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Cases of Mass Hysteria

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Post by Dragon 27/05/22, 07:28 am

Mass hysteria is a term used to describe the situation in which physical or psychological symptoms appear en masse, spreading rapidly throughout communities, and occasionally across whole cities and countries.

During an outbreak, afflicted individuals may experience uncontrollable laughter, fainting, fits, dizziness, muscle weakness, or any number of other symptoms that do not appear to have any physical cause.

Cases of hysteria have been reported all over the world for centuries and provide a fascinating insight into the complex nature of human psychology.


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Post by Dragon 27/05/22, 07:30 am

Medieval Dance Mania (13th–17th Century)

Dance mania, otherwise known as the Dancing Plague, St. John’s Dance, or the Dance of St. Vitus, gripped mainland Europe between the 13th and 17th centuries.

One of the most well-known major outbreaks took place in Aachen, Germany, on June 24, 1374.

During this occurrence, afflicted individuals would dance hysterically through the streets for hours, days, and apparently even months, until they collapsed due to exhaustion or died from heart attack or stroke.

The number of participants at any one outbreak could reach into the thousands.


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Post by Dragon 27/05/22, 07:33 am

The Biting Nuns (15th Century)

In the 15th century, another outbreak of mass hysteria occurred in Germany when a nun in a convent started biting the other sisters.

Before long, the behavior spread throughout the convent and, as news spread further afield, so too did the phenomenon, resulting in biting outbreaks in convents across Germany, the Netherlands and Italy.

The Church believed the nuns had become possessed and attempted to perform exorcisms but this failed to stop the behavior.

Finally, they resorted to threats of a flogging or being dunked in the water for any nun caught biting another.

After a few examples of nuns being punished, the behavior quickly subsided.


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Post by Dragon 27/05/22, 07:36 am

Salem Witch Trials (1692–1693)

One of the most notorious instances of mass hysteria is that which occurred in Salem, Massachusetts, in 1692.

Dozens of young girls displayed fits of uncontrollable screaming and contortions, which eventually triggered a flood of witchcraft accusations.

The result was a series of hearings and prosecutions of people accused of witchcraft, known as the Salem Witch Trials, which resulted in the deaths of 25 citizens of Salem and nearby towns.


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Post by Dragon 27/05/22, 07:37 am

The French Meowing Nuns (19th Century)

Institutional settings such as schools, prisons, and tightly-knit communities have often been the settings for outbreaks of mass hysteria, and European Christian convents were no different.

In the 1844 book ‘Epidemics of the Middle Ages’ by J. F. C. Hecker, an account is given of a nun in a convent in France who began to meow like a cat.

Shortly afterward, other nuns began exhibiting the same behavior, until the whole convent was plagued with meowing nuns.

This concerned the surrounding Christian neighborhood, and eventually soldiers were called in to try to contain the situation.

The nuns were whipped and beaten by the soldiers until they promised to cease making the ear-piercing noises.

During this era, belief in possession was common, and in France, cats were often viewed as being in allegiance with the devil.


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Post by Dragon 27/05/22, 07:39 am

Tanganyika Laughter Epidemic (1962)

The Tanganyika laughter epidemic began on Jan. 30, 1962, at a mission-run boarding school for girls in Kashasha, Tanzania.

The laughter started among three girls but quickly spread throughout the entire school, persisting for hours, days, and then weeks, leading to its closure on March 18, 1962.

But it didn’t end there.

After the school was closed, the mass hysteria spread to other schools and eventually to other nearby villages.

Thousands of children were affected by the epidemic, and 14 schools were forced to close.

The hysteria eventually died down some eighteen months after it started.


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Post by Dragon 27/05/22, 07:42 am

Social, political, and religious contexts have changed over the centuries, but the human psychology has largely remained the same, and it is for this reason we are likely to see many more occasions of mass hysteria into the future.

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