McDonald's will reduce appearances by iconic mascot Ronald McDonald due to an uptick in reports that menacing-looking people in clown costumes have been lurking near playgrounds and schools.

“McDonald’s and franchisees in the local markets are mindful of the current climate around clown sightings in communities and, as such, are being thoughtful in respect to Ronald McDonald’s participation in community events for the time being,” spokeswoman Terri Hickey said in an emailed statement to NBC News.

Reports of the eerie clowns started in August when Greenville County, South Carolina residents called authorities to report a clown“trying to lure children in the woods,” per The Washington Post. Sightings were then reported in North Carolina, Alabama, Kentucky and, eventually, across the country and even internationally. In the United Kingdom, authorities have responded to dozens of clown sightings, according to CNN.

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