If you’ve read Stephen King's It, seen the 1990 film version starring Tim Curry, or witnessed this year's buzzy reboot, you know that a red balloon bobbing in the breeze is not a good sign. Balloons serve as the creepy calling card of Pennywise, a malevolent creature that terrorizes the children of Derry, Maine and lures them to their doom.
Now, it seems that Pennywise's creepy symbol has leaked into real life. Red balloons are appearing across the nation.
The story begins in Lititz, Pennsylvania. On Tuesday, September 5, The Lititz Borough Police Department posted pictures of red balloons that had been tied to sewer grates around the town. Residents were (understandably) freaked out about the sight.
In a Facebook post about the event, the police department said, “we want the local prankster to know that we were completely terrified as we removed these balloons from the grates and we respectfully request they do not do that again.”
Local teen Peyton Riff eventually confessed to the prank, claiming she just wanted to scare some of her friends. The police were willing to joke about the incident—although Pennsylvania State Police recently warned citizens to be wary of an uptick in creepy clown sightings as the movie release approached.
Other red balloon sightings, however, have popped up without a clear explanation. On Thursday, September 7, Residents of Nashville, Tennessee reported seeing at least three balloons in their city, with no one yet claiming responsibility. The following day, CBS Denver reported that red balloons appeared in the Denver area. Meanwhile, in Australia, red balloons tethered to sewer drains were spotted across Sydney—though this was a purposeful marketing campaign complete with sidewalk tags promoting the release of the new horror flick.
Perhaps the balloon sightings in Nashville and Denver are simply copycat stunts inspired by the Lititz Borough incident, and nothing more sinister. Whatever it is, it’s certainly effective marketing for the new IT movie, which hits theaters today.
We’ll stick to seeing the red balloons in theaters only, if it’s all the same to you.
Featured still of "It" via Warner Bros. Pictures