A sinister clown has begun appearing around Portsmouth, scaring children and leading to demands that police take action.
The clown stands silently in local shops wearing a creepy mask and suit, unnerving shoppers and families. He has also been seen walking around town holding a balloon and cycling along, speaking in a weird voice. Locals took to social media to express their fear at sighting the clown.
One tweeted: "as if portsmouth wasn't bad enough already there's now a clown wandering round and he's bloody scary?"
Another wrote: "If you are in #Portsmouth there's a man in a v scary clown mask following people around town omg"
On being told the clown had been cycling around scaring kids on ewrote on Facebook: "Next time call the police. He is disturbing people and upsetting them."
One local came up with what sounded the perfect solution: " I see only one solution. Batman."
However the Portsmouth News has now revealed that the sinister figure is actually a teenage schoolboy. Andrea Hutchinson, manageress of Preloved Portsmouth, told the newspaper: "He comes in once or twice a week. He just likes to come in and stand there doing his tricks. He also goes around the pubs doing magic tricks and he has a wallet which he sets on fire. He is harmless. I can understand people being frightened though. But he's just a kid."
Portsmouth isn't the first community to be terrorised by clowns recently. Three people were attacked by a knife-wielding clown in the small French town of Douai and people in California's San Joaquin Valley reported being chased by clowns armed with knives and even guns.
Coulrophobia - the fear of clowns - is surprisingly common, though its origins are far from clear. Famous celebrities and characters to suffer from the condition include Kramer from Seinfeld and Johnny Depp, who once told reporters: "I guess I am afraid of them because it's impossible – thanks to their painted-on smiles – to distinguish if they are happy or if they're about to bite your face off."