PORTLAND, Maine (NEWS CENTER)-- 2016 has been the year of the creepy clown craze. Reports from all over the country of people dressed as clowns standing outside of buildings or along roads in the dead of night struck a very real fear in the hearts of those just trying to live their lives.
The phenomena made its way to Maine, with clowns terrorizing college students and some threatening schools on social media.
Countless pictures and videos of the so-called stalker clowns have been shared on social media. But several initial reports described clowns trying to lure children. And although not a single photo has been taken of these reported clowns, children in several states have reported the same experiences. They're called Phantom Clowns, and they've appeared before...
"They were clowns that were seen but weren't there. Phantoms."
That's according to Loren Coleman, a seasoned cryptozoologist and director of Portland's international cryptozoology museum. He also happens to be the one who coined the term "Phantom Clowns" back in 1981, five years before the world learned to fear Stephen King's clown, Pennywise.
A children's social worker in Boston at the time, Coleman began seeing a pattern in his reports, "They were the same description; one or two clowns in a van or near a van trying to abduct kids," he said. "And I then started picking this up in Sommerville, Cambridge, Providence, Rhode Island."
Just like this year, Coleman noticed all the reports he recorded came from children, never from adults, and there were never any photographs. And further research revealed there were sightings happening all over the U.S. Making it hard for him to believe it was just a coincidence.
"It was not a contagion. It was individuals in different parts of the country unknown to each other having similar sightings."
Eventually, the trend died down. Coleman doesn't know what caused the Phantom Clown phenomena back then, but he believes it's come back around- this time triggering a copy cat effect and spurring the most recent stalker clown craze at the same time. He also believes, this isn't the last we'll see, or hear about the creepy clowns.
"Phantom clowns are here to stay."