— -- It's like a scene from a horror film.
Residents of a California city are being terrorized by people dressed as clowns, some reportedly wielding machetes or baseball bats, police said.
"There's a natural phobia of clowns," Sgt. Joe Grubbs of the Bakersfield Police Department told ABC News today. "And, clearly, if someone is dressed up as a clown and holding a weapon in a threatening manner, that's going to frighten people."
There have been 20 sightings in a week, but only one clown has landed in cuffs. Bakersfield police arrested one juvenile last week for allegedly chasing other juveniles while in a clown costume. The 14-year-old suspect, who wasn't armed, told police he was participating in a hoax he had seen online.
Social media accounts using the name "Wasco Clown" claim to be linked to the pranks, but police said they were unaware of any connection. Instagram photos show scary clowns posing in different landmarks in Wasco, Delano and Bakersfield, and the snapshots include taunting captions like "come out and play" and "It's funny you guys think I got arrested."
Other residents have reported seeing the scary clowns armed with a machete or baseball bat, Grubbs said, but police haven't apprehended any clowns with weapons.
Sgt. Ian Chandler of the Kern County Sheriff's Department in Wasco says his department has also received several phone calls about scary clowns. He suspects the social media accounts are just "copycats" who heard about the sightings, which may have been sparked by a couple dressing up as clowns for an art project, he said.
The @RealWascoClown Twitter account also claims responsibility for the scary sightings, though police say they know of no connection.
"I am the creepy, evil-looking clown that is roaming the streets of Wasco, California at night. Come Find Me I will give you a balloon," the account says.