Two people were in jail in Georgia on Thursday for calling 911 with fake reports of clowns trying to lure children into a van, according to police and local media, as claims of such sightings spread to a third Southern state.

Police in South Carolina, North Carolina and now Georgia have been on alert in recent weeks, chasing reports of people dressed as clowns and exhibiting creepy behavior. Most cases have not been substantiated, but accounts of costumed characters trying to tempt children with candy or cash rattled residents and prompted increased patrols.

The Troup County Sheriff’s Office in Georgia responded on Wednesday to a report of people dressed as clowns standing outside a white van. Deputies found the van at the scene but no signs of any costumes, the sheriff’s office said in a statement on Thursday.

Questioned by investigators, Brandon Jerome Moody, 26, admitted he was aware of recent complaints of clowns in the area and had fabricated the sighting that he called in to emergency operators, the statement said.

The sheriff’s office said Rebecca Moody, 27, Brandon’s sister-in-law, according to local media, also called 911 with a false report.

Sheriff James Woodruff told the LaGrange Daily News that the two alleged the clowns were trying to get children to come inside the white van.

Both face misdemeanor charges of obstruction of an officer and unlawful conduct during a 911 call. Jail records on Thursday afternoon listed them as current inmates and did not indicate whether they have lawyers.

“We have zero tolerance for anybody calling in false reports,” Woodruff told the LaGrange Daily News.

The spate of clown-sighting reports prompted the Bangor Daily News recently to ask Maine horror writer Stephen King why people find clowns scary.

“When I wrote my novel ‘IT’, I set it in Bangor, because it’s a town with a tough and violent history,” King wrote in an email to the BDN. “I chose Pennywise the Clown as the face which the monster originally shows the kiddies because kids love clowns, but they also fear them; 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 attributed the clown scare in the Carolinas to a recurring phenomenon: the supernatural bogeyman who lurks in the shadows.

“I suspect it’s a kind of low-level hysteria,” King said. “The clown furor will pass, as these things do, but it will come back, because under the right circumstances, clowns really can be terrifying.”

The Bangor Daily News contributed to this report.