Gregg DeGuire/WireImage; Warner Bros.
Anthony Breznican
September 08, 2016 AT 12:00 PM EDT

Stephen King, whose Pennywise the Dancing Clown has menaced readers ever since the publication of It in 1986, has officially weighed in on the real-life scourge of creepy clowns in North Carolina.

King’s hometown newspaper, The Bangor Daily News, reached out to ask what he thought of the rash of clown-sightings that has creeped out and angered residents in Greensboro and and Winston-Salem.

Wearing a clown get-up isn’t illegal, but police say the pranksters are disturbing residents and draining law enforcement resources with their creepy antics.

In an email to Bangor Daily News reporter Emily Burnham, King revealed his reason for making a clown the primary form of the otherworldly predator in It.

“I chose Pennywise the Clown as the face which the monster originally shows the kiddies because kids love clowns, but they also fear them,” King wrote. “Clowns with their white faces and red lips are so different and so grotesque compared to ‘normal’ people. Take a little kid to the circus and show him a clown, he’s more apt to scream with fear than laugh.”

King said he suspects these real-life clown scares are partly fueled by a collective “low-level hysteria.” People are sensitized to freak out about clowns, and pranksters are pushing that button for a laugh. “The clown furor will pass, as these things do, but it will come back, because under the right circumstances, clowns really can be terrifying,” King said.

The Father of Pennywise said he’s not immune. “If I saw a clown lurking under a lonely bridge (or peering up at me from a sewer grate, with or without balloons), I’d be scared, too.”

The new film version of It, which is not staging these clown-sightings as a stunt, is currently shooting with plans to debut in theaters next September.

Check out King’s full comments over at The Bangor Daily News.

For more Stephen King news, follow @Breznican.

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