Why Aren’t More Horror Movies Released In Theaters Around Halloween?

It’s not quite as well known as “in a world…” but “if you only see one movie this [season], make it…” is an equally disingenuous trailer quote. It means nothing, because it can mean anything. For instance, “If you only see one movie this January about your mom or dad’s filthy father, make it Dirty Grandpa,” or, “If you only see one movie this Halloween, make it Ouija: Origin of Evil.” Thing is, that second one is actually true. Despite being a sequel (and a prequel!) to a bad movie named after something bored teens in the 1970s played with during sleepovers, and despite having the most vague subtitle ever, and despite starring Edward’s mom from Twilight, the enjoyably corny Ouija: Origin of Evil isn’t half-bad! Most of the scares are earned. It’s a perfectly inoffensive pre-Halloween horror movie to see on a first date.

Not that you have many options. There are only two horror movies out this October: Ouija: Origin of Evil (I can’t get over that title; it might as well be Ouija: Dawn of Justice) and Boo! A Madea Halloween, which is horrifying for different reasons. That’s it. How did this happen? Have studios always bee this inexplicably stingy when it comes to spooks and scares this time of year, when we most want to be spooked and scared? I looked back at the release schedule for the past 20 years and noted every wide-release horror movie (or horror adjacent, which includes comedies like Scary Movie). It’s terrifying.

2016

Boo! A Madea Halloween
Ouija: Origin of Evil

2015

Crimson Peak
Goosebumps
Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension
Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse

2014

Dracula Untold
Ouija

2013

Carrie
The Devil’s Rapture

2012

Frankenweenie
Paranormal Activity 4
Silent Hill: Revelation 3D
Sinister

2011

Beneath the Darkness
Paranormal Activity 3
The Thing

2010

Case 39
I Spit on Your Grave
Let Me In
My Soul to Take
Paranormal Activity 2
Saw 3D

2009

Cirque du Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant
The House of the Devil
Night of the Demons
Saw VI
The Stepfather
Zombieland

2008

The Haunting of Molly Hartley
Quarantine
Saw V

2007

30 Days of Night
Saw IV

2006

The Grudge 2
Saw III
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning

2005

The Fog
Saw II
Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit

2004

The Grudge
Saw

2003

House of the Dead
Scary Movie 3
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre

2002

Ghost Ship
The Ring

2001

From Hell
Thirteen Ghosts

2000

Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2
The Little Vampire
Lost Souls

1999

Bats
House on Haunted Hill

1998

Beloved
Bride of Chucky
Vampires

1997

I Know What You Did Last Summer

1996

Thinner

There are some good movies in there — Zombieland is a clever deconstruction of zombie flicks; I Know What You Did Last Summer is schlocky fun; and Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit isn’t really “scary,” but whatever, it’s delightful — although few classics. Think of this way: how many of the films above would you watch every Halloween, the way some people do It’s a Wonderful Life or The Muppets Christmas Carol around Christmas? For me, it’s Zombieland, The Ring, The House of the Devil, and… that’s about it.

It seems like an easy win: horror movie + Halloween = profit. But there’s a stubborn refusal on the part of the studios to solve this obvious solution. There are two reasons why I think this is. The first is, simply, there aren’t many wide-release horror movies anymore. The Babadook is a modern-day classic, but it barely crept into multiplexes; you had to live near an art-house theater, or wait until it was released on DVD, to enjoy Essie Davis’s brilliantly tortured performance. Horror will always be more niche than comedy, drama, or action, so studios are less likely to fund one unless they’re part of a successful franchise, which is how you end up with Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension. (The six films (!) in the Paranormal Activity series cost a combined $28 million — they made $889.7 million at the box office.)

And the few wide-release horror movies that do come out are scheduled throughout the year, which brings me to the second reason. There’s little risk and lots of reward in horror because they’re usually so cheap — studios can plop them wherever there’s an opening in the schedule and know that they’ll find an audience. Even during the blockbuster summer: The Shallows is a highly enjoyable B-movie; The Conjuring 2 is an upgrade over the original; and Don’t Breathe is one of the best movies of the year, in any genre. They’re the opposite of superhero movies, which are scheduled years in advance, then shot. Warner Bros. can finance and film Lights Out and worry about when to release it later. (Lights Out came out the same weekend as Ice Age: Collision Course and Star Trek Beyond, and made $148 million, or nearly 29 times its minuscule budget; Star Trek Beyond made less than two times.)

For years, that “later” was October, a “dump month” — a Hollywood term for the times of the year, generally January and September/October, when studios are between blockbusters and awards hopefuls and expectations are at their lowest. But then the Saw and Paranormal Activity movies became huge hits, and as A Haunted House 2 producer Rick Alvarez told USA Today in 2013, “You would never come up against them because you would be killed.” (Saw: Legacy is already penciled in for Oct. 27, 2017.) Plus, as noted by Complex‘s Matt Barone, “Horror’s now too big of a business for major studios to care much about October.” James Wan’s The Conjuring came out in July 2013 and ended up grossing $318 million worldwide; The Conjuring 2 came out in June 2016 and made $320 million worldwide. Both are perfect for Halloween.

But why mess with success?

Horror movies are too often an afterthought — for one thing, they don’t rely on stars to sell tickets, so it’s hard for the studios to market them; also, they can easily be relegated to video-on-demand, where they’ll often find an audience. It’s a welcome development that scary movies that otherwise wouldn’t have been made can now debut on Netflix or another streaming service. But there’s nothing like being in a packed theater full of people who are screaming in terror just as loudly as you are, especially around Halloween. That experience is now spread throughout the year, but come October 31, we still deserve better than Madea.

A Neuroscientist Takes Us Inside The Science Of Fear

Fear is far more than just a feeling. The terror we experience when threats are near is part of a larger emotional and physical response humans have evolved to protect us from imminent danger, as New York University neuroscientist Joseph LeDoux tells Vocativ in this video interview on the science of fear.

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LeDoux is the author of “Anxious: Using the Brain to Understand and Treat Fear and Anxiety.” As he explains, our brains are able to pretty much automatically recognize possible threats that we perceive. A part of the brain called the amygdala is instrumental in coordinating the fear response, releasing hormones like adrenaline and cortisol that help us cope with the suddenly stressful, even dangerous situation we find ourselves in. A lot of the things we associate with fear — a pounding heartbeat, sweating palms — are byproducts of our nervous system and hormones going into action to get us ready to respond, whether that means freezing in place, fleeing the danger, or even facing it head-on.

All these responses happen without us needing to be consciously aware of the threat, though LeDoux says part of the point of the fear response is to make us immediately aware of the peril we’re in — if we hadn’t noticed beforehand, an onrush of hormones and chemicals ought to clue us in. The feeling of fear, then, is the result of our bodies processing and responding to a danger. That feeling isn’t necessarily the most important part of the response, biologically speaking, but it’s definitely what our conscious minds remember most clearly.

These Are the Most Googled Halloween Costumes of 2016

There’s no doubt you ran into a few Harley Quinns or Jokers this weekend. According to Google, those two Suicide Squad stars reigned supreme when it came to most Googled Halloween costumes this year. The search engine has released its annual list of the top 50 most searched costumes, which could have helped you avoid walking into a party looking like 20 other guests. Google’s Frightgeist interactive map allows users to search by location or other parameters such as “Spookiness Level.” Check out the top ten list of most searched costumes nationally below and let us know which ones are surprising (or not) and explore the interactive map here.

Harley Quinn

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Joker

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Superhero

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Pirate

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Wonder Woman

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Witch

most-googled-halloween-costumes-witch

Batman

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Star Wars

most-googled-halloween-costumes-star-wars

Clown

most-googled-halloween-costumes-clown

Dinosaur

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Google Is Celebrating Halloween with a Ghoulish Game

A magical academy has been overrun by ghosts and ghouls! A cat named Momo accidentally summoned a spirit, which stole the school’s master spellbook. Google’s new doodle gets into the Halloween spirit a bit early this year with a browser game.

This is a really clever game. Players disperse the ghosts by drawing the symbol hovering over their heads: a V and inverted V, horizontal and vertical lines, and lightning bolts. Players draw a heart to replenish their lives.

The game takes place in five levels: the school’s library, cafeteria, a classroom, the gym, and the roof, each with their own boss. As each level progresses, the ghosts come with even more complicated strings of symbols, which you have to cast in the right order to make them go away.

Google outlined the behind-the-scenes process of the game in a post, noting that the game was originally about a cat that made soup, before they shifted the idea to a wizard school. It’s a cute game for a browser, but it also seems as though it could be well suited for other mediums, such as VR.

Facebook Live Halloween Filters Are Coming to a Screen Near You

Looks like Facebook is trying to get on par with rivals Snapchat by adding a Halloween mask-themed selfie to its live video feature. Makes sense since Zuckerberg repeatedly tried to purchase Snapchat in the past, even bidding a whopping $3 billion USD for the app. The “masks” feature will allow users to apply a selection of animal filters as well as a set of limited-edition Halloween-themed reactions like a cackling witch, a sad Frankenstein, an angry pumpkin, and a skeletal thumbs up. While this may be Facebook‘s first venture into filters, it’s not the first time the social media king has drawn inspiration from Snapchat. Instagram, which was purchased by Facebook back in 2012 for $1 billion USD, now uses a similar “Stories” feature. To begin a stream wearing a mask, open the creative toolbar by tapping the magic wand icon in the upper left-hand corner of the app. The mask icon will then pop up on the bottom of the screen. Let the Halloween fun begin.

What Is Candy Corn and Where Did It Come From?

Ah, Halloween, the glorious holiday devoted to underdressing in the cold while overindulging in sugar-filled treats. Of all the types of candy that are consumed during its observance, perhaps none is as controversial as the humble, cloying little triangles known as candy corn.

What makes this waxy, tricolored candy so essential to All Hallow’s Eve — and so hotly debated? Read on for more facts about candy corn than you probably ever wanted to know.

What is candy corn?

In its traditional form, candy corn is a small, triangular candy consisting of three colored sections (white, orange, and yellow); it’s mainly sold around Halloween. The ingredients in candy corn from Brach’s, the largest manufacturer of the stuff, are: sugar, corn syrup, confectioner’s glaze, salt, dextrose, gelatin, sesame oil, artificial flavor, honey, Yellow 6, Yellow 5, and Red 3. A serving size is 19 pieces and contains 140 calories, 0 grams of fat, 28 grams of sugar, and 70 milligrams of sodium.

Per Better Homes and Gardens, this is how candy corn is made:

Candy corn starts as a mixture of sugar, fondant, corn syrup, vanilla flavor, and marshmallow creme. This mixture is melted into liquid candy, called slurry, and is colored and run through a cornstarch molding process to create each kernel. Wooden trays filled with cornstarch are imprinted with rows of candy corn molds where the layers are individually deposited from bottom to top.

The mixture cools in the tray, which seals the three layers together. The kernels of candy corn are sifted from the trays and polished in large drumpans with edible wax and glaze to create its irresistible, hand-grabbable shine.

If you’re curious, Food Network’s Unwrapped has an interesting behind-the-scenes look at the candy-corn-making process.

How popular is it?

According to Susan Whiteside of the National Confectioners Association, about 35 million pounds of candy corn (around 9 billion pieces) are produced each year, with the “vast majority” of it being sold during the Halloween season. In a poll to determine people’s favorite Halloween candy, the NCA found that candy corn ranks second on the list — but at just 13 percent popularity, it’s far below chocolate, which dominates with 70 percent. Chewy and gummy candy rank third and fourth, with 6 and 5 percent, respectively. (It’s worth noting, of course, that most of those categories encompass many types of candies, while candy corn is generally pretty homogeneous.)

In a poll conducted by the social media–driven product review platform Influenster, residents of five states — Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Wyoming — named candy corn as their favorite Halloween candy.

Whiteside theorizes the enduring popularity of the stuff is due to the fact that, like the McRib sandwich or Shamrock Shake at McDonald’s, it’s only prevalent at a certain time of year. “It’s not easy to find candy corn in July, so every year when it comes on the shelves, people get excited,” she says. “It was the pumpkin spice latte of the fall before there were pumpkin spice lattes.”

But I thought people hated candy corn

Whether candy corn tastes delicious or like hot garbage certainly seems to be a major point of contention. (A 2013 CNN Facebook poll on the topic garnered more than 1,000 comments.) People who like it generally agree that it is very, very sweet; people who dislike it seem to want to consign it to a lower circle of hell.

Phil Lempert, a.k.a. the Supermarket Guru, theorized to Adweek that the divide is a generational one:

“There’s no question that candy corn is iconic for the baby boomer who grew up looking forward to the once-a-year Halloween treat,” he said. “The question is whether it is still as relevant today for millennials and Gen Z.”

In other words, if you grew up during candy corn’s heyday in the 1950s and ’60s, you’re probably more inclined to like it than today’s kids, raised on a Halloween diet heavy on Skittles and Starburst.

For some, no doubt, the waxy glaze behind what Better Homes and Gardens called candy corn’s “irresistible, hand-grabbable shine” is the cause of their dislike.

Even among those who enjoy it, the debates continue. Do you eat the individual pieces all at once, or a section at a time? If you’re a by-the-section person, do you start with the wide yellow end or the narrow white one?

Does candy corn go bad?

According to the National Confectioners Association’s Whiteside, an opened package of candy corn will officially last between three and six months. An unopened, fresh package will last about nine months. (Unofficially, you can probably eat it long past that, but it might taste stale.)

For comparison’s sake, a supposedly everlasting Twinkie will last about 45 days unopened, according to this great NPR article on the topic. Pure chocolate can last around two years, per Slate, “but it’s likely to change in texture and become less appetizing after about 12 months.” Chocolate with nuts likely won’t last as long, as the oils in the nuts can go rancid after about a year.

I’m tired of regular candy corn. What else do you have for me?

Candy corn is now available not just in varying colors but varying flavors, too: Several companies now churn out flavors such as caramel apple, s’mores, caramel macchiato, “fruit creme,” and, new this year, peanut butter cup. There’s also a candy company in Indiana that makes flavors such as blackberry cobbler and — of course — pumpkin spice.

But that’s just the tip of the iceberg: You can find candy corn M&Ms, Starburst candy corn, and, once upon a time, limited-edition candy corn Oreos. A quick Google search also turns up an inexhaustible supply of candy-corn-related and/or -flavored recipes, some of which are pretty horrifying (see: this recipe for “candy corn on the cob,” which is literally just candy corn stuck into a log of raw sugar cookie dough), as well as candy corn costumes, candles, and lip balm.

So, love it or hate it, candy corn is here to stay. As is the fact that no matter what form or flavor you choose to eat it in, you shouldn’t forget to brush your teeth.

Why Haunted Houses Scare Us… Even If We Know They’re Fake

Leaves are changing colors and candy corn is on store shelves, which means it’s the season for paying people to scare us on purpose.

But this brings up an interesting question: Why are we scared in certain situations when we know heading into said situation that we’ll be fine? This isn’t limited to just haunted houses: consider roller coasters or horror flicks or even (virtual) haunted houses. We know we’re not going to fall out of the roller coaster seat, that the movie is not real and portraying a scene with actors, that the masked man that jumps out in a dark, cobwebbed hallway isn’t going to hurt us.

So why do we get scared, and why do we still pay to be afraid when we know there’s no real threat?

It’s got a lot to do with how your body goes into overdrive when you confront a stressful (or in this case, downright frightening) situation. When a bloody zombie swinging an ax swerves into you in a haunted house, cortisol — your body’s anti-stress hormonal defense — and a team of neurotransmitters — norepinephrine, dopamine and epinephrine (aka adrenaline, the infamous “flight or fight” response) — are released. Your heart rate and your breathing skyrocket; your blood vessels dilate, shooting more oxygen to your brain. Neuropeptide S, a protein in your brain, helps you feel more alert. Sugars and fats come out of storage for an energy boost. In the brain, the amygdala’s first and dominant emotional response is fear. Your brain puts all its resources into dealing with the problem at hand, so rational thought gets suspended.

This all means that even though you logically know you’re safe, your brain pushes that logic to a corner of your rational, thinking self and sort of tricks you into thinking you’re part of a live horror show. In fact, knowing you’re about to walk into a dark house with a maze of rooms full of terrifying characters can actually prime you for a stronger fear response.

You Can Airbnb Dracula’s Castle in Transylvania for Halloween

Horror fans, rejoice. Airbnb recently announced that the real life Dracula’s Castle (Bran Castle) situated in Transylvania, Romania has been listed on the company’s site as a special getaway for Halloween. Two lucky guests will get the chance to spend a ghastly night inside the legendary vampire’s abode which will be hosted by Dacre Stoker—the great grand-nephew of Dracula author Bram Stoker.  The winning pair will be immediately immersed in the story of the iconic book’s protagonist, Jonathan Harker, as they travel to the spooky fortress via horse-drawn carriage. Shortly afterwards, they will meet Dacre who will relay a handful of ghost stories, historical anecdotes and retell the Dracula myth.

“Bran Castle is where the legend of Dracula was born, and I have many stories to share as I guide the guests through the dark secret passages of the castle for a private unveiling of its many mysteries. Bram Stoker included many references to real people and real historical anecdotes and questioned whether vampires are really a myth at all,” said Dacre Stoker.

Guests will also be offered a candlelit dinner and are expected to sleep in “luxurious velvet-trimmed coffins” all by their lonesome. After surviving the night, the guests are then treated to a hearty breakfast on the castle’s terrace with a gorgeous vista of the Transylvanian skyline. In order to win, interested folks must head over to the official Airbnb listing page where they are asked one straightforward question: “What would you say to the Count if you were to come face-to-fang with him in his own castle?”

Take a look at the spine-tingling photos below and let us know if you’re willing to spend the night in Dracula’s castle.

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Ranking the Best (and Worst) Halloween Candy

The month of Halloween is in full swing, and you know what that means — variety packs of mini chocolate bars, bags of candy corn and pumpkin-shaped Reese’s cups crowd every supermarket, begging you to take home pounds of saccharine treats. The almighty voice of consumerism has spoken, and this is the message: it’s time to gorge on candy.

Whether you’re giving it out to trick-or-treaters or keeping it for yourself, you deserve to experience only the best fun-size candy this October. That’s why a group of 813 contributors braved stomach aches to determine which Halloween candy was the best of all.

Because it’s unfair to compare a Kit Kat bar to a Starburst piece, we’ve divided the candy into two categories. First, we’re getting to the chocolate:

Chocolate Division

10. Almond Joy

Score: 20
“Almond and coconut team up to ruin chocolate,” one taster noted. Another asserted that the coconut mush wasn’t food, and yet another felt the filling tasted a bit off.

9. Charleston Chews

Score: 37
These classic candies smell like diabetes and taste like sugar with no flavor — or, as one taster noted, like chocolate-covered wet paper.

8. Hershey’s Milk Chocolate

Score: 54
The consensus on Hershey’s is divided, ranging from “cheapo American chocolate” to “hardly chocolate.” Turn it into a s’more instead.

7. Tootsie Rolls

Score: 65
Tootsie Rolls lost points for their fecal exterior and weird hybrid texture. Critics were divided on the taste.

6. Three Musketeers

Score: 73
One taster loved the airiness of the whipped nougat while others thought the chocolate and filler were mediocre. Additionally, the commercials still make us feel like eating a Three Musketeers isn’t that guilty.

5. Snickers

Score: 83
The peanuts in Snickers bars are a great source of protein, which means less guilt. It also means less fun.

4. Twix

Score: 85
Twix was referred to as both Kit Kat’s cool older brother and like something Keebler elves would make. However, you can’t argue with that mixture of caramel and cookie crunch. Also, you have not lived if you’ve never tried Twix’s ice cream interpretation.

3. Junior Mints

Score: 86
Junior Mints taste great and make your mouth feel clean. We just wish they’d last longer.

2. Kit Kat Bars

Score: 91
Kit Kat’s wafers won all the tasters over with a texture that’s crunchy, perfectly light and crispy and a chocolate border that isn’t too thick.

1. Reese’s Cups

Score: 93
Sweetened peanut butter and chocolate team up to create perfection that’s only slightly marred by a tendency to melt.

Fruity/Sugary Division

13. Dots

Score: 13
Paste tasters overwhelmingly disapproved Dots, particularly citing the candy’s texture. You spend more time trying to get residue off your molars than you actually do eating the candy.

12. Pumpkin Donut Laffy Taffy

Score: 19
This year, Nestle decided to get in on the fall flavors kick and only contribute pumpkin spice and apple Laffy Taffy candies to variety packs. Pumpkin Spice may be our new overlord, but the flavor translates poorly here. Somehow, the apple flavor is even worse. Also, the jokes still suck.

11. Life Saver Pop
Score: 20

It’s just a Life Saver on a stick, right? Nope, the hole is filled, and you’re going to drown — these things lack too much flavor to bear the name Life Saver.

10. Life Savers Big Ring Gummies
Score: 26

Gummi Life Savers are great, but when they’re swollen and covered in granulated sugar, things get ugly. The taste is bland and the texture is so rubbery you feel like you’re trying to eat a human chew toy.

9. Haribo Ghost Gummies

Score: 41
Ordinarily, Haribo Gummies are delicious, but when you shrink them down and only offer the worst flavors, ratings plummet. The smaller size made the gummies much harder to chew with an almost meaty texture. Skip the purple gummies next year, Haribo. We know you can do better.

8. Life Savers
Score: 53

Life Savers are classic candy — pioneers of flavor, if you will — but the time it takes to properly consume one goes against typical Halloween gorging.

7. Mayfair Candy Corn

Score: 54
Had we tasted Brach’s, the rank would be higher, but alas, this was the only bag in the entire store. Tasters found Mayfair’s candy corn waxy and too sweet with a tendency to dissolve too soon. The verdict? Nothing special.

6. Gummy Body Parts

Score: 56
A somewhat off putting exterior balanced by a slight tropical flavor. Meh.

5. Sweet Tart Chews

Score: 58
The classic (and good) Laffy Taffy flavors were omitted from the variety pack so Wonka could promote Sweet Tart Chews. Like Laffy Taffy, they taste like pure sugar (just like original Sweet Tarts, actually). However, these things are a pain to open because they stick to the wrapper. Also, no jokes.

4. Spree

Score: 63
Spree candy is like mini, flattened jawbreakers: a sweet outer shell protects a tart, chalky center. Not bad, but they could use more excitement.

3. Mini Haribo Gold Gummies

Score: 71
It turns out that the wrong size can stain even the pinnacle of gummy candy, although the Mini Golds came in better flavors than the Ghostly Gummies. If they were regular size, we’d call them perfect.

2. Skittles

Score: 76
Even a small amount of these things packs a punch of good flavor. Also, we have a request to get rid of green apple skittles and #bringbacklime.

1. Starburst

Score: 90
Every taster agrees that perfectly juicy Starburst is one of the best candies around. However, we’re divided on whether pink or red flavor should take the top spot.

Target Removes Scary Clown Masks From Stores And Website

One casualty of the current series of clown scares and hoaxes across the country has been Ronald McDonald, who McDonald’s sent on vacation while there’s a nationwide rash of suspicious incidents involving people dressed as clowns. Now Target has decided that it doesn’t want to be a supplier to aspiring creepy clowns, and is pulling clown masks from stores and from its website.

Every region of the country has its own scary-clown stories at the moment, beginning with children in South Carolina who claimed that creepy clowns tried to coax them into the woods. Clown-related mayhem has spread across the country since then, and the Minneapolis Star-Tribune reports that Target has apparently decided that this Halloween isn’t the time to sell piles of clown masks.

The retailer’s home state of Minneapolis has been the site of some of the clown scares, including multiple Facebook-based threats made by a teen. A volunteer soccer coach was dismissed after a photo circulated of him lurking on the field wearing a clown mask at the team’s last practice of the year. Some students weren’t in on the joke and reported the photo to authorities.

Target, meanwhile, is still selling costumes for regular clowns. It’s those scary clown masks that it has pulled from sale until the seasonal creepy clown mania passes.