October 13, 2015 § Leave a comment
Europe (15th century)
A nun in a German convent began to bite her companions, and the behavior spread through other convents in Germany, into Holland and as far as Italy.
Dancing Plague of 1518
The Dancing Plague of 1518 was a case of dancing mania that occurred in Strasbourg, Alsace (then part of the Holy Roman Empire) in July 1518. Numerous people took to dancing for days without rest, and, over the period of about one month, some of the people died from heart attack, stroke, or exhaustion.
Salem Witch Trials (1692–93)
Adolescent girls Abigail Williams, Betty Paris, Ann Putnam, and Elizabeth Hubbard began to have fits that were described by a minister as “beyond the power of Epileptic Fits or natural disease to effect.” The events resulted in the Salem witch trials, which resulted in the deaths of 25 citizens of Salem and nearby towns.
An outbreak of screaming, squirming and trance in an nunnery leads to the execution of a suspected witch.
Cat Nuns (France, 1844)
A convent of nuns began to meow like cats and others followed until all would meow together at a certain time for several hours together. This continued until the surrounding village called soldiers to threaten the nuns to stop their singing.
Basel and Gross-tinz “Writing Tremor Epidemic” (1892,1904)
The right hand of a ten-year-old girl in Gross-tinz began trembling, which developed into full-body seizures that spread to nineteen other students.
That same year, a similar epidemic affected 20 in Basel, Switzerland. Twelve years later, the Basel school experienced another outbreak that affected 27 students. Legend of the first outbreak was said to have played a role.
Sixty students at a ladies’ seminary suffer an outbreak of fits and seizures.
Meissen “Trembling Disease” (1905-6)
An estimated 237 children are afflicted between October 1905 and May 1906.
Halifax Slasher (1938)
The Halifax Slasher was the name given to a supposed attacker of residents, mostly women, of the town of Halifax, England in November 1938. The week-long scare began after two women claimed to have been attacked by a mysterious man with a mallet and “bright buckles” on his shoes. Further reports of attacks by a man wielding a knife or a razor followed. The situation became so serious that Scotland Yard as called in to assist the Halifax police.
On November 29 one of the alleged victims admitted that he had inflicted the damage upon himself for attention. Others soon had similar admissions, and the Yard investigation concluded that none of the attacks had been real. Five local people were subsequently charged with public mischief offenses, and four were sent to prison.
Bellevue, Louisiana (1939)
A girl develops a leg twitch at the annual homecoming high school dance. Attacks worsen and spread to friends over the next several weeks.
Tanganyika laughter epidemic (1962)
The Tanganyika laughter epidemic began on January 30, 1962, at a mission-run boarding school for girls in Kashasa, Tanzania. The laughter started with three girls and spread haphazardly throughout the school, affecting 95 of the 159 pupils, aged 12–18. Symptoms lasted from a few hours to 16 days in those affected. The teaching staff were not affected but reported that students were unable to concentrate on their lessons. The school was forced to close down on March 18, 1962.
After the school was closed and the students were sent home, the epidemic spread to Nshamba, a village that was home to several of the girls. In April and May, 217 people had laughing attacks in the village, most of them being school children and young adults. The Kashasha school was reopened on May 21, only to be closed again at the end of June. In June, the laughing epidemic spread to Ramashenye girls’ middle school, near Bukoba, affecting 48 girls. Another outbreak occurred in Kanyangereka and two nearby boys schools were closed.
June Bug Epidemic (1962)
A well-known example of hysterical contagion affecting sixty-two employees at a US textile factory.
Welsh, Louisiana (1962)
With students’ sexual activity under close scrutiny by school officials, and following rumors of mandatory pregnancy tests, twenty-one girls and one boy in grades six to eleven are affected by seizures and other symptoms over six months.
Blackburn, England (1965)
In October 1965 at a girls’ school in Blackburn, several girls complained of dizziness. Some fainted. Within a couple of hours, 85 girls from the school were rushed by ambulance to a nearby hospital after fainting. Symptoms included swooning, moaning, chattering of teeth, hyperpnea, and tetany.
A medical analysis of the event about one year later found that outbreaks began among the 14-year-olds, but that the heaviest incidence moved to the youngest age groups. There was no evidence of pollution of food or air. The younger girls proved more susceptible, but disturbance was more severe and lasted longer in the older girls. Using the Eysenck Personality Questionnaire, those affected had higher scores for extroversion and neuroticism. It was considered that the epidemic was hysterical, that a previous polio epidemic had rendered the population emotionally vulnerable, and that a three-hour parade, producing 20 faints on the day before the first outbreak, had been the specific trigger.
London (early 1970s)
Eight girls and a teacher began to have falling and fainting spells. The class was sent home early for spring break, and a pregnancy scare followed.
Mount Pleasant, Mississippi (1976)
School officials suspect drug use after fifteen students fall to the ground writhing, but no drugs are found and hysteria is assumed to be culprit. At one point, one third of school’s 900 students stayed home for fear of being “hexed”.
Mass hysteria occurred in Malaysia from the 1970s to the 1980s. It affected school-age girls and young women working in factories. The locals have explained this outbreak as “spirits” having possessed the girls and young women.
Hollinwell Incident (1980)
Around 300 people, mostly children, but including adults and babies, suddenly suffer fainting attacks, nausea and other symptoms. The Hollinwell Incident remains one of the prime examples of mass hysteria.
West Bank fainting epidemic (1983)
The 1983 West Bank fainting epidemic was a series of incidents in March 1983 in which 943 Palestinian teenage girls, mostly schoolgirls, and a small number of IDF women soldiers fainted or complained of feeling nauseous in the West Bank. Israel was accused of using chemical warfare to sterilize West Bank women while IDF sources speculated that a toxic substance had been employed by Palestinian militants to stir up unrest, but investigators concluded that even if some environmental irritant had originally been present, the wave of complaints was ultimately a product of mass hysteria. This conclusion was supported by a Palestinian health official, who said that while 20% of the early cases may have been caused by the inhalation of some kind of gas, the remaining 80% were psychosomatic.
Pokémon Panic (1997)
Benjamin Radford challenged earlier theories of photosensitive epilepsy, with the outbreak of nausea and seizures that affected 12,000 children while watching “Denno Senshi Porygon,” an episode of the Pokemon cartoon.
North Carolina (2002)
Ten girls develop seizures and other symptoms at a rural high school in North Carolina. Symptoms persisted for four months across various grade levels, tended to happen outside of class, with half of all incidents estimated to have occurred around lunch hour. Half of the affected were cheerleaders or former cheerleaders.
“Strawberries With Sugar virus” (2006)
In May 2006, an outbreak of the so-dubbed Morangos com Acucar virus (Strawberries With Sugar virus) was reported in Portuguese schools, named after the popular teen girl’s show Morangos com Acucar (Strawberries With Sugar). 300 or more students at 14 schools reported similar symptoms to those experienced by the characters in a then recent episode where a life-threatening virus affected the school depicted in the show. Symptoms included rashes, difficulty breathing, and dizziness. The belief that there was a medical outbreak forced some schools to temporarily close. The Portuguese National Institute for Medical Emergency eventually dismissed the illness as mass hysteria.
Mexico City (2007)
In 2007 near Chalco, a working-class suburb of Mexico City, mass hysteria resulted in a massive outbreak of unusual symptoms suffered by adolescent female students (600) at Children’s Village School, a Catholic boarding-school. The afflicted students had difficulty walking and were feverish and nauseated.
Vinton, Virginia (2007)
An outbreak of twitching, headaches and dizziness affected at least nine girls and one teacher at William Byrd High School. The episode lasted for months amid other local public health scares.
In 2008 in Tanzania, about 20 female school pupils began to faint in a schoolroom, collapsing to the floor and losing consciousness, while others after witnessing this sobbed, yelled and ran around the school. A local education officer was quoted in news reports saying that such events are “very common here”.
In April and May 2010, incidents of mass hysteria occurred at two all-girls secondary schools in Brunei. The most recent notable event happened on the 24th of April 2014 in a public secondary school. The phenomenon caused a wave of panic among many parents, educators, and members of the community. Some of the students affected by the phenomenon claimed to have been possessed by spirits, or jinn, displaying histrionic symptoms such as screaming, shaking, fainting, and crying.
LeRoy, New York (2011–12)
In late 2011, 12 high school girls developed Tourrette-like syndrome. Their school was tested for toxins, and all other factors for their symptoms were ruled out. The case, and some of the girls and their parents gained national media attention. In January 2012, several more students and a 36-year-old adult female came forward with similar symptoms. They were all diagnosed with conversion disorder.
Sri Lanka (2012)
From November 15–20, 2012, incidents of mass hysteria occurred at 15 schools in Sri Lanka More than 1,900 school children of 15 schools in Sri Lanka and five teachers were treated for a range of symptoms that included skin rashes, vomiting, vertigo, and cough due to allergic reactions believed to be mass hysteria. It originated at the Jinaraja Balika Vidyala in Gampola, Central Province on November 15, 2012 when 1,100 students were admitted to hospital with a range of symptoms that included skin rashes, vomiting, vertigo and coughing. Later, authorities had to close down the school for 3 days. After that on November 16, 17, 18, 19 there were more reports of students from other parts of the country showing similar symptoms.
Charlie Charlie Panic (2015)
Four teens in Tunja, Colombia are hospitalized, and several in the Dominican Republic are considered “possessed by Satan” after playing the Charlie Charlie Challenge viral game.