PRANKSTERS terrorised many residents around this time three years ago, when an American clown craze came to the county.

It started with American teens dressing up as a prank to scare children in the USA, brandishing knives and chasing people.

However, their particular brand of humour did not translate very well across the pond.

Rumblings of killer clown sightings began at the start of October 2016 in Worcester.

Police at that time had not received any official clown-related complaints when questioned by the Worcester News.

But it did not stay that way for very long.

Just days later, terrified members of the public called the switch board at West Mercia Police, reporting being either approached by clowns or seeing them on social media - 22 reports over a five-day period.

The craze was now in full gear and near hysteria ensued.

Even horror author Stephen King, famous for writing macabre novels such as Salem’s Lot, Pet Cemetery and IT, about a clown that kidnaps and eats children, tried to quell public concern.

Mr King tweeted: “Hey, guys, time to cool the clown hysteria--most of ‘em are good, cheer up the kiddies, make people laugh.”

PC Dave Wise, from Cathedral ward safer neighbourhoods team, said: “Those people involved in the ‘prank’ may think they’re being funny but there is a difference between this behaviour and the costumes and good natured fun we’ll see at Halloween.

“Carrying knives, intentionally causing people distress or alarm, as well as attempting or pretending to ‘lure children’, as unconfirmed reports in the US suggest, will be considered criminal offences and could lead to arrests being made.”

The Worcester News received worrying reports that a girl was chased by a man wearing a clown mask in Gorse Hill, which is something beyond the pale in anyone’s book.

Superintendent Kevin Purcell said: “Whilst we understand that such incidents could be considered pranks by some, I would like to appeal to those carrying out this behaviour, or thinking of taking part, to really consider the distress and fear they could cause people, particularly the more vulnerable members of our community such as children and the elderly.

“I would also warn them that there are further consequences to their behaviour.

“Not only could they be committing a public order offence, which will see police action, their actions could cause delays for other emergencies requiring police attendance.”

Parents took to the Facebook page of the Worcester News to air their concerns.

Claire Louise said: “Not funny when you got kids crying their hearts out, scared to go out because they’ve been chased by this.

“Yes on Halloween you expect something on the lines of this but not day to day.

“They should be ashamed of their selves.”

Cullen J Lee-anne wrote: “Getting sick of hearing this it’s not a funny prank when your kids are hearing about it and too scared to sleep or go out.”

These incidents were not isolated.

Media outlets up and down the country and even around the world reported clown sightings, thought to have been orchestrated through social media.

It is believed the first clown was spotted in Northampton in central England with a members of the public sighting a motionless man dressed up and standing at the side of the road, staring at car drivers as they passed.

Meanwhile, Spring Heeled Jack was an urban legend that supposedly was sighted around 1837, creating widespread panic and the clown issue of October 2016 chimes with this character’s ability to frighten.

Social media has the power to be a positive or negative force but three years ago, it is evident that it as used in a negative context.

No doubt another craze will come in the future, spread by social media.

Coulrophobia is the name given my psychologists to the irrational fear of clowns, resulting from not knowing what is under the costume and make-up.

It is believed American actor Johnny Depp has this phobia.