Mass hysteria is a strange phenomenon that has only happened a few times in history. What is so strange about it is that it can happen at almost any time in any location around the world without warning. Cases of mass hysteria involve large amounts of people suffering from a collective delusion at the same time, often leading to panic spreading throughout communities. The hysterical symptoms can manifest in the form of imagined diseases to irrational behavior, with some of the most shocking cases appearing to be completely bizarre.
Leg Twitching Epidemic
A school in Louisiana suffered a case of mass hysteria in 1939 when one student began to experience uncontrollable twitching in her leg. When this behavior continued for several weeks, more and more female students began to twitch, with their legs shaking violently. This fueled fears that a strange disease was spreading through the school and many parents removed their children from the faculty in response.
Penis Panic is a surprisingly common event that has happened in many different cultures. It generally leads to groups of men believing that their private parts are slowly shrinking to the point that they will eventually disappear altogether. The most recent case was in 1967, when thousands of men in Singapore reported to be suffering from the hysteria.
The Dancing Plague
1518 saw a mass hysteria occur that involved large numbers of people in Strasbourg dancing for days on end without any rest. Known as the Dancing Plague, it began with a single woman dancing in the street before she was slowly joined by more and more people until there were more than 400 taking part. Many of the dancers died from exhaustion or heart attacks.
In 2002, many people in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh began to suffer from a mass delusion that there were aliens attacking the local area. The telltale signs of an attack were severe scratches and burns on the faces of victims, though nobody was ever seen to exhibit such wounds. The government was forced to intervene after thousands of people became so scared that they wouldn’t go to work or leave their houses.
Belgian Coca-Cola Scare
When 100 students fell ill after reportedly drinking Coca-Cola, thousands of people stopped drinking the soda and some countries even temporarily banned its sale over fears of contamination. Subsequent investigations found that some of the drink did contain some harmful ingredients but that the vast majority of those who had become ill were simply suffering from a mass psychogenic illness.
In 1994, several medical staff that were treating Gloria Ramirez, a woman suffering from cervical cancer, began to faint and collapse. Obviously, this led to reports that the ill woman was actually toxic and giving off poisonous fumes or spreading a disease. More nurses soon began to apparently suffer from the effects and any person who had encountered her were isolated. An investigation from the Health Department found that none of the medical staff had anything wrong with them and had simply suffered from a mass delusion.
Monkey Man of Delhi
India was the location of another case of mass hysteria in 2001 when reports of a strange ape-man began circulating in the capital city of Delhi. The creature was allegedly responsible for a number of attacks and eyewitnesses described the monkey man as being covered in fur with red glowing eyes. The panic was so strong that two people even threw themselves off buildings when they believed they were being chased by the creature.
The War of Worlds
Following a radio broadcast of the novel The War of the Worlds at Halloween, many people believed that the warning were not a fictional story but actually a real life alien attack on planet earth. This was largely down to the fact that many had tuned in partway through the broadcast, though this apparent misunderstanding led to a panic that ensued all around the United States as people frantically rang police to see if the reports were genuine.
A strange affliction began in France during the Middle Ages, when one nun at a convent began to meow like a cat. This soon led to the whole group beginning to act in the same way, with the meowing lasting for hours at a time and keeping those in the nearby village awake throughout the night. Experts believe that the isolated life that the nuns lived left them vulnerable to this type of hysteria.
Bin Laden Itch
The so-called Bin Laden Itch was a mass panic that occurred between October 2001 until the summer of the next year, with thousands of reports of rashes on the backs and arms of school children. In turn, this led to fears that terrorists could cause some sort of biochemical weapon to release a virus that would infect youngsters due to the recent 9/11 attacks. The large number of cases were put down to nurses over-reporting instances and a high degree of fear in parents.