First came the man in a clown costume.

Then came the calls to the police.

Reports about a rogue clown handing out candy to children briefly caused alarm in Clarksville, Tenn., on Thursday, after a man with a white painted face and a red nose was seen driving by a bus stop and motioning for the children to come near, according to the police and local news reports. Two students reported the incident, and a witness who spotted the clown in his car called the police, the authorities said.


The episode screamed of “stranger danger” and brought to mind the Great Clown Panic of 2016, when tales of clowns lurking near the woods and under streetlights ignited a national hysteria , although many of the reports were found to be false. The reported sightings played on a cultural fear of clowns and eventually led to at least a dozen arrests in multiple states.

The brief panic in Tennessee also happened to coincide with the release of the trailer for “It Chapter Two,” a follow-up to the clown horror movie, set to hit theaters this year.

But after a swift investigation, the Clarksville authorities determined that the latest fright was a false alarm: He was not a bad clown. He was simply misunderstood.