Police have warned pranksters who are posing as “killer clowns” to terrify children that they could face arrest.
The craze for dressing in horrifying clown costumes to jump out on unsuspecting passers-by has swept the country after taking off in American colleges.
Reports of the sinister clowns jumping out of bushes and chasing pedestrians have come in from as far afield as Edinburgh, Hampshire and Northumbria. One police force received six reports of such incidents in just five days.
Officers are warning that such pranks could land the clowns behind them in serious trouble after one teenager was arrested for possessing a knife.
A spokesperson for Northumbria Police said: "Officers have arrested a teenage boy in Blakelaw in possession of a bladed article in connection with one of such clown incidents.
"This arrest should act as a clear warning to others who are actively seeking to cause distress and potentially harm others.
"This behaviour will not be tolerated by Northumbria Police and extra officers will be on hand to offer reassurance and catch those responsible for any criminal offences which have taken place."
Many people already have a fear of clowns thanks to the likes of the fictional Pennywise, from Stephen King’s IT, and the real-life killer clown John Wayne Gacy and the creepy craze’s arrival in the UK has prompted a flurry of panic on social media
One person took to Twitter, writing: "Manchester has a lot of problems, but I never thought clowns would be one of them".
Speaking to student newspaper The Tab, an Edinburgh University student said: "If it's true about these clowns going about Edinburgh I'm not leaving my house till Christmas!"