Anxiety spread through campus Monday night and Tuesday morning after a photo of a clown on campus circulated on student social media.
The clown in question appeared to be standing next to the Curb Center loading dock wearing a red wig, causing students to report the photo to campus security throughout the night.
“Last night Campus Security received a few calls of a person on campus wearing a clown mask, though most of the calls were third-hand reports rather than actual witnesses. Officers patrolled the area of the reported sighting and found nothing of concern,” said editorial and news content director April Hefner in a statement from the Office of Communications.
“The University is aware that at least one false report was made, and Student Affairs in conjunction with Campus Security will be following up today to investigate the entire incident and determine any appropriate disciplinary action that may need to be taken.”
Reddit user m1k3yd33t claimed responsibility for the panic in a post early Tuesday morning, writing that he created the image and posted it to Facebook. Images of the Reddit post are shown below, edited by the Vision to block out offensive content.
The entire Reddit post and the user’s Reddit account have subsequently been deleted. A follow-up apology appeared on the Belmont Class of 2019 Facebook page, and the creator of the original Facebook post and Reddit confession came forward, admitting to falsifying the image.
“What I didn’t take into account is the fact that when people are already scared, it becomes easier and easier to scare them even further,” Belmont student Paul Murphey posted Tuesday morning. The full apology is included below.
“Let me say right now I had no idea that picture would deceive so many people. I never intended to pass the photo off as real, I tried to both the photoshop job as much as I could (the lighting on the clown is off, the perspective as well, as the clown would have to be 8 ft tall to make the picture work, but I digress). What I didn’t take into account is the fact that when people are already scared, it becomes easier and easier to scare them even further. I made a mistake (as evident by the Reddit post that’s circulating now), and I want to take the time before BPo and/or metro bust down my door and force me to say this to say that I actually am incredibly sorry about any discomfort or other reaction I generated as a result of my picture.”
Murphey declined to comment on the situation.
As Murphey alludes to in his apology, law enforcement has been forced to view clown sightings and threats increasingly seriously. As of Tuesday afternoon, the university had not released any statements to students, and Belmont police directed all questions to the Office of Communications.
Some students vented about the lack of information released by the university, citing this as the reason they felt so afraid.
“Honestly, the lack of official information was what had me so scared. We were kind of forced to depend on rumors. How else were we supposed to react?” wrote student Becca Sweett on the Belmont University Class of 2019 Facebook page.
Resident assistants for dorms have to take the threats seriously as well.
Some sent out emails reminding students to be cautious when walking alone, keep doors locked and alert campus security of any further clown sightings on campus. Several RAs were asked for comment, but none were willing to speak on the subject as of Tuesday afternoon.
More information may be added to this story as it becomes available.
This article was written by Melissa Kriz, Jessica King and Riley Wallace.