A knife-brandishing clown has allegedly been terrorising students in northern France.

Three people have reported being attacked by the clown in the suburbs of Douai in northern France, near the Belgian border, reports The Local.

On Monday, a girl in Sin-le-Noble told police that she had been chased by an armed person in a clown costume.

The following day, in Lambres-lez Douai a female middle school student also reported being attacked by a clown.

On Wednesday, a student said that he had been threatened by a clown with a knife near a primary school inj Fler-en Ecrebieux.

Police have questioned a local homeless man, who wore a wig and clown nose when begging, but he was quickly released and no other arrests have been made.

Police speculated that a mass panic may be partly responsible for the spate of reports.

Coulrophobia – fear of clowns

"There is surely some semblance of truth to these reports, but it's all become clouded," an unnamed police officer told French daily La Voix du Nord. "For some people it's turned into a phobia. One mother even asked us if she should keep her kids in school. There is an uncontrollable snowball effect here."

He added: "It's difficult to fight against something that maybe doesn't exist."

One parent called France TV and reported that a clown armed with fake guns had appeared in front of her children's school in St Nicolas verlaine College, Pas-de-Calais.

The school said that there was no clown at the school, and rumours were to blame.

"This phenomenon of rumors has more of an effect on young people. Two parents even called us to find out if school entrances were secured," the school principle told the station.

The school said that worried parents had even contacted them to make sure the school was secured after the rumours circulated.

The fear has spread online, with many social media users tweeting rumours and sightings.