Police reports from Greenville, SC last week described a full-on clown with white overalls, red hair and red shoes trying to lure children into the woods.

And now, according to Fox 8, WXII, the Winston-Salem Journal and the News & Record, the clowns have landed in the Triad.

It’s an incredible story: Scary clowns lurking by low-income, predominantly African-American apartment complexes, enticing children into the woods with cash and laser pointers.

Except, of course, it’s a load of crap — though you wouldn’t read that in any of the media stories.

The first clown sightings relied on anonymous telephone  reports to police — the two Winston-Salem incident reports, neither of which have any names of witnesses, are marked as “closed” and “inactive” respectively — and resulted in thinly sourced stories, breathless and with scant detail, that by all interpretations seem to be treating the killer-clown story like it’s some sort of public-safety issue instead of a ridiculous hoax.

And yet every major news outlet in the Triad market — and a couple outside it — picked up the story and played it straight. Fox 8 described Winston-Salem as “on edge,” after knocking on doors in the Hope Lane neighborhood and letting residents know about the killer clown in their midst. In response to the stories, WSPD announced they’d increase patrols in the area through the weekend.

Yes, we now have an insane clown posse.

In Greensboro, police are forced to treat the 911 call seriously, but thatdoesn’t mean the media should be complicit in what is almost certainly a media hoax — smart money says it’s the new Rob Zombie clown-themed horror flick 31, or the new adaptation of Stephen King’s It, which wraps shooting in Toronto this week.

It is one thing when news masks as entertainment — pundits like John Oliver and Bill Maher make their living putting a pop-culture spin on the events of the day. But it is quite another when entertainment masks as news, and a willing media allows its dearth of reporters to be hijacked by what every last one of them must surely know is not a real story.

In between the first report late Sunday night and the next one, about four hours, there were two or three automobile thefts in Winston-Salem, three B&Es, a couple of firearm discharges and two drug arrests, none of which necessitated its own special patrol.

But hey: There are killer clowns in these here woods! At least, according to our biggest media outlets there are.

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