Facts Matter: Halloween? Here come the 'clown purge' warnings

  • Marvelous Magic the clown searches the crowd for guests to entertain July 10, 2015, at the Taste of Chicago at Grant Park.

    Marvelous Magic the clown searches the crowd for guests to entertain July 10, 2015, at the Taste of Chicago at Grant Park. Associated Press

 
 
Posted10/31/2021 5:30 AM

Recent social media posts warned of a clown purge the day before Halloween.

"Clowns are allegedly planning their own purge the night before Halloween. Stay inside, keep all pets inside and keep all doors and windows locked," read an Instagram post from earlier this month.

 

The post doesn't say what a purge is. But hoaxes commonly have spread online in the wake of the 2013 movie "The Purge," whose plotline is that crime is legal for 12 hours.

The fake claims showing up online stem from a 2016 hoax, according to Reuters. Five years ago, clown hysteria was active on social media with reports of threats from clowns and sightings of clowns hiding in the woods.

"Many of those reports were hoaxes, some were pranks, and some were schoolyard rumors, but the stories continued, in Chicago, Baltimore, and even in the U.K.," folklorist and author Benjamin Radford told CNN at the time.

The next year a story published on a parody website included a fake quote from a purported spokesperson for the Department of Homeland Security: "We have escalated these threats to acts of domestic terrorism and are working closely with the Department of Homeland Security to keep Americans safe."

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But the memes and warnings are satire that show up each year, just like Halloween.

Biden overstates his role

During an Oct. 21 town hall, President Joe Biden spoke of his role in getting out the COVID-19 vaccine.

"When I first was elected, there were only 2 million people who had COVID shots in the United States of America -- and the vaccine," Biden said. "Now, we got 190 million, because I went out and bought everything I could do and buy in sight and it worked."

Biden is overstating the involvement of his administration without giving credit to work done by former President Donald Trump's administration, according to The Associated Press.

Two million people had not received the shot on Nov. 3, 2020, when Biden was elected because the COVID-19 vaccine was awaiting emergency authorization at that time. The public began receiving shots in mid-December, following emergency approval from the Food and Drug Administration.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Biden's claim that he "bought everything" also doesn't stand up to scrutiny.

By the time he took office on Jan. 20, nearly 16 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine had been given to Americans, administered from the 300 million doses of Pfizer and Moderna purchased by the Trump administration in December of 2020.

Why no TV ads for vaccine

While there are many TV commercials for prescription and over-the-counter medical products, there haven't been any advertisements for the COVID-19 vaccines. An Instagram user suggested a reason.

"Have you noticed there's been no commercials for the death dart?" the post reads. "Here's why. Because in the US they are required by law to list all adverse side effects to medications advertised on TV to consumers. Fact check that."

PolitiFact did, and the claim is false.

The Food and Drug Administration, or FDA, prohibits any manufacturer from advertising a drug on TV that hasn't received full approval. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines received only emergency use authorization in December, while the Johnson & Johnson vaccine was cleared for emergency use in February.

In August, the Pfizer vaccine was given the FDA's full approval for people age 16 and older.

Pfizer spokesman Steven Danehy told PolitiFact that the company will market its vaccine under the name Comirnaty but didn't reveal a plan for ads.

"We cannot share our specific plans at this time. But we plan to take a thoughtful approach to marketing and advertising Comirnaty," he said.

All TV ads would be required to include any risks or side effects of the vaccine.

No Halloween blue moon

Facebook posts have suggested there will be a blue moon for Halloween.

"There's going to be a full blue moon on 31 October 2021. That is Halloween for the first time in 76 years," an Oct. 18 post reads. Other posts said it will be 19 years until another blue moon will be visible.

"A blue moon is a real phenomenon," according to USA Today, but it's not happening this Halloween.

It takes nearly 29 days for the moon to complete its eight phases. So there is generally a full moon each month, or 12 every year. But since the moon's cycle is shorter than Earth's months, every two or three years, there is a second full moon in a month. This is called a blue moon.

NASA spokesman Lance D. Davis told USA Today the last blue moon occurred on Aug. 22 so there won't be one for Halloween.

"The moon is projected to be in the waning crescent phase for Halloween 2021," he said.

The last blue moon to fall on Halloween was last year and the next blue moon is predicted to be in August 2023.

• Bob Oswald is a veteran Chicago-area journalist and former news editor of the Elgin Courier-News. Contact him at boboswald33@gmail.com.

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