Most Bizarre Cases of Mass Hysteria

Misfire
Mass hysteria is a situation in which various people all suffer from similar hysterical symptoms. Here’s a list of some of the strangest cases of Mass Hysteria, from the past and present.

The Top Ten

1 The Dancing Plague of 1518

Hundreds of years ago in July, in the year 1518, a strange mania occurred in the city of Strasbourg. Numerous villagers became compelled to dance non-stop, seemingly for no reason, until their bloodied feet could support them no more. All of this began when a woman, Frau Troffea, began to dance fervently in a street in Strasbourg, which lasted somewhere between four to six days. She seemed unable to stop, and kept dancing until she collapsed from exhaustion. After resting, she resumed the activity and continued this way for days, and within a week, 34 other people had joined. By the end of the month, there were already around of 400 people dancing. A number of them died from heart attack, stroke, or exhaustion, and eventually, the mania began to fade. It is unknown why these people danced to their deaths, nor is it clear that they were dancing willfully. - Misfire

2 Meowing and Biting Nuns

It all started in a large convent in France, when one nun began to meow like a cat. Soon, others joined in, and eventually every nun in the convent was meowing. All the nuns would meow together for hours at a time, leaving the surrounding community astonished. They all continued until soldiers threatened them into getting whipped or beaten.
A similar case occurred in Germany during the 15th century. A nun began to bite her companions, and it wasn’t too long before other sisters were biting one another as well. The behavior spread through other convents in Germany, into Holland and as far as Italy, and eventually, the biting came to an end, due to the nuns’ exhaustion. - Misfire

3 Tanganyika Laughter Epidemic

The laughter epidemic began on January 30, 1962, at a mission-run boarding school for girls in Kashasha, when three girls started to giggle. Their laughter would last anywhere from a minute or two to several hours. Soon, other girls were doing the same thing. No one could concentrate on their schoolwork, and restraining the laughing students proved ineffective. Weeks later, more than half of the school’s middle and high school students began to laugh uncontrollably as well. The school was forced to close down on March 18, 1962.
They reopened the school two months later, only to be closed again as the laughing plague immediately restarted right after they reopened it. It spread to other schools and lasted somewhere between six and 18 months. - Misfire

4 Day-care Sex-abuse Hysteria

Day-care sex-abuse hysteria was a moral panic that occurred primarily in the 80s and early 90s featuring charges against day-care providers of several forms of child abuse, including Satanic ritual abuse. It all began when a mother accused Ray Buckey, a worker at a preschool near Los Angeles, of raping her child. When the parents asked their children about acts like sodomy and oral sex, because of being asked to do so by the police, more accusations followed. Ray Buckey’s mother and the owner of the school, Peggy McMartin, along with other teachers were eventually charged with 208 counts of child molestation. As time passed by, the accusations got wilder. The children said they’d participated in Satanic rituals, being forced to drink blood and had witnessed a baby being sacrificed in a church. The trial lasted several years, but none was found guilty of anything. During the years the trial was going on, and even after, similar allegations against day care centers and their ...more - Misfire

5 2006 Mumbai Sweet Seawater Incident

The 2006 Mumbai "sweet" seawater incident was a strange phenomenon during which residents of Mumbai claimed that the water at Mahim Creek had suddenly turned sweet. Residents of Gujarat claimed that seawater at Teethal beach had turned sweet as well. Despite being warned by The Maharashtra Pollution Control Board for the possibility of a severe outbreak of water-borne diseases, many people had collected it in bottles anyway, even as plastic and rubbish had drifted on by the current. The following day at 2pm, the water was salty again. - Misfire

6 The Salem Witch Trials

The Salem witch trials is one of America's most notorious cases of mass hysteria. It all began in 1692, when Betty Paris and Abigail Williams began displaying strange tendencies by screaming and flailing around uncontrollably. Doctors declared that the girls were bewitched, and soon several other girls came down with similar symptoms, putting the blame on three villagers, who are all women, as the ones who had bewitched them. The events resulted in the Salem witch trials, which resulted in the execution of 20 citizens and the death of five other citizens of Salem Village, Massachusetts, and nearby towns who were accused of practicing witchcraft. - Misfire

7 West Bank Fainting Epidemic

In 1983, around 940 Palestinian teenage girls and a small number of IDF women soldiers fainted or complained of feeling nauseous in the West Bank. Israelis were accused of 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. - Misfire

8 Blackburn Chatter

In October 1965 at a girl’s school in Blackburn, England, several girls complained of dizziness, and some fainted. Within a couple of hours, 85 girls from the school were rushed to the hospital after fainting. Symptoms included swooning, moaning, chattering of teeth, hyperpnea, and tetany. 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, rendering the population emotionally vulnerable. - Misfire

9 Twitching Epidemic of 1939

During the school’s annual homecoming dance, a student’s leg began to twitch along with the music. The uncontrollable twitch in her right leg continued the next day and soon spread to several of her female classmates, until it suddenly and ultimately ended within a week. - Misfire

10 Screaming Nuns at Würzburg

In the year 1749 in Würzburg, Germany, there was a case of nuns screaming, squirming, and trancing which lead to the execution of a suspected witch. - Misfire

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