, but no clowns were spotted.
Birmingham Sgt. Bryan Shelton said someone called about a clown showing up to the Ensley school to lure kids into the woods. Police found nothing during that investigation.
In Brighton, a suspect dressed as a clown jumped out of the bushes and chased two teens down the street on Sunday. The incident happened at 8 p.m. on Huntsville Avenue near King Street.
Authorities said the suspect fled in a white van similar to a Chevrolet Astro Van. Brighton police Chief Ray Hubbart said the children and their parents are still a little terrified. Since the investigation is ongoing, anyone with information is asked to call Brighton police at 205-425-8934.
In another incident, on Monday night an 18-year-old was arrested in West Blocton after jumping in front of a car while wearing a clown mask, according to WBRC.
Alabama woman charged for fake 911 call about creepy clowns
Police have been investigating after someone started a Facebook page threatening to dress like a clown and abduct children.
Officials have stressed that school is a place for education and not terror. Parents in Montgomery became frightened when an individual known as Bingerman Clownferd made a Facebook post of a schedule showing which Montgomery County schools he was going to visit and when, the Montgomery Advertiser reported. The post included vulgar and violent language.
"Warning," Clownferd said. "Get ready to get your a** beat the f*** up. High schools next week. I'm so ready."
Montgomery officials hosted a news conference Monday afternoon to stress to those making the posts that law enforcement will remain vigilant and that offenders will be prosecuted. Montgomery County Sheriff Derrick Cunningham asked families to take precautions in their households by monitoring their children's activity on social media.
"If you post something like this, and you come out making terroristic threats, we will do everything in our power to prosecute you," Cunningham said. "We are taking this seriously. This is not a game."
Mobile Police received several reports of "clowns coming to terrorize local schools" on Sunday. A 16-year-old male was arrested and charged with terrorist threats on Monday after an investigation was conducted.
The Mobile County Public School System released a statement about the threats Monday morning.
$200K bond set for Flomaton woman posing as Flomo Klown
The bond also came with a restriction that Smith will not have access to any electronic device that has internet or any device that allows access to the internet.
"MCPSS is aware of posts on social media regarding clowns like the posts that disrupted schools in Escambia County and Baldwin County last week," officials said. "The school system is working with law enforcement to watch over the schools listed in the posts closely and also to determine the source of the messages."
Adding to the string of arrests are two juveniles and a 22-year-old Flomaton woman who allegedly posted cryptic messages on Facebook under the names "Flomo Klown" and "Shoota Cllown" on Thursday. The post led to lockdowns throughout Escambia County Thursday and Friday. The woman, Makayla Smith, was charged with terrorist threats on Friday.
In the press release statement the Sheriff's Office said, "This type of crime will not be tolerated in Escambia County Alabama and we will ask that all involved parties be punished to the full extent of the law."
AL.com reporters Carol Robinson, William Thornton, Ivana Hrynkiw and Prescotte Stokes contributed to this report.