An alarming number of terrified children have made calls to Childline about harassment from "creepy clowns", as the frightful phenomenon continues to sweep the country.
More than 120 scared children have contacted the NSPCC's dedicated support line for youngsters in the space of just one week.
The children's charity revealed a quarter of those who had got in touch were under the age of 11, and in one case a 13-year-old girl was messaged on Instagram from someone posing as a clown threatening to cut her throat and rape her.
Reports of the sinister trend where people dress up as frightening clowns to scare passers-by have reached west London, including a horrifying image of a clown carrying a chainsaw at Brunel University.
The craze has sparked a warning from the Metropolitan Police that sightings are likely to increase throughout October as we approach Halloween.
Among the cases reported to police include "killer clowns" chasing children with weapons such as knives and baseball bats, and some instances have targeted schools.
Other sightings include a man with a suspected firearm wearing a horror clown mask in Hayes.
Marion Moore, NSPCC West London Service Centre manager, said: “People getting dressed up as ‘creepy clowns’ and frightening children should take a long hard look at themselves.
"Clowns are meant to make children laugh but these people are abusing this idea and turning it into something twisted and warped.
"Increasing reports that these ‘clowns’ are not simply seeking to frighten children but using them to intimidate, commit crimes, abuse or bully are deeply worrying and this trend needs to be stamped out.”
Advice for children concerned about creepy clowns:
· Talk to a parent or a teacher or trusted adult
· Contact the police if they are threatened by a creepy clown in the street
· Call Childline if they want to discuss their worries or get advice and support
· Block and report abusive messages from people posing as clowns on social media
Children who spot a "creepy clown" should report it to a parent or adult as well as the police.
Call Childline on 0800 1111 or visit the Childline website