25 Crazy Cases Of Mass Hysteria

Posted by , Updated on March 23, 2024

The power exerted by the mind on the body is immense. When subjected to particular stressors, our brains can fabricate symptoms akin to the flu, including sensations of nausea, vertigo, rashes, or throwing up. We might be inclined to believe it’s the result of a virus, but in reality, it’s merely the work of our minds. When all this anxiety is compressed into one compartment, it can incite a surge of collective hysteria and provoke individuals to engage in eccentric and wild behaviors. Explore these 25 Insane Instances Of Mass Hysteria.


Phantom Slasher of Taiwan

1600px-A_aesthetic_billhookSource: http://ergotism.info

In 1956, citizens of Tapei, Taiwan were horrified they’d be the next victims of a supposed slasher going around randomly cutting people. Twenty-one victims were reported getting cut by this slasher. However, after further investigation, they found these victims would report everyday scrapes or wounds that happened throughout the day. But these people truly believed they were cut by the slasher. Police concluded the multitude of reports were psychological only.


Salem Witch Trials

Matteson-witchSource: http://www.history.com

Perhaps the most notorious American case of mass hysteria, the Salem witch trials were a brutal display of how far people will go because of fear and panic. In 1691, eight girls displayed bizarre behavior from bizarre speech, convulsive movements, and strange conduct. The girls accused two elderly women of witchcraft and before long, more women were arrested for being witches. Twenty residents lost their lives due to the moral panic.


West Bank Fainting Epidemic

West_Bank_&_Gaza_Map_2007_(Settlements)Source: http://www.nytimes.com

In 1983, 947 Jordanian women in the West Bank produced symptoms of fainting, dizziness, abdominal pain, and headaches. People feared the Israelis were secretly gassing them. Over a fifteen day period among heavy media speculation, investigators concluded that no gas had been used, and it was the results of paranoia and widespread panic.


Mad Gasser of Matoon

mad gasser of mattoonSource: http://backpackerverse.com

Matoon, Illinois was a quiet town until September 1944 when a young girl and her mother called the police, reporting that a man standing at their window had sprayed gas in their room. They had become nauseous and light headed. The story appeared in the local newspaper and more people came forward reporting similar things. In total, twenty-nine females reported something to the police. However, a University researcher looked further into things and concluded it was a mere case of mass hysteria, nothing more.


The Loudun Possessions

Urbain_GrandierSource: https://thepsychologist.bps.org.uk

In 1634, nuns in the French town of Loudun claimed they had been possessed by demons. The Catholic Church got involved and investigated the account. Fingers pointed at local priest Urbain Grandier and exorcisms and a trial proceeded. With false evidence and poor testimonies against him, Urbain was convicted and burned at the stake. Many believe the Catholic Church stirred up hysteria in order for more conversions.


Blackburn Chatter

chatterSource: http://www.oddlyhistorical.com

In Blackburn, England, cases of school girls fainting, moaning, and chattering their teeth became widespread. At first people thought it was a disease or pollution in the air but later discovered there was no trace of any of that. Instead, the girls broke out in mass hysteria due to the recent polio epidemic, making them emotionally vulnerable.


Meowing Nuns

Nun_Deep_in_PrayerSource: http://history.howstuffworks.com/

French nuns in the middle ages had a very rough life. Usually, they were abandoned by their parents and were forced into a life they didn’t choose. One day a nun began meowing and then another started and another, and it became so infectious that the entire convent was meowing. It got so loud, they were threatened to be beaten by soldiers if they didn’t stop.


Tanganyika Laughter Epidemic

1600px-Laughing_(59303979)Source: http://rltz.blogspot.com

Laughter is contagious. That was especially true in 1962 for Tanganyika (Now Tanzania) as one girl started to fall to the ground and laugh uncontrollably. Her laughter spread to thousands, and dozens of schools had to be closed for months because the laughing wouldn’t stop. Sadly, this kind of mass hysteria is caused by overwhelming stress among other things.


Borneo Kidnapping Scare

Id-map-borneoSource: http://www.straitstimes.com

In 1979, a kidnapping scare spread throughout the island of Borneo. The fear became so prevalent that schools were shut down and guards were put on constant watch for the kidnapper. The people were afraid of the government kidnapping someone because they were doing construction projects and the people believed they kidnapped people to help them with the project. Historically, mass hysteria has been a tragic and systemic occurrence in this region due to tribalistic thinking.


The Contaminated Coca-Cola Scare

Bouteille_de_Coca-Cola_d'un_litre_cinq_001Source: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov

In Belgium, after Coca-Cola announced a recall for its contaminated Coke products, hundreds of people began calling poison control after drinking Coca-Cola products, claiming to feel ill. However, health professionals stated that the sudden increase in people being poisoned was a psychogenic reaction and not based upon the contaminated Coke products.


Pregnancy Panic

pexels-photo-57529Source: https://prezi.com

In 1970, a young woman checked into a psychiatric clinic claiming she was pregnant, but she’d been known to lie before so no one believed her. And they were right. She had lost a friend to a pregnancy recently and was suffering from traumatic stress. However, her phantom pregnancy spread to other women, and they started to claim they were pregnant as well. No one could convince them otherwise, and it took two years for them to snap out of it.


Kissing Bug Scare


People generally hate insects but in 1899 they caused a full-scale panic in the United States. An article in the Washington Post brought attention to bug bites creating painful and bizarre welts on the skin. News of this spread and suddenly many people were connecting any bite mark on their skin as from the kissing bug. While scientists think there’s a possibility some of this could be found in fact, it’s most likely people over-reacted.


Screaming at Würzburg

800px-Scream_crosathorianSource: https://thepsychologist.bps.org.uk

By 1749, most European countries hadn’t had many cases of mass hysteria or “dancing plagues” as they were called. However, in Würzburg, Germany, there was a case of nuns screaming, squirming, and trancing which lead to the beheading of a suspected witch.


Indian Face Scratcher

PurportedUFO2Source: http://news.bbc.co.uk/

If something horrible is happening, it’s best to just blame it on aliens. In India, people spread the word there was an alien creature stalking the night and scratching people’s faces. Supposedly, 100 people had been affected. Fear grew to a fever pitch when a mob attacked a police station for not protecting them well enough. There’s no evidence to back anything the people said, however.


Writing Tremor Epidemic

writingSource: https://books.google.com/

While writing can be electric and exciting, few writers experience tremors and seizures. However, a ten-year-old girl suddenly experienced these symptoms while writing. Before long, nineteen other girls in her school started to experience the same thing.


The Bin Laden Itch

ItchSource: http://www.nytimes.com

In 2001, children in the United States were breaking out into a bizarre rash at school that went away when the children went home. Doctors examined it but couldn’t find any virus or reason for it happening. Turns out, it was likely an overwhelming fear from the 9/11 attacks.


Louisiana Twitching Epidemic

896px-PSM_V67_D328_Involuntary_twitching_of_the_faceSource: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov

Involuntary twitching can be pretty annoying and in Bellevue, Lousiana, school girls experienced it head on. In 1939, one girl claimed to have a wildly twitching leg which spread throughout the school. They discovered later the first case was pretending to get out of dance class.


Strawberries with Sugar Virus

1600px-Strawberries_with_hulls_-_scanSource: http://bdnews24.com

A teen soap opera took the Philippines by storm and then somehow convinced hundreds of kids they had the same illnesses and symptoms as the characters on the show. At first, people thought it was a virus but later concluded it was only mass hysteria.


Tourettes Epidemic of LeRoy, New York

1600px-Oatka_Creek_Le_Roy_NY_Aug_10Source: http://www.nytimes.com/

It was 2011 in Leroy, New York when twelve girls developed symptoms similar to Tourettes. Because of the sudden and widespread nature of the symptoms, it gained mass media attention. However, all factors were ruled out to why it would be caused. The girls were eventually diagnosed with conversion disorder, a mental illness that can come out as twitches and other similar symptoms.


Scrutinized Students

pexels-photo-203237Source: https://books.google.com/books?id=1pDLAgAAQBAJ

In 1962, Welsh, Lousiana students were held under intense scrutiny for their sexual activity. During this time, dozens of students reported experiencing twitches and seizures but with no real explanation other than mass hysteria.


Meissen "Trembling Disease"

1599px-Albrechtsburg_Meissen_bei_NachtSource: https://books.google.com/

In 1905, a reported 237 children showed symptoms of what they called “Trembling Disease” in Meissen, Germany. Like most victims of mass hysteria, there was no evidence of flu-like symptoms or a virus, but twitching and seizures were common.


June Bug Epidemic

green-beetle-979291_640Source: http://thatisbizarre.blogspot.com

In a North Carolina textile mill, several workers showed symptoms of nausea, dizziness, and vomiting. Because June bugs were all over the mill, the workers started believing they caused the illness. More and more workers showed signs of the symptoms as time went on, but when the CDC got involved and investigated, they determined it was mass hysteria. There are no illnesses contracted by June bugs.



scaredSource: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov

Koro is an anxiety induced psychological condition where men believe their penis is shrinking into their body, disappearing all-together. In 1967, hundreds of men in Singapore believed this was happening to them, and they rushed to the hospital. The men went to odd extremes to make sure it wouldn’t happen.


Sri Lanka School Hysteria

1600px-School_in_Badulla_DistrictSource: http://www.lankauniversity-news.com/

In 2012, 1,900 students in over 15 schools were treated for symptoms including rashes, vomiting, and vertigo, among other things. Five teachers were also treated. However, authorities racked it up to mass hysteria due to children enduring these symptoms a little while earlier.


Halifax Slasher

1599px-Printers_malletSource: http://www.halifaxcourier.co.uk

Said to wield a mallet and bright buckles on his shoes, the Halifax Slasher terrorized the city of Halifax in 1938. Except, he didn’t exist. The incidents occurred over the month of November starting with a couple of women claiming to be attacked. The incidents continued at such a rate that Scotland Yard got involved, setting up investigations, and putting the town on watch. Investigators discovered most of the people claiming to be attacked did the injuries to themselves and the whole thing was summed up to mass hysteria.

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