The creepy clown craze sweeping Britain is “hijacking a harmless profession”, according to an entertainer from Holmfirth.

Colin Thornton, who runs the Aladdin’s shop on Hollowgate, condemned the string of clown sightings as a “social media frenzy.”

Facebook and Twitter are awash with images of yobs wearing scary clown face masks, deliberately setting out to frighten and intimidate people.

Colin, 57, who previously worked as a clown at children’s parties, said: “Clowns can now be perceived as horrific, horrible things but that’s not how it was originally.

“I’ve heard lots of tales of clowns cheering up children in hospital.

“A lot of people are genuinely afraid of clowns, and I think this is all a social media frenzy jumping on that idea.”

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Colin currently works at the gift shop in Holmfirth and said he hasn’t been “clowning” since it opened five years ago.

He added: “I condemn anyone who is going out and harming others in this way, and I think it’s a real shame the profession is being hijacked like this.

“Clowns are not supposed to be intimidating. All this is just a social media frenzy that the media are jumping on.”

Dozens of sightings of clowns have been made across the UK in recent weeks, with some resulting in violence.

No violent incidents have been reported in Huddersfield, although there have been suggestions on social media of clowns seen in Dewsbury and Rastrick.

In a statement West Yorkshire Police Assistant Chief Constable Mark Milsom said: “We are becoming increasingly concerned about the current clown craze.

“West Yorkshire Police are continuing to receive reports of ‘clown incidents.’

“While some might view this as a prank there is a potential for serious unforeseen consequences. We will take robust action to arrest and prosecute them where we consider offences have occurred.”

A person wearing a clown costume in a street in Liverpool

Colin added: “It is concerning, but we do need to remember to get some persepective.”

Who’s afraid of clowns?

The fear of clowns – or coulrophobia is a well established psychological condition.

Although intended to be a figure of fun, the traditional circus clown’s transformation into a creepy character has been helped by the Stephen King book ‘It’.

The novel tells the tale of a monster who disguises himself as a clown called Pennywise in a bid to entrap a group of children in small-town America.

It was adapted into a miniseries in 1990 and a new film remake is set to be released next year.

What’s the craze all about?

The hoax craze in the USA took off in August after police in the state of South Carolina received a number of reports that people dressed as clowns were trying to lure children .

Video thumbnail, 'Killer clown' stunt goes wrong when prankster gets a beating
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Since then there have been reports across the country and elsewhere in the world of creepy clowns leaping out of bushes to scare passers-by, lurking in parks or woodland or even chasing people.

The sinister trend has carried over onto social media, with a number of reports of people setting up Twitter or Facebook accounts as clowns and making threats to attack schools.

Why is it happening now?

Maybe because Halloween is just around the corner and the costumes are available in fancy dress shops.