Top 15 Cases of Mass Hysteria Throughout History

Posted on

The world has been well aware of mass delirium. Over the years, people from all over the globe have witnessed the manifestation of a particular kind which was exhibited by a large number of people. Many people like to term mass hysteria as a collective delusion which can lead to a lot of damage. Something like this is no less than a natural disaster for those who are involved. The following is a list of 15 examples of mass hysteria.

1. Meowing and biting nuns

One of the most popular mass hysteria examples is that of meowing and biting nuns. An incident of meowing nuns was reported in France back in the Medieval age. One of the nuns started meowing like a cat and then soon after the other nuns followed. All the nuns used to collectively meow at a specific time which drove the inhabitants of the neighborhood absolutely crazy. Later, the army warned them and threatened to beat them with rods after which the meowing stopped. A similar incident took place in Germany where the nuns started biting each other. This incident was believed to have supernatural relations. During those times, nuns were considered to be most vulnerable to hysteria.

2. The kissing bug

The kissing bug created quite a lot of nuisance back in the year 1899. A journalist known as James McElhone wrote a very sensationalized story where he mentioned that all kinds of insect bites and bruises on the lip were the cause of the kissing bug. He mentioned how many people had been poisoned and some even died due to this notorious bug. Needless to say that such an incident lead to huge paranoia. People started walking the roads with their faces covered in bandage and some claimed financial assistance to cure their disease. However, entomologists completely dismissed the idea and refused to believe the existence of the kissing bug.

3. The dancing plague

Other mass hysteria examples are of the dancing plague which took place in 1518. Mrs Troffea of Strasbourg in France danced in the streets for days at a stretch. By the end of the week she was joined by 34 others and the number grew to 400 by the end of the month. The weird part was that none of them rested between the dancing and according to reports, a number of them died on a daily basis due to heart attack or exhaustion. Similar cases of mass hysteria were noted in different parts of the world as well.

4. The witch trial

One of the major causes of mass hysteria has been sheer ignorance. In Salem, witch trials which took place back in the year 1692, 4 girls, namely Betty Paris, Abigail Williams, Elizabeth Hubbard, and Ann Putnam Jr. were executed because they were undergoing some strange fits. The clergy believed that these girls were fraternized by the devil, as a result of which all four of them were labeled as witches and were therefore executed. The mass hysteria involving witches spread far and wide throughout Europe, thus claiming a number of innocent lives.

5.The Tanganyika laughter epidemic

Tanganyika, now known as Tanzania witnessed a really strange incident of mass hysteria. Three girls who were studying in a boarding school started laughing uncontrollably, and the contagious nature of this laughter swept over 95 out of 159 students. While some of the students laughed for a few hours, others laughed for 16 days. This resulted in the school being closed and the laughing epidemic spread to the other villages as well.

6. The Bin Laden Itch

The Bin Laden Itch has been one of the weirdest cases of mass hysteria in modern day America. In the light of the 2001 attacks, paranoia had grown in the country. Spanning from October 2001 to mid 2002, primarily younger students showed signs of itching and rashes which could last from a few hours up till two weeks after which it vanished without a trace. Many believed that this was a case of bio terrorism, however, scientists bashed this theory. According to scientists, parents and nurses who were well aware of bio terrorism started becoming overly cautious regarding body rashes. Also, some children deliberately caused rashes on their body by rubbing sand paper on it in order to miss school. So the Bin-Laden itch was nothing but a hoax.

7. The Coca-Cola contamination

Many believe that the major causes of mass hysteria are psychological in nature. Back in the year 1999, people were made to believe that more than a 100 students in Belgium fell ill after consuming this popular beverage which had a huge monopoly in Europe. The inept PR handling added fuel to fire, which lead to the boycotting of the soft drink. Moreover, the company had to lose out on $200 million along with a several day ban. However, after an extensive examination of the tainted batches it was believed that though the drink included bad phenol and carbon dioxide, the amounts were too small to cause any real damage. It was believed that the victims underwent a “psychogenic illness” which lead to this mass hysteria.

8. Phantom Pregnancy

A psychiatric ward in London was hit by mass hysteria in the early 1970s. A 17-year-old girl named Louise confided that she was pregnant, which was untrue. Her best friend was expecting a baby and underwent subsequent death post her pregnancy, which triggered Louise to put up this fake act. She had phantom pregnancy symptoms which were later replicated by other female patients in the ward as well. The pregnancy panic in majority of the patients caused a lot of ruckus in the wards.

9. Louisiana’s twitching epidemic

In the spring of 1939, a girl in Louisiana experienced massive twitching in her leg during the annual homecoming dance. The twitching worsened over the weeks which lead to other girls complaining about the same problems. This whole incident also led to a stampede. The frantic behavior of the parents continued and all this hullabaloo took more than a week to calm down. Later investigations proved that Helen, the patient zero Helen was a bad dancer and was scared to lose her boyfriend to a freshman who was better at dancing.

10. The Halifax slasher

The Halifax slasher is one of the most interesting examples of mass hysteria. Back in 1938, some really weird incidents were reported in Halifax, Yorkshire in England. Incidents of women being attacked by a dark figure wearing shoes with bright buckles were reported. These women were attacked by razors, hammers and knives. Later, detectives proved that there was no “Halifax slasher” and most of the cases reported were that of self-inflicted wounds.

11. The Muhnochwa

Muhnochwa or “the face scratcher” was an alien flying object which scratched and burned people’s faces and limbs while they slept. 7 unexplained deaths were attributed to this U.F.O which emitted red and blue lights. Around 3 people died due to panic because of this alien object and a mob stormed the entire village to demand protection. Police were of the opinion that most of the injuries were self-inflicted by the villagers to create panic, or a drone was sent in by anti-national elements to create a huge ruckus in the village.

12. Morangos com Açúcar

Morangos com Açúcar which means strawberries with sugar was a popular teen drama which aired in Portugal. Somewhere around the show, the main characters showed signs of a fictitious disease which was observed by real teenagers all across the country. This lead to panic resulting in schools to shut down. Later the government declared that it was no epidemic, but a classic case of mass hysteria.

13. The mad gasser

A woman in Mattoon, Illinois reported a case where a mad man used some kind of anesthetic gas to numb her limbs and choke her throat in order to break into her house for a burglary. This news spread like wildfire and everyone panicked because of a biochemical attacker in the city. No evidence of such an attacker was found during the investigation.

14. Mumbai sweet water incident

The Mahim Creek in Mumbai has been a dumping area for the industrialist, leading to the emergence of a really foul smell emitted by the water. However, back in 2006 the residents of the area started claiming that the water became sweet and lost its foul smell. Many people thronged the place to witness this miracle. People gathered the water in bottles and drank it, because they believed it was a blessing from Makhdoom Ali Mahimi. However, all this mass hysteria lasted for only a day and the water changed to its foul smelling self.

15. The Toxic Lady

Here is one of the strangest examples of mass hysteria. Gloria Ramirez was suffering from cervical cancer and was admitted to a hospital for the same. The nurse who drew her blood noticed a foul smell in it and observed that manila-like particles were floating on it. All the doctors and nurses surrounded her reported illness which was believed to be a toxic contamination. It was later revealed that Ramirez died only because of kidney failure.

The above examples of mass hysteria go on to show how a small incident can be blown out of proportion because of the psychology, paranoia, and fear which revolves around it. Most of these incidents can be scientifically explained, however, a lot of them also go unexplained.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *