Target is suspending the sale of clown masks at stores and online in response to the spate of creepy clown-related sightings across the country.
The decision — just two weeks ahead of Halloween — is due to the "current environment," Target spokesman Joshua Thomas said in an email Monday.
The move by one of the nation's largest retailers comes after McDonald’s last week announced it would be limiting public appearances by Ronald McDonald until the clown craze is under control. Several Goodwill stores in Florida also decided to stop selling clown costumes.
This summer's clown hysteria across at least 20 states has given rise to an extreme case of coulrophobia — or the fear of clowns. Aside from people dressing up as clowns to scare passersby on the street, there have been people claiming to be clowns on social media and threatening harassment and violence, particularly at schools.
Police departments from Detroit to Miami to Dartmouth, Massachusetts, have issued public service announcement's warning pranksters that disturbing the peace and trespassing is no laughing matter.
Police in Union County, North Carolina, said they arrested a 20-year-old last week after he frightened customers at a local gas station by dressing as a clown and carrying a hatchet.
Meanwhile, three teenagers dressed as clowns were arrested outside of a Babies "R" Us in Albuquerque, New Mexico, earlier this month after police said they carried an air rifle.
Some of the reports to police, however, have also turned out to be hoaxes.