McDonald's downplays Ronald McDonald while 'creepy clown' sightings spread

McDonald's Corp. says Ronald McDonald is keeping a low profile with reports of “creepy clown” sightings on the rise.

The burger chain said Tuesday that it is being “thoughtful in respect to Ronald McDonald's participation in community events” as a result of the “current climate around clown sightings in communities.”

The company did not provide any other details about how often its red-haired mascot makes appearances and how or whether that will change.

McDonald's decision comes after a rash of pranks and threats nationwide and abroad that have involved eerie clowns. The trend began this summer with unconfirmed reports in South Carolina. Since then, reports have involved costumed hoaxsters frightening people on the street or people terrorizing others via social media.

Recently, authorities in Lancaster warned that men wearing “ugly-looking clown” masks were using a kitchen knife to scare people and recording video of their reactions.

Read more: 'We want this to stop immediately': Creepy clown pranksters spread fear and annoyance »

Among other incidents in California, Fairfield police Sgt. Jeff Osgood said a group calling its members the “ClownGanng” threatened to kill or kidnap people at several schools. 

Police in Michigan announced last week that they arrested “two morons dressed as clowns,” saying that the pair of women had chased and screamed at younger girls. 

British police have also warned about a string of threatening clown incidents. 

Times staff writer Veronica Rocha contributed to this report.

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