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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Social media sites have been erupting with stories of a mysterious and creepy clown on Staten Island.
But published reports Monday indicated that it might all just have been a viral marketing campaign by a horror movie production company and all four people who claimed to spot the clown might have been in on it.
Photos on Twitter and Instagram in recent days have shown the bald clown, wearing a yellow uniform with green and purple sleeves, and a white collar. The clown is seen carrying two balloons, one green, the other yellow.
The posters of the photos claimed the clown had been sighted near the Grasmere and Richmond Valley stations on the Staten Island Railroad, the Staten Island Advance reported Monday.
The photos showed the clown at night. But comedian Vic Dibitetto also released a video last week, showing himself driving in a car past the clown in broad daylight.
“You’ll never believe what I just saw back there. I had to make a U-turn. You got to see this. This is unbelievable, these f***ing morons in this city,” Dibitetto said in the video. He goes on to drive past the clown in a bank parking lot on Richmond Avenue, and the clown points at him and waves.
In the time since, the #SIClown hashtag has gone viral, and has been subject parody Twitter accounts and an assortment of tweets that seem to express everything from genuine fear to mockery.
Even U.S. Rep. Michael Grimm (R-N.Y.) has joined in tweeting about the strange costumed character.
But what was really going on with the clown? Published reports Monday night indicated that the people who posted the photos and videos might all have been in on the joke.
The Staten Island Advance went on to report that the only people who posted images of the clown – Vincent Innocente, Robert Privitera and Michael Leavy – are all Facebook friends with one another and are all linked with Staten Island-based Fuzz on the Lens Productions. Comedian Dibitetto is also linked to the company, the newspaper reported.
CBS 2′s Scott Rapoport spoke to Dibitetto on the phone and asked him if the clown was a hoax or publicity stunt several times. Dibitetto said he swears it is not, Rapaport reported.
But the newspaper quoted Leavy as essentially admitting to using the clown as a publicity stunt, saying the group was trying to “get as many people associated with Fuzz on the Lens as possible.”
Leavy would not comment to the newspaper on whether Fuzz on the Lens was involved in a possible upcoming adaptation of Stephen King’s “It.”
The Staten Island clown resembled Pennywise the Dancing Clown from the 1990 horror miniseries based on King’s novel.
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