Reports of an armed man in a clown suit on Merrimack College's campus Monday night were deemed a hoax, according to President Christopher E. Hopey.
Merrimack College initiated its emergency response procedures after campus police received reports of an armed man in a clown suit inside Monican Center, a residence hall on the North Andover campus.
All residents of that hall were evacuated and others on campus were ordered to stay indoors while police searched the building. Andover, North Andover and state police responded to join Merrimack College police officers.
The precautions were lifted about a half an hour later.
"We now know this was a hoax perpetrated on social media, not just on our campus but on several others throughout New England last night — a hoax fed by a hysteria that has, by media accounts, now affected communities in 26 states," Hopey said in a letter to the Merrimack College community. "This is the world in which we live, with very real threats intermingled with false alarms."
Hopey also said that officials must treat every threat as real and serious and that "we must also not let a hoax like this deter anyone from reporting situations or people that make them feel unsafe."
Merrimack College spokesman Jim Chiavelli said that several campuses responded to reports of clown sightings all stemming from the same Twitter account called Clown Watch. Chiavelli said that he wrote a complaint to Twitter on Monday night about the user.