FARGO — Roxane Salonen and her son were playing tennis on the courts at Island Park in Fargo on the night of Sunday, Oct. 4, getting some practice as their high school tennis season wraps up.

When they got on the court at around 8:30 Sunday night, the sky was black, and the fluorescent lights were on.

About 15 minutes into playing, Salonen, a contributing columnist and features writer for Forum Communications, noticed she and her son were attracting a crowd around the fence.

At first, the crowd stood still.

"All of a sudden, they started moving, and so then I realized, 'Oh, those are people,'" she said.

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Salonen and her son counted about four people, all wearing clown masks.

She said they were chanting something as they closed in on her and her son, but they quickly ran as she called the police who told her it was the second report of masked clowns in the city that night.

"Even if it was a practical joke, right now it probably isn't a good time to be doing that, because there's so much worry right now in the world," Salonen said.

For Brenda Giere, the owner of Halloween Express, clown costumes have become more popular in her store over the past few years.

She said clown masks and suits have been outselling classic Halloween costumes like werewolves and pirates, just based on scare factor alone.

"I'm not necessarily endorsing running around town trying to scare people, but people just have this love affair for clowns," Giere said.

What happened to Salonen reminded her of the nationwide clown panic four years ago, which got some attention in Fargo.

She hopes what she and her son experienced was a one-time thing, but she sent a message for the four who decided to celebrate Halloween four weeks early.

"It's easy to hide behind a mask and be bold, but show yourself, be in the light, and let us see who you are," Salonen said.