Psycho clowns? Expert questions sanity of those in masks

SURE they seem to be cowardly and potentially dim-witted but are those donning these spooky clown costumes actually suffering a mental illness.

Police are encouraging anyone who spots an ominous or threatening looking clown to report it immediately.

This week, there have been reports from the Sunshine Coast of a university student having a knife held to his throat by someone dressed as a clown.

In Mackay, a clown attempted to scare passers-by as they walked a popular trail.

In Warwick, clowners have been describers as "f---wits" and "twits" who were "as scary as a soggy bowl of cornflakes".

They attempted to harass a woman with a disability, and were later questioned by police.

Elsewhere, there have been reports that people in clown outfits have stepped in front of cars, with drivers almost running them down.

Psychopathology lecturer Dr Beryl Buckby has told the Townsville Bulletin that people ought to worry about what's going through the heads of those dressing up to scare others.

"Why are people wanting to hide their identity and scare people?" she said.

"That's what we should be concerned about.

Dr Buckby said the bizarre trend is likely to encourage more people to develop coulrophobia, a fear of clowns.

"It's not funny," she said.

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