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Oklahoma Man Reports Being Assaulted by Clown, as ‘Panic’ Keeps Spreading

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It’s a bad time for Americans with coulrophobia — a fear of clowns.

Adding to the nationwide wave of creepy clown sightings that began in late-August was an incident Wednesday night when, police tell PEOPLE, someone in Tulsa, Oklahoma, said they were attacked by a rainbow-colored clown.

Unlike many of the previous clown reports, this incident was violent, leaving the victim bruised. But as was common in those other cases, Tulsa authorities say they have not been able to locate the clown suspect.

(Many of the previous clown reports have been debunked or lacked evidence beyond witness statements. In some cases, alleged clowns have been found and arrested.)

“I never thought this day would come — the day where I’m giving out ‘orange hair, white face paint, red lips, and wearing a rainbow clown suit’ as a suspect description,” says Tulsa police spokeswoman Jeanne McKenzie. “This person went all out, obviously. But we might not ever be able to identify this person because of that description.”

According to McKenzie, the victim was walking his dog when the suspect approached him. She says the clown grabbed the victim, hit him in the face, and then wrestled him to the ground.

“The gentleman’s dog lunged at the clown, and the clown ran off,” McKenzie tells PEOPLE.

The encounter left the victim with cuts and bruises to his face and hands, McKenzie says. She characterized the injuries as “minor,” and says the victim declined medical treatment at the scene.

A brief search of the surrounding area, which included aerial assistance from the department’s helicopter, turned up no sign of the criminal clown.

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McKenzie says that police had received a report of a clown sighting from a different section of Tulsa about 30 minutes before Wednesday night’s reported assault. The police department also spent much of the day dealing with another clown threat, she says.

“We had an incident with a clown on Facebook who was threatening to kill middle school students,” McKenzie says. “That account was shut down yesterday afternoon and that incident was resolved. I just can’t believe I’ve been talking about clowns for two days.”

Armend Nimani/AFP/Getty
Armend Nimani/AFP/Getty

N.Y.C. Teen Says He Spotted Clown With Knife on Subway

Another incident Wednesday, in New York City, nearly turned violent, the victim later told police. According to a police spokesman, officers fielded a report from a teen who said he was chased off of a subway train Wednesday afternoon by a knife-brandishing man dressed as a clown.

When the victim, who is 16, tried to exit the train at his station, a man with “clown make-up, multicolored clothes and oversized shoes” blocked the exit, he told police. The teen said he pushed passed the clown, who proceeded to give chase.

The teen told police that he looked back before scaling the stairs to the street, and the clown flashed a kitchen knife at him.

A search for the clown turned up nothing.

Folklorist and author Benjamin Radford previously told PEOPLE the clown sightings are likely to die down within a few weeks and says such sightings are nothing new, with so-called “clown panics” dating back to the 1980s.

Many of the reports seem to be copycats, fueled by social media and news coverage; and in a majority of the reports, there is neither evidence of a crime nor the clowns in question. In some cases, people have apparently dressed up as clowns to prank or menace others — what Radford called “stalker clowns,” who may be inspiring copycats of their own.

Meanwhile, in addition to the alleged clowns they can find, police are cracking down on social media threats of clown attacks and false reports of clown sightings.

McKenzie says she believes the sightings have increased because of the widespread media attention they’ve received.

“It has been in the media so much and people are seeing it so much on social media,” she tells PEOPLE. “The fact that we are in October probably isn’t helping, because these costumes and make-up are more readily available.

“I just can’t imagine what drives somebody to dress up as a clown and attack someone. For a normal person, it doesn’t make sense.”