A professional clown of more than 30 years has taken to performing without make-up, after being asked to "de-clownify" his act in light of the rise of "killer clown" pranks in the UK.
Pete Turner, also known as Peanut the clown, said he had been asked to entertain at an event for Oktoberfest in Yorkshire, but the local authority running the event asked him to "de-clownify" his act in light of the recent pranking craze.
The authority later contacted the 58-year-old to tell him they had changed their mind, but after a discussion with his daughter he has decided not to use his make-up, instead wearing only a red nose.
"At the moment I'm on egg shells and I'm having to be very careful," said Turner. "I haven't lost any jobs yet through this but I've been asked to take the clown out of my act. I think the people doing these pranks are somewhere between having mental health issues and just pure bullying. We've got to stand up to it because otherwise it will become a normalised thing, and that would be awful."
Turner says it is not necessarily the pranks' effects now which are a problem, but issues with the image associated with the clowns may affect the industry in the future.
"My biggest concern is with children and how they relate to clowns. The connection we've made between the clowns make-up, which is called the motley, and the image of homicidal murder is a problem. What will happen is when they see me work, that's the image that will come into their heads. If they have this association at a deep level, people won't book clowns, they will book something else."
Childline announced today the "killer clown" craze has led to a deluge of calls from youngsters left terrified by the sinister phenomenon.
In just a week the charity was contacted 120 times by children scared by people dressed up in frightening clown costumes to scare passers-by. A quarter of the calls were from children under the age of 11, while more than a third were from youngsters between 12 and 15.
When asked what clowns really should represent Turner said: "Kids hate being frightened but they love a scary story. If they hear a story about someone else that's OK because they can distinguish between what's real and what isn't. Clowns talk about life's dangers and difficulties in a way that children can comprehend it, without the horror. Maybe that's why the pranksters and film-makers put genuine horror in there, because they found it could be a powerful thing."
Fellow professional clown Ian Thom, 64, has been working in the industry for 40 years. He said he was concerned about the pranks, especially after seeing a friend from the US say on Facebook he had been getting a number of cancellations.
"If I don't do a job I don't get paid. That's it," said Thom. "It's exhausting. We feel we're being taken over by idiots just looking for their 10 or 15 minutes of fame. They are not clowns. None of them."
Asked what message he would like to give to the pranksters Thom said: "Sooner or later you're going to jump out on somebody who has an asthma attack, an epileptic fit or a heart attack and by then it will be too late. The police now have all the powers to arrest you guys for disturbing the peace and we're right behind them."