This article was origionally published on October 10th on New York Post by Andrea Peyser

Red noses. White painted faces. Floppy oversized shoes.

Knives. Stalking. Threats of bodily attacks.

The horror. The horror.

Creepy clowns — creatures out of a million waking and dozing nightmares — were once considered frightening but harmless beings, prone to wielding hand-shockers, water pistols and scarlet lips.

Not anymore.

For many sufferers of crippling coulrophobia — a term for “fear of clowns,” derived from the ancient Greek word for “one who goes on stilts” — this is no joke. Sightings of menacing Pennywise wannabes, whether hoaxes spawned by internet jokers or actual, breathing bozos in circus suits, are terrifying adults and traumatizing children throughout the United States and beyond.

Perhaps the first evil-being sighting this year came as Madonna, now 58, donned a garish costume and war paint. Riding a tiny tricycle, she sang “Tears of a Clown” in a concert in Australia in March, making a point about sad singers in grotesque makeup, or something. Scary.

Have we all gone mental? Or have pranksters seized on a phobia as deeply ingrained in the culture as wicked witches, headless horsemen and nearly naked pop stars?

The Great Clown Panic of 2016 prompted an impassioned plea from horrormeister Stephen King, creator of the homicidal clown in his novel-turned-TV miniseries “It,” scheduled to come out as a movie next year.

“Hey, guys, time to cool the clown hysteria — most of em are good, cheer up the kiddies, make people laugh,” he tweeted.

Reports of evil creepers have been traced to the early 1980s, before the internet took off. But the current crisis began in earnest on Aug. 20. Residents of an apartment complex in Greenville County, South Carolina, reported that maniacs with bulbous noses freaked out adults and tried to lure kids into the woods with large sums of money. Local sheriff’s deputies found no clown paraphernalia.

Then, reports of sightings of potentially dangerous deviants spread like magic mushrooms from the South to the North and out to California.

Officials of New Haven, Connecticut, public schools banned kids from wearing clown costumes this Halloween. Students at Merrimack College in Massachusetts were ordered to “shelter in place” for more than 30 minutes last week and a dorm was evacuated after social-media reports came in of an armed clown on campus, which was deemed a practical joke. More than a dozen children, teens and adults have been arrested all over the country on charges ranging from filing false reports to making terroristic threats.

Most horrifically, a dispute over a clown mask like one featured in the movie “Purge,” perched on the head of a 16-year-old boy in Pennsylvania, resulted in his fatal stabbing last month, authorities say, allegedly by a 29-year-old man.

The clown catastrophe has hit New York City and its suburbs like a toxic pie in the face.

Schools in two districts on Long Island were put on lockdown one September day, kids forbidden from playing outside. A Queens public high school was threatened with violent clowns on Facebook. This prompted the Police Department’s deputy commissioner for counterterrorism and intelligence to declare the reports phony.

“Don’t believe the hype, and don’t be afraid of the clowns,” John Miller said at a news conference.

But then, a 16-year-old boy was chased through a subway station on the Upper East Side by a knife-wielding person dressed as a clown. A Queens man said a Pagliacci pretender stood outside his bedroom window and beckoned him while holding a knife.

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