University of Maryland Police cautioned students against perpetuating a nationwide "hoax" involving clown sightings in an alert Tuesday night after multiple local sightings were discussed on social media.

Reports of clown sightings near the Knox Towers and Varsity apartment complexes circulated on social media, though police said the "[d]epartment has not received any reports of clown sightings on our campus."

Similar social media reports led about 500 students at Penn State, another Big Ten institution, to run through campus late Monday night, The Daily Collegian, Penn State's student newspaper, reported.

Time magazine reports the "hysteria" began after unconfirmed clown sighting reports in South Carolina that "has since ignited a national phenomenon."

The alert advised students who receive messages or view posts containing threats, clown related or not, to call police but not share on social media.