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Tuesday, November 23, 2010

10 Classic Cases Of Mass Hysteria

by Joan Seth

Mass hysteria is the common term used to describe a situation in which various people all suffer from similar hysterical symptoms – either from a phantom illness or an inexplicable event. This list looks at ten of the most well known cases of Mass Hysteria – from the past and present.

1. Angels of Mons

During the Battle of Mons in Belgium during World War I in 1914, a group of angels supposedly protected British troops fighting German troops. Descriptions of angelic warriors fighting alongside the understrength British army was postulated. But did it really happen?

The evidence suggests that this story is fictitious, developed through a combination of a patriotic short story by Arthur Machen, rumors, mass hysteria and urban legends, and also possibly deliberately seeded propaganda.

[More Info]

2. The London Monster

During the late 18th century, London was plagued by mysterious knife attacks. Initial accounts from the female victims claimed that the perpetrator stalked them and stab them in their back.

Later, the claims were more dubious, like the attacker had knives tied to his knees. When this became popular and people realized the Monster only seemed to attack beautiful rich women, girls began to injure themselves and say the Monster attacked them to get attention.

Although a man was convicted of the attacks, many people believed that the attacks never happened at all.

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3. The Halifax Slasher

There was a series of reported attacks on local people, mostly women in Halifax, England in November 1938. The victims claim to have been attacked by a mysterious man with a mallet and "bright buckles" on his shoes.

After many victims came forward claiming to have been attacked by the Slasher, one of them admitted that the injuries were self inflicted; subsequently other victims also had the same admission.

The police dismissed the case as Mass Hysteria.

[More Info]

4. Fan Death

Fan death is a South Korean urban legend. It is said that an electric fan, left running overnight in a closed room, can cause the death of those inside (by suffocation, poisoning, or hypothermia). Fans manufactured and sold in Korea are equipped with a timer switch that turns them off after a set number of minutes, which users are frequently urged to set when going to sleep with a fan on.

This is so widely believed that the press report it as fact. However, experts have stated that cases of victims of Fan Death were not killed as a result of hypothermia, but rather existing medical conditions like heart attack or alcoholism.

There is little scientific evidence to support that a fan alone can kill you if you are using it in a sealed room.

[More Info]

5. Mumbai Sweet Water

The 2006 Mumbai "sweet" seawater incident was a phenomenon during which residents of Mumbai claimed that the water at Mahim Creek, one of the most polluted creeks in India had suddenly turned "sweet". The water also receives thousands of tonnes of raw sewage and industrial waste every day. Within hours, residents of Gujarat claimed that seawater at Teethal beach had turned sweet as well.

The authorities had hastily acted to stop the locals from drinking the water, but despite this many people had collected it in bottles, even as plastic and rubbish had drifted by on the current. By 2pm the following day, the devotees said that the water was salty again.

[More Info]

6. Tanganyika laughter epidemic

In Tanganyika, Tanzania in 1962, an outbreak of mass hysteria, or Mass Psychogenic Illness (MPI) was said to have occurred in a village on the western coast of Lake Victoria.

Initially, a joke was told in a boarding school, and that this joke triggered a small group of students to start laughing. The laughter spread, and spread so much, that the entire school of students couldn't stop laughing. Eventually the school was shut down.

But the story does not end here; the laughter spread to neighboring villages and schools. Thousands of people were affected. Six to eighteen months after it started, the phenomenon died off.

[More Info]

7. June Bug Epidemic

In 1962 a mysterious disease broke out in a dressmaking department of a US textile factory. The symptoms included numbness, nausea, dizziness, and vomiting. Word of a bug in the factory that would bite its victims and develop the above symptoms quickly spread.

62 employees were diagnosed with this mysterious illness, some of whom were hospitalized. The news media reported on the case. After research by company physicians and experts from the US Public Health Service Communicable Disease Center, it was concluded that the case was one of mass hysteria.

While the researchers believed some workers were bitten by the bug, anxiety was likely the cause of the symptoms. No evidence was ever found for a bug which could cause the above flu-like symptoms, nor did all workers demonstrate bites.

[More Info]

8. The Dancing Plague

In July 1518, a case of dancing mania occurred in Strasbourg, France. Many people went to the streets and started dancing without rest. Within a month, at least 400 people had joined in the dancing.

However, instead of curing them, the authorities encouraged more dancing, in part by opening two guildhalls and a grain market, and even constructing a wooden stage. The authorities did this because they believed that the dancers would only recover if they danced continually night and day. Eventually, most of these people died from heart attack, stroke, or exhaustion.

It has been thought in recent years that mass psychogenic illness, ergot poisoning and neurological disorders could explain this dancing plague.

[More Info]

9. The War of the Worlds

The War of the Worlds was a American radio drama board-casted over radio on October 30, 1938. It was based on the story by H.G. Wells, about a Martian invasion of Earth.

The first two thirds of the 60-minute broadcast were presented as a series of simulated "news bulletins", which suggested to many listeners that an actual alien invasion by Martians was currently in progress.

Some listeners heard only a portion of the broadcast, and in the atmosphere of tension and anxiety leading to World War II, took it to be a news broadcast. Newspapers reported that panic ensued, people fleeing the area, others thinking they could smell poison gas or could see flashes of lightning in the distance. Some people called CBS, newspapers or the police in confusion over the realism of the news bulletins. There were instances of panic throughout the US as a result of the broadcast, especially in New York and New Jersey.

There has been speculation that this whole episode was a psychological warfare experiment conducted by the US government. Anyway, War of the Worlds and the panic have become examples of mass hysteria and the delusions of crowds.

[More Info]

10. Gloria Ramirez, the Toxic Lady

In the evening of February 19, 1994, Gloria Ramirez was brought into Riverside General Hospital by paramedics, suffering from bradycardia and Cheyne-Stokes respiration.

The medical staff tried to treat her; when she responded poorly to the treatment, they resorted to a defibrillator. Soon, staff noticed her skin had oily sheen and a fruity odor was coming from her body. Her blood had manila colored patches in it and was giving off an ammonia-like smell.

Soon, a nurse fainted, and several staff followed suit. An emergency was declared and all the other emergency room patients were evacuated outside. A small crew of staff remained to stabilize Ramirez. However, after forty five minutes of CPR and defibrillation, Gloria Ramirez was pronounced dead from kidney failure related to her cancer.

Explanations include: Ramirez's body chemicals and drugs she took for her illness combined into poison; the hospital staff accidentally mixed up the drug usage and tried to cover up the incident or chemical reaction mechanisms due to urine mixing with bleach in a nearby sink created toxic gases.

However, I suppose it would be simpler to conclude this as a case of Mass Hysteria. Somehow, the first nurse got sick through other means, then it affected the rest of the staff and they all fell sick.

[More Info]

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