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Mass Hysteria

NOW I believe i have something useful to add...

There is a suggestion that the whole "reefer madness" hysteria was whipped up by synthetic fibre moguls to get the ever useful ;)hemp out of the market

EDIT>also, water fluoridation and them darn commies
If your on a drug tip, what about Extasy Deaths and the panic surrounding the Leah Betts tragedy.

I've just been thinking about the whole cultural impact of Extasy and the deaths surrounding it. A large and predominantly silent element of sociey will tell you a completely different story than those who pretend to speak for everyone yet have very likely never experienced Extasy or the culture surrounding it. Hmm, sorry, just my 2p.
taras said:
Mothfox, did you ever notice your forum ID is 1666? :eek:
I hadn't noticed,Taras, but now that I think about it--the streetlight nearest where I live has a 666 on it; some kind of numbering system by the town, I guess (I live on the twelve hundred block, so it's NOT an address tho' it does seem official.)
Should I be worried?...:rolleyes: .:D

Wasn't 1666 also the year for the Great fire in London? Sort of a mixed blessing there. Fried rat, anyone?
Just saw an article in Fate (I know, I know; guwhan an' laugh:eek: ) about the Snallygaster: a completely fictional creature made up by bored newspapermen and used in a bit of a contest to see who could get more silly. The more outrageous the claims became, the more panicky the populous(sp) got.Interesting, and possibly fortuitous timing...
More tokoloshe attacks

I thought for a moment this was our Mr X ;)

'Strange spirit has put us all through hell'

March 17 2004 at 10:24AM

By Prinella Pillay

A family of five from Shallcross have approached the Post with an impassioned plea to be freed from a disturbing spirit.

The family claim to have been plagued by a tokoloshe for the past 20 years, are desperately looking for someone genuine to help them.

"I know that the immediate reaction of people will be scepticism, that this cannot be so, that there can be no such thing as a tokoloshe, but let me tell your readers that this is true and we've been going through hell," said the desperate Mr X, who called this newspaper for help.

"The whole thing is quite embarrassing. We have suffered a lot and spent plenty of money trying get rid of what has been tormenting us for so long, but then we decided to approach Post for help. The fact that we are asking for our identities to be protected is precisely because of the anguish we're experiencing."

Photographer Niney Ruthnam and I met Mr X (whose details are known to the Post) at his workplace in the city this week, where he described the family's ordeal.

Having spent thousands of rands on spiritualists and being hoodwinked several times, and reaching out to all faiths, Mr X, a 45-year-old father of three, said he was at the end of his tether, but as a last resort, had approached Post editor Brijlall Ramguthee for the newspaper's help.

He said the torment began when he was a newlywed and had moved into a flat in Phoenix, after living with his parents in the township.

"My daughter was about a year old when the trouble began. She started seeing things and described "it" as an African boy sitting next to her. There were times when she would shout that he was there, but we couldn't see anything.

"And at times when I was home, I would sense a cold current and see the curtain blowing lightly even though the windows were closed. Then it would stop."

Mr X said his wife was most affected, and had what appeared to be mysterious bruises appearing on her body. She would also hear her name being called.

"At other times, she would hear scratching at the back of the wardrobe. Once, when she was at home alone, a huge flame shot out from the stove, which was off at the time. She switched off the mains and the flame subsided."

After seven years at the flat, Mr X said they had moved to a house in Phoenix, where the strange activities continued.

Meanwhile, on the advice of others, he sought the help of several spiritualists and temples, but all in vain.

"We've spent thousands of rands and have been hoodwinked several times. This 'thing' follows us wherever we go and just when we think it has stopped, it starts again. When we moved to the house in Phoenix, it got worse because we began losing money. No one could account for it. I know many people will laugh but believe me, it's hell at home, even at Shallcross, where we have now moved to.

"We continue to lose money mysteriously, my wife (she has no medical problems, he says) feels she is being throttled, there are cold currents and something evil wafting through our home. Then there are strange noises, lights switching on and off, and the malfunction of our TV, hi-fi and CD player."

He said they had followed all suggestions and advice - burning lobaan and camphor, the binding of the house and even exorcism - but to no avail.

"I have been told certain people can communicate with this 'thing' and capture it by bottling it and getting rid of it. But I don't want to be taken for a ride again, hence my appeal for help through Post."

Professor Suleman Dangor of the School of Religion and Culture at the University of KwaZulu-Natal said that from an Islamic point of view, they did not believe in the existence of a "tokoloshe".

But some people believed in "jinn", supernatural spirits that could be either good or evil.

"There is a popular belief that jinns can affect people, and of course there are people who claim to have control over them. The evil ones may harm. We don't deny the existence of good and evil spirits, but what is debatable are the acts of evil spirits versus the state of a person's mind and behaviour."

Dr Itumeleng Mekoa, senior lecturer also from the School of Religion and Culture at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, said such claims and stories of "witchcraft" were common within African societies.

"In African societies, especially in more traditional cultures, you hear of such incidents, but whether these are true or not can't be proved. From research and talking to those who claim to be affected, you might begin to observe them and it's very easy to believe that such incidents do occur."

Editor Brijlall Ramguthee said some readers would question the credibility of a report of this nature, but he allowed publication because Mr X appeared to have a problem, "and if there is anyone out there who can help his traumatised family, they would be grateful".

Anyone who is able to assist can call this newspaper at 031 308 2400 or reporter Prinella Pillay at 031 308 2421.

This article was originally published on page 3 of The Post on March 17, 2004


[edit: And I found this while looking for something else - its an old report and might work better eslewhere but....

In parts of Africa, witches are to blame

Some believe, some don't, but all have heard stories of fearful demons

July 26, 1999


DZIVARASEKWA, Zimbabwe -- When Anna Banda awoke to find a naked man in her house babbling about eating human flesh early one recent morning, she feared the intruder was a blood-guzzling witch who had come to kill.

So Banda, 28, a prophet in the Apostolic Faith Ministries, doused the man with holy water and sent up a scream so piercing that the police and neighbors came running in this densely populated township 12 miles from downtown Harare, the capital.

"The witch drank blood; he flew here in a ruserwa, a flying saucer, and said he had come to eat the flesh of Tichaona, my nephew," said Banda. "He lived nearly 100 miles away, and yet he knew my nephew's name. He knew what room he slept in. It was terrifying."

Police carted the suspect away -- they say he's no cannibal, just a mentally unstable old man -- but to the faithful, Banda's supernatural drama was another episode in Zimbabwe's season of the witch.

Reports of demons and their gremlin-like henchmen, ankle-high creatures known as tokoloshis, are making an end-of-the-century comeback in a nation wrought by two years of economic catastrophe and the world's highest AIDS rate. It doesn't matter that empirical evidence is lacking -- no one has ever seen a tokoloshi -- it is an article of faith in Zimbabwean society that the invisible monsters are at work.

The head of the National Traditional Healers Association says the black-market demand for human body parts, which are used in making evil potions, has been soaring since the country's economic decline started in 1997.

Thomas Mapfuomo, the nation's most famous musician, has accused a man of using witchcraft to kill one of his relatives.

Paddington Japa Japa, director of the Indigenous Economic Empowerment Association, says tales of evil magic are "growing by the day" in his 10,000-member organization.

Incidents spreading

"Witchcraft and tokoloshis are making a comeback," said Gordon Chavanduka, chairman of the 50,000-member Zimbabwe National Traditional Healers Association. "It's obvious the cause is economic. The worse the economy gets, the more political tension there is in society, the more frustrated and frightened people get. They turn to witchcraft to gain riches or to hurt their enemies."

The Zimbabwean phenomenon appears to be part of a grisly regional pattern.

Police in South Africa report that at least six Johannesburg-area children have been decapitated this year, apparently as witch doctors seek eyes, tongues and other parts for use in elixirs. In Uganda, newspaper editor Charles Onyango-Obbo says that such ritual killers are "running riot" in the country's lawless southwest. In Zambia, people are terrified of Wilson Mugwegweni, a self-described witch doctor who sports white linen jackets and black cowboy hats.

With sub-Saharan societies beset by problems such as inflation, high interest rates and the scourge of AIDS, analysts say the trend shows some people are turning to ancient, evil solutions for their modern problems.

"You get ahead in business by good marketing and financial planning," said Japa Japa. "But a lot of people think that's not enough. They want tokoloshis to give them a magical advantage over the competition."

Nobody knows how widespread the practice is, because witchcraft is an issue politicians and police avoid in public discussions. Zimbabwe's Witchcraft Suppression Act, a holdover from the colonial era, makes it illegal to call anyone a witch, meaning nearly all cases go unreported.

"Witchcraft is not an area that lends itself to police scrutiny," said Wayne Budzejina, spokesman for Zimbabwe's national police. "How do you verify an evil spell? This is a matter of spiritual faith, not a matter of empirical evidence."

Seeking explanations

South Africa is the only sub-Saharan country to stage a legislative inquiry into the subject. The 1995 "Report of the Commission of Inquiry into Witchcraft Violence and Ritual Murders in the Northern Province" reads like a combination of the movie "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" and the Salem witch trials of 17th-Century Massachusetts.

The 285-page study mixes photos of dismembered bodies with reports of suspected witches being beaten to death by mobs. Legislators counted 204 witchcraft-related killings in the country's northern provinces during the preceding decade. Police counted 312 for the same period. They agreed both numbers were gross underestimates.

In one incident, a bolt of lightning hit the village of Tshitale. Neighbors used garden hoes to beat an elderly woman, Nyamavholisa Maduwa, to death for causing the storm. As she died, Maduwa asked, "My children, my children, why are you killing me?"

Religion scholars and anthropologists say as many as 75 percent of sub-Saharan people believe in the power of witchcraft to some degree, although they acknowledge precise numbers are unavailable.

"In every African community, there are endless stories and conversations about the use of magic, sorcery and witchcraft," wrote the Rev. John Mbiti, an Anglican priest in Kenya, in "Introduction to African Religion."

"The belief in witchcraft is endemic to all African societies, although this is greatly misunderstood by Americans and Europeans," said David Simmons, a PhD candidate in anthropology at Michigan State University. He has just completed six years of research in African spirituality, traveling from Nigeria to Zimbabwe. "It's seen as a weird bunch of superstitions, rather than as the sordid part of a complex spiritual system that has sustained a continent of people for centuries."

Societies worldwide have faith in invisible, holy beings that affect human life on Earth. Monotheistic religions such as Christianity, Islam and Judaism have their own ways in which religious powers are made manifest. A Catholic priest prays over water to make it holy; a Pentecostal preacher lays his hands on an ailing person to heal an affliction. There is no scientific evidence of either power; it is an article of faith.

Spirituality in sub-Saharan Africa is dominated by belief in an overall power, although "God" is known by hundreds of names in the region's 48 nations. Below God and above man is a pantheon of lesser gods and a teeming world of ancestral spirits. The latter are family members who have died but who see the physical world, take part in it and can be consulted by spirit mediums or traditional healers. For centuries, these healers have held powers other societies associate with priests, medical doctors, herbalists, faith healers and psychics.

The spirit world they consult has its dark side, much as Christianity has the dualism of God and Satan. African societies, however, remain much more likely to see the hand of the devil at work in daily life, as almost all Christians once did.

Episodes recounted

K.K. Manyika, director of security for the Zimbabwean parliament, recounts a harrowing series of car crashes, lightning strikes and personal assaults he says were caused by demonic tokoloshis.

"I was assaulted by invisible tokoloshis as I walked along a road," he said. "They were beating me about the head, shouting things like, 'You! You! You are an unfair boss! You want too much money!' They were trying to knock me into the road so I would be run over by a car. They had been sent by an employee who knew I was about to fire him."

Winnie Mudanda, a beautician in a fashionable Harare salon, tells how her sister was recently possessed by a tokoloshi during a church service.

Six female schoolteachers in Guruve resigned this month after accusing a male colleague of using a tokoloshi to cast spells on them in their sleep. They say the spell allowed the man to have sex with them while they slept next to their snoring husbands.

To tap into this evil world, people pay a traditional healer to create a tokoloshi to carry out their plans.

"People come to me for riches or revenge," said Lucas Gogoyi, a 62-year-old traditional healer with a menacing reputation. "They say they want to take business away from a successful shop. Maybe somebody borrowed money from them and didn't pay it back. Or they think someone has been sleeping with their spouse. They come to me, and I send my boys to sort them out."

Gogoyi works in a narrow room in his house in a Harare slum. The rectangular corridor, lighted by a bare bulb dangling from the ceiling, is filled with bags spun from python skin, walking canes carved in the shape of writhing snakes and five rows of shelves jammed with baby-food jars, coffee cans and animal-hide pouches, all filled with herbs and red potions.

Gogoyi says he can make tokoloshis take the shape of a gremlin, a monkey or an invisible spirit. They can turn themselves into the most mundane of objects, such as a jar of peanut butter. They can cause thriving businesses to fail for no discernible reason, or cause death by AIDS, heart attack or any other reason. People who are caught using tokoloshis often go insane, which appears to be why so many people who claim to be witches are mentally disturbed.

It is said tokoloshis can be deadly to those who spawn them.

"Tokoloshis drink blood," said Boniface Mankone, former executive director of the Zimbabwe National Traditional Healers Association. "If you have one created, one of your relatives will die within a year. With AIDS claiming so many lives now, people often say this is the tokoloshi claiming their payment."

Although many highly educated Zimbabweans tend not to believe in such phenomena, they acknowledge the belief is part of their cultural background.

"I've never seen a tokoloshi, I've never had a tokoloshi attack me, but I've heard all the stories like everyone else," said Welshman Ncube, a constitutional law scholar. "I don't believe or disbelieve. It's difficult for outsiders to understand, but African daily life relies heavily on the spirit world, for good or evil."

http://www.freep.com/news/nw/qwitch26.htm ]
Could be the invisible man from League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.
Oooooooooooo I found the Yithian's first post ;)

Anyway this report of a mystery rash sounds awfully like various attacks of fainting, etc.:

Article Last Updated: Thursday, April 01, 2004 - 12:07:25 PM EST

Dracut school reopens; rash probe ongoing


DRACUT Most Lakeview Junior High School students returned to school today, even though it is still unclear what caused a red, itchy rash that struck at least 62 students this week

Several parents said they will keep their children home today, because environmental tests at the school provided no answers.

"I'm apprehensive about sending him in not knowing what caused this and what will happen," parent Lynn Malburne said during a School Committee-run information meeting last night, attended by almost 300 parents. "As a parent, I still don't feel confident that the situation has been solved."

There were reports that more students complained about rash-like symptoms this morning. School officials were not immediately available for comment.

The rash struck five students on Monday afternoon, and led maintenance staff to check ventilation systems thoroughly. The rash spread to 57 students on Tuesday, mostly seventh-grade girls from six classes on the second floor of the school's south wing. Health officials are searching for a link among those students.

Attendance appeared normal this morning, according to a school official.

School physician Denise Mills said the rash does not appear to be serious or contagious. She said she consulted several local pediatricians who reached the same conclusions. Students who broke out in the have mostly recovered, officials said.

School was closed yesterday for testing and cleaning, which continued through the night. Students will not have to make up the missed day. Roseanne Pawelec, a state Department of Public Health spokeswoman, said DPH inspector will be at the school today to study the rash and help if it breaks out again.

School Superintendent Elaine Espindle told parents she is frustrated by the lack of answers. She laid out a chronology of the outbreak and details of testing and cleaning. "This school has been cleaned like it hasn't been cleaned since it opened," Espindle said.

Mills found information on similar, isolated outbreaks from across the country in recent years, but said the U.S. Centers for Disease Control has not classified the red, itchy rash that briefly struck in similar fashion at schools in seven other states. All information about this event will also go to the CDC, said Dracut Health Director Thomas Bomil.

Mills said the rash has similarities to a viral condition caused by the Parvovirus, a common cause of illness in children that can cause a similar short-lived rash with no other symptoms.

That virus is contagious, but can no longer be spread by the time the rash develops a week to 21 days after it is contracted. She said it is unlikely that virus is responsible because the children came down with the rash at the same time, though the culprit may be related to it.

If that virus is the culprit, she said many others around town could soon become afflicted. It does not cause serious symptoms, but Mills said pregnant women who come in contact with rash victims should see their doctor since the virus can cause complications in pregnancy.

None of the tests turned up abnormal results, including tests of air and dust, and the school's ventilation system. Officials also checked for evidence of a prank, such as traces of itching powder, to no avail.

Parents praised school officials for their efforts, but several criticized administrators for not contacting parents during the outbreak, and for not providing more information on Tuesday night.

Administrators admitted communication could have been handled better.

"I'm not trying to excuse the fact that you weren't called, but we did have 62 kids here and that's a lot of calls," Mills told one parent.

Espindle said a secretary will be sent to the nurse's office to notify parents if further problems arise today, and promised better communication.

Espindle said daily updates will be sent home to students. Information on the investigation will be posted on the School Department's Web site and Dracut Cable Access as it is obtained.

Parent Robin Brown said her son, who attends Brookside Elementary School, directly behind the junior high, may also have the rash. His sister got it at the junior high school.

Officials said they had no knowledge of students at Brookside getting the rash, but said parents of anyone who has the rash should contact the town's Health Department.

"We also think some (junior high) boys may not have (reported the rash) because it's not the cool thing to do," said public health nurse Ron Mote.

Mote asked parents of any students who contracted the rash but did not report it to contact the Health Department at 978-453-8162. Parents can also check the school system's Web site at http://www.dracut.k12.ma.us


[edit: It might be worth someone contacting the CDC for further information - there could be an interesting tale in there]

Small hysterical groups in Kuala Lumpur

Army calls in exorcists

EXORCISTS were called in to get rid of ghosts allegedly haunting a national service camp in Malaysia after 20 students became hysterical, claiming they had seen apparitions.

Sixteen trainees were treated in hospital after claiming to have seen ghosts and panicking in a toilet block at their camp near Port Dickson, about 43 miles south of Kuala Lumpur, according to reports.

Two nights later, four more trainees claimed the same thing and were taken to hospital for the treatment of hysteria.
[edit; Yep I also dropped that news story into the Exorcism thread:


there is clearly strong cross over between the two fields ;) ]

Demons in the classroom: Female students

By Richard Charan South Bureau

Tuesday, May 4th 2004

School authorities believe the paranormal event was nothing more that the girls' imagination running wild.

Communications officer with the Education Ministry Hilton Braveboy and Public Health Inspectors suggested that mass hysteria was at play.

A bizarre series of events led to one 14- year-old Form Two pupil convulsing and screaming that an evil force had entered her body.

Investigations headed by the school supervisor for the area led them to an incident on a school bus early on last Thursday, in which two girls began acting strangely.

A male pupil who is a Pentecostal, prayed over the girls.

At around 10 a.m. that day, during an English class in Form 3H, another girl began yelling and ran screaming from the class.

Three other girls began trembling and crying.

The Express was told that after classes went on recess for the day, at least two pupils were "exorcised" by a Pentecostal preacher in San Fernando.

Braveboy confirmed the incident, saying "One pupil mentioned something about demons, and told the story to another, and it started circulating and affecting students."

Braveboy said that guidance counsellors and religious instructors "are making every effort to guide the students, sit with them, so that it does not get out of hand. It may very well be mass hysteria, considering the age of the pupils (leading to them) being unable to understand the nature of what they heard and unable to interpret it."

A senior public health inspector said the psychological phenomenon of mass hysteria was well documented and gave recent cases of primary school children complaining of illness "when one or several classmates become ill".

"The symptoms are real but the doctors cannot find anything physically wrong," the official said.

There were also cases from Zanzibar in 1972 and 1995 about a winged dwarf with one eye who flew into men's bedrooms and raped them.

I'm not sure how to post links, but there is an article in the archive called Buggered by Batman which goes into depth about the case.
Good call its here:


and was also mentioned in this thread on gay superheoes:


Its very similar to the kolor hijau (green underpant creature) attacks:


To post a link just higlight it in the address bar, right click, copy it and then right click in the text box and paste (the specifics vary depending on the browser/OS combo but in general that should work just fine). The forum code will then automatically detect it if its a valid URL and make it clickable.

No 'jumbie' in Strange Village

Counsellors: Monsters were figment of girls' imagination

By Richard Charan

Sunday, May 9th 2004

Guidance counsellors and religious instructors have been able to convince the five girls that the monsters were a figment of their imagination.

And, investigations by school authorities have found the source of the scare.

It began with a "scary story" told to one of the girls by a classmate while on their way to school one morning. The story centred on a "jumbie" getting into someone's body, and the girls later reacted with fainting spells, trembling and apparent seizures.

Communications Officer at the Education Ministry, Hilton Braveboy, said while there was "nothing supernatural" in the happenings at the school, there was a need to deal with the mass hysteria that was triggered as the story had circulated.

Last Friday, the affected 13-year-old girls were back at school and had to endure "some serious embarrassment from other children", according to a teacher.

But what they experienced was a well-documented worldwide phenomenon.

Dr Derek Chadee said that from news reports, the Debe incident "may not be a para-psychological event but a socio-psychological event", since it appeared "something spooked these children" resulting in a "bandwagon" effect.

Chadee is attached to the Centre for Criminology and Criminal Justice at the St Augustine campus of the University of the West Indies (UWI), Faculty of Social Sciences.

He accompanied Professor Ramesh Deosaran and a team of researchers to Strange Village, Barrackpore, in April 1997, after a rash of reports from men in the village that they were being attacked by a "spirit" - a red Spanish woman with huge hands.

The research prompted the "ghost-busters" to include questions on the paranormal when they conducted their sixth nationwide survey on Crime, Justice and Politics two months later.

Twenty-eight per cent of those questioned said they believed that the residents of Strange Village did see a ghost or spirit.

Fifty-two per cent said no.

When questioned on whether they believed in such things as spirits, soucouyants, douens and UFOs, 35 per cent said yes, and 62 per cent said no.

The pollsters questioned 353 households, comprising persons over 18 years of age, with 56 per cent male and 44 per cent female.

Seven years later, there remains bitter debate in Strange Village as to whether the bogeyman had spent time in the area.

The village got its name 38 years ago, not because of any ghostly occurrence, but following the search for a deed to land on which residents wanted to build a community centre.

According to village elder Isaac Mohammed, the land was being claimed by several villagers and no one could say who were the rightful owners. It was later determined, after an extensive search, that it belonged to the State.

"That strange eh!" some residents remarked, and the village got its name, said 78-year-old Mohammed, who remembers well when Professor Deosaran came visiting with his video recorders in search of the red woman.

"But as far as I know, it ain't have no jumbie in this area," Mohammed said.

He added that he was not saying "it don't have that", but declared: "God is greater than any spirit."

Mohammed said the frenzy started at a church in the village when members of a Hindu family "converted to Christianity" against the wishes of their parents, who then "did some bad prayers" to invoke "the spirit to beat them up".

Drupatie Maharaj, 67, said she had a personal run-in with the man first possessed by the "thing".

"That fella lived behind the temple and on a piece of land where all the soucouyants used to come from. It come a time when he wake up and start bawling like a hog, standing up on the road, running around, waking up everybody.

"In his mind, he was seeing this red Spanish woman harassing him. Three, four people had to hold him down and they start to get on same way," she said.

Maharaj said villagers began conducting prayers to protect themselves, while cane-cutters stopped working at night and the roads became deserted.

"The fella who start everything come from soucouyant country in Mayaro, and when people couldn't take it no more, they run him from the village. They tell him 'you disturbing our nice little village'. And then, everything just stop," she recalled.

Villagers dismantled his house.

The Strange Village incident was described as a classic case of mass hysteria, one of many instances in Trinidad.

A senior public health inspector told the Sunday Express that most of the cases of primary school food poisoning and tampered water have turned out to be nothing more than one child complaining of dizziness and nausea, leading to the entire class coming down with the same symptoms.

Laboratory tests of food and water almost always showed no trace of pathogens, the inspector said.

One of the more unusual local cases of mass hysteria was in January 1999, when squatters living along a river near the Embacadere Housing Development were convinced that their chickens and dogs were being savaged and eaten by a monster.

Witnessed described the thing as being eight feet tall, with green legs, and capable of swimming more than 50 miles an hour.

The squatters took news teams to their gardens and showed them flattened banana trees and a clearing in the mangrove which they claimed was the creature's den.

The three month-long "ordeal" led to a midnight visit by members of the Zoological Society, but, in the end, the beast turned out to be a one-foot tall, 60 pound capybara, a rodent native to South America.

Re: Cultural Hysteria

The Yithian said:
... examples of those weird times when society goes a little bonkers for a while...

You mean ther were times when we weren't bonkers? A little bit of Bonkerism is normal surely?
Parents angry at mystery fainting

There is disquiet in southern Tanzania over an illness causing young girls at a primary school to faint.

Last week the school was forced to close for three days after 18 students fainted in one day.

Angry parents have protested to the school, accusing teachers of bewitching their children, after doctors found nothing medically wrong with them.

But a medical officer says the phenomenon may be caused by a neurosis related to local links with witchcraft.

One of the girls to be affected by the fainting is Harriet Salewa, an 11-year-old pupil at the Maendeleo Primary School in Iringa.

Only girls affected

"I've been falling down at school," she says. "I feel dizzy, and lose consciousness."

"I'm unable to talk, to walk, to hear, and I feel as if things are crawling all over me, starting from my feet, and disappearing in my head."

The first girls to be affected by the illness fainted in January.

Teachers say only girls under 16 were affected, in the mixed school of more than 800 pupils.

At first, four girls were said to be fainting on a daily basis, they said, but there was a dramatic increase when 18 were taken ill on one day.

It is believed that at that school, there are some beliefs that relate to witchcraft
Dr Ezekiel Mpuya

Some 27 girls are said to have been affected in total, and some of them have also fainted at home.

The BBC's Vicky Ntetema, who has visited the school, says the illness is the talk of the town.

The faintings apparently occur only in the afternoon.

Our correspondent says some people have linked this to the girls hearing the imam's call to Muslim afternoon prayers at 1pm.

Some parents have accused teachers of putting spells on the girls.

"These are hurtful remarks against teachers, who depend on their students to earn a living," says headmistress Christobela Halifani.

Cause unclear

Doctors say there is no logical explanation for their fainting.

Dr Ezekiel Mpuya, the medical officer in Iringa, says medical examinations had found "no physical abnormality or organic damage" in the girls.

"We realised they were suffering from neurosis, which happens in adolescent-aged students at times," he said.

"It is believed that at that school, there are some beliefs that relate to witchcraft.

"I think that is what gives the students the stress to develop the outbreak."

Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2004/05/13 11:02:25 GMT

May 26, 2004. 06:40 PM

People on bus fall ill, man sought


VANCOUVER - Joyce Horton merely thought the man was rude when he suggested to their transit bus driver that the driver's day was about to take a turn.

The man got off the bus and Horton, the driver and a handful of other passengers continued north to downtown.

By the end of that 10-kilometre drive yesyterday, the driver was vomiting violently, Horton herself was feeling nauseous and the paramedics attending to the driver were also sick.

Today, Vancouver police weren't any further ahead in figuring out why, but they want to talk to that man.

Horton, 62, said today that she was going from suburban Richmond to Vancouver to visit her daughter. She usually sits at the back, but needed her cane yesterday, so sat at the front.

At one point, a man getting off spoke to the driver.

"He said how's your day going," Horton recalled.

"And the bus driver said good. Then the man said, 'It won't be for long.'

"I said to the lady beside me, 'We'll, wasn't that rude.' "

Horton said she doesn't remember anything else about the man.

If Vancouver police were any further ahead in figuring out what happened on the bus, they weren't saying. Constable Sarah Bloor said police still don't know what made the driver and his attending paramedics ill.

"The male that got off the bus . . . is a person of interest to us," she said at a police briefing.

"We don't know and we don't have any eyewitnesses to say that he dropped anything or he sprayed anything, but we're hoping that we can identify who this male is."

The bus driver and eight others were taken to hospital. All were released by this morning.

About 50 people - including reporters, police and paramedics - were quarantined briefly in and around the downtown Waterfront Station police station. Police seized some of their clothes for further testing.

The mystery deepened at news that brown pellets found on the bus were a harmless mixture of thyme, mud and mugo pine, a tiny pine cone found in Vancouver.

The hazardous materials team originally believed the pellets might be to blame for people's symptoms.

Now, Health Canada has been brought in to help investigate.

"They'll have to look at the bus, determine if its safe for members to board and also do testing themselves to determine if they can figure out what the substance may have been that got on the bus," Bloor said.

Air samples taken by officers suited in protective gear also failed to provide any clues.

The bus has been taken to a police compound for further tests.

Bloor said there is nothing to indicate the incident might be related to terrorism.

"I think we have to keep this in perspective in that we don't know what this is and until we do, we don't want to create an alarming situation," she said.

"People definitely need to be vigilant, be watchful of anybody suspicious, but we truly don't know what this man may or may not have done."

Last month, Vancouver Police Chief Jamie Graham said people in the city wouldn't sleep at night if they knew what he knows about terrorist threats.


Vancouver bus quarantined after mystery substance found

Last Updated Tue, 25 May 2004 23:39:01

VANCOUVER - As many as 19 people were quarantined Tuesday after a suspicious substance was discovered on a Vancouver bus.

A hazardous materials team cordoned off the transit bus and removed the substance. The express bus had arrived at Vancouver's Waterfront Centre from Richmond.

Police say the substance, which consisted of some kind of brown pellets, made the driver and two other passengers sick.

Ten of the people were checked out and allowed to go. The other nine are being decontaminated on site, going through a series of showers and then taken to hospital for observation until emergency staff are satisfied they're no longer at risk.

Officials have not yet positively identified the substance, but police believe it may be phosphine.

Phosphine is a colourless, flammable and explosive gas used in semiconductor and plastics industries to make a flame retardant and a pesticide in stored grain.

Early exposure symptoms include nausea and vomiting, while high levels of exposure can cause weakness, bronchitis, convulsions and death.


and then they find:

Mystery substance on quarantined bus harmless

Last Updated Wed, 26 May 2004 8:24:04

VANCOUVER - A suspicious brown substance believed to have made riders on a Vancouver bus sick on Tuesday was found to be nothing more than pine cones mixed with mud and spices, according to police.

Dozens of people were quarantined in hospital after the discovery of what was at first thought to be phosphine, an explosive industrial gas used in making flame retardants and grain pesticide.

A hazardous materials team cordoned off the transit bus and removed the substance.

But while the material turned out to be harmless, the bus driver and two paramedics remain in hospital sick on Wednesday morning. Their symptoms were not described.

All other patients were released.

Lab experts and scientists from Health Canada will make another sweep of the bus to determine whether there was another, harmful substance on the bus.

The express bus had arrived at Vancouver's Waterfront Centre from Richmond.

Police initially said the substance, which consisted of some kind of brown pellets, made the driver and two other passengers sick.

Ten of the quarantined people were checked out and allowed to go. Another nine were decontaminated on site, going through a series of showers and then taken to hospital for observation until emergency staff were satisfied they were no longer at risk.


Jun 8, 4:28 PM EDT

Fainting Fad Alarms Teachers in Maine

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) -- Induced fainting by middle school students looking to experience a "rush" has set off alarm bells in Cape Elizabeth.

Teachers and parents in the Portland suburb are warning students that they risk injuries and brain damage when they deliberately make themselves pass out.

The behavior became an issue last week when teachers at Cape Elizabeth Middle School learned students were going through a regimen in which they blocked the flow of oxygen to their brains, which caused them to lose consciousness. Students told staff members it gave them a "rush" or "good feeling."

"It was a fad that was going through and we just needed to stop it," Principal Nancy Hutton said.

Induced fainting among middle and high school students stretches back decades and has occurred in towns and cities throughout the country, educators said.

Recent news accounts from South Carolina and Arizona described similar behavior among students. In April, a sixth-grader in New Mexico was hospitalized with a concussion after falling to the floor when two friends helped him faint.

In Cape Elizabeth, school officials talked with each class about the dangers of the behavior and sent an e-mail to parents explaining the fainting phenomenon.

The process involves deliberately hyperventilating, bending over and standing up quickly, and then holding the neck to restrict blood flow to the brain. Possible injuries include falling from fainting and brain damage from oxygen deprivation.

Hutton said no student has been injured or disciplined because of the activity. The main emphasis has been educating the students about the dangers, the principal added.

Hutton said Cape students stopped the behavior once they learned about the dangers. She complimented the work of staff members who got the information out and said she has not heard of any new incidents this week.

"We seem to have caught (the fad) relatively early," Hutton said.

I'll tack this enquiry onto here because I think it fits. I watched a programme about the Bay City rollers last night and it touched upon the hysteria they encouraged in young girls with fainting and tears and generally being out of control.

Now I have never felt the urge to stand in a crowd and scream uncontrollably at young men even when I was of an age to do so. Has anybody been here been in such a situation?? What overtakes you? Are you just caught up in the moment? Is it like a collective madness? Do you feel slightly different afterwards? Cleansed or ashamed?? This may sound like a silly post but I am generally curious about the 'madness of crowds'.
Not a silly question at all, Messalina :)

In the mid-1990's I had the dubious pleasure of taking one of my younger relatives and a couple of her friends see a boyband (Wet Wet Wet, I think). The girls were excited and giggling in the way that only 13 year-old girls can but otherwise acting normally... until the band came on stage and they and the entire crowd screamed in unison, and didn't stop until the band left the stage again, seemingly many days later.

Afterwards, they reverted to their normal chatty giggly selves and even complained to each other about how some of the other people were screaming so loud that they couldn't hear the music (that was the bit I liked about the screaming all around me ;))

I didn't join in, by the way.

Probably fits here as some people saw the cloud and started reporting symptoms but it was so few people I wonder if they were caused by general anxiety of some kind of WMD terrorist attack?

Mysterious Cloud Spotted In Parkville

People Told To Stay Inside Until Cloud Deemed Harmless

POSTED: 9:20 pm CDT June 17, 2004
UPDATED: 9:55 am CDT June 18, 2004

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Sheriff's deputies in Platte County shut down a portion of Highway 9 Thursday night after a mysterious cloud was reported floating near the ground. Officials feared the cloud might be some kind of chemical, but it turned out to be just dust, KMBC reported.

Around 8:30 p.m., a driver reported the cloud and said he smelled chlorine. A nearby resident also reported a burning sensation in her eyes, and emergency crews quickly responded, donning hazmat suits to conduct tests on the cloud.

Officials said there was no chemical leak. The cloud and odor apparently came from blasting at an underground storage facility.

Some people in English Landing Park were evacuated to area businesses, where they were told to stay inside. One woman in a building named the Rock House off Highway 9, who experienced a burning sensation in her eyes, was evacuated. Greg Laslo, a spokesman for the Southern Platte County Fire Protection Unit, said that the woman is OK.

"There was probably some remnants of whatever they use for blasting to expand the caves. It looks like it may have been some residue," Laslo said.

Christina Gilbert, the manager of Stone Canyon Pizza, which is just a few blocks from the park, said police told everyone at the business not to go anywhere Thursday night.

"At first, a Parkville police officer came in and told us to evacuate, and in the middle of letting patrons know we needed to evacuate because of a chemical spill up the street, um, chlorine, the fire department changed the order to stay inside, and to turn off the ventilation system," Gilbert said.

Police said no injuries were reported.


June 18, 2004

Mysterious Cloud Turns Out to Be Dust

PARKVILLE, Mo. -- People in Parkville reported seeing a mysterious cloud over Missouri Highway 9 Thursday night.

Concern escalated when one person reported burning eyes and another smelled chlorine.

Hazardous materials officials said the hazy cloud turned out to be no more than a cloud of dust, KCTV5's Cynne' Simpson reported live on "More in the Morning."

Thursday night, they took every precaution just in case it was something worse.

They got suited up to conduct some tests.

They also evacuated people from the streets downtown and told people to stay inside for several hours as an added precaution.

After nearly three hours with the downtown on lockdown, crews determined the cloud was not dangerous.

"Our hazmat team went in, checked for chlorine, checked for corrosives, checked for explosives and nothing was, they didn't find anything. The mine company went in with our second team and didn't find anything so we've determined it's all clear," said Greg Lazlo, of the Southern Platte Fire Protection District.

Hazmat workers said there were some underground caves nearby that were being blasted.

Officials said it appeared that dust from the caves was released into the atmosphere through vents.


(In reply to Messalina's madness of crowds question)

I'm quite a shy, even timid, person, but I love rock music and I go to gigs every now and then. One of the things I love about them is being part of the crowd, singing/shouting along, jumping up and down etc. But I can't get into it unless I'm surrounded by other people doing the same thing.
yes, i know exactly what you mean. There's definitely a thing of being "into it" to - if you dont get into it you just cant really do the jumoing around without feeling self conscious
Exactly - I was at a large gig with some also-quiet mates weekend before last and we were seated, which is never good, and right at the back with very few people around us, so we just sat and listened to the music. Very different experience from being down in the crowd.
Faggus said:
yes, i know exactly what you mean. There's definitely a thing of being "into it" to - if you dont get into it you just cant really do the jumoing around without feeling self conscious

I went to a Depeche Mode gig (Ok, you can all stop laughing now, i am in my 30's so I can be excused :) ) and I just didn't get the music at all so although everybody was jumping around going mental I just stood there in the middle of god knows how many thousands, absolutely still....

What I cannot understand is the teeny bop phenomeon where young girls will scream themselves sick and pass out but then I've never understood the 'groupie' thing either, I'm sure male music fans have sexual fantasies over female artistes but as far as I know there are no male groupies, which must mean that female artistes are rather moral creatures.....
Messalina said:
I went to a Depeche Mode gig (Ok, you can all stop laughing now, i am in my 30's so I can be excused :) ) and I just didn't get the music at all so although everybody was jumping around going mental I just stood there in the middle of god knows how many thousands, absolutely still....

And what's wrong with Depeche Mode? Still a good band even today :D

My sister was like that at a U2 concert. I was dancing and singing but she had to wear ear plugs (on doctors orders) and she sat through the whole thing just watching.

I don't understand why people go to a concert and scream through the whole thing. I go to hear my fav bands sing live.
Haven't there been various clothes slashing, pin pircking panics before? This might be a genuine nut on the loose but it does seem to chime with other bouts of mass hysteria:

Bizarre behaviour baffles young women

By Xu Xiao (Shanghai Star)
Updated: 2004-06-22 08:55

Over a period of eight months, nine items of a woman's clothing were cut by someone using the Metro. The woman surnamed Jiang said she had stopped taking the Metro last week, and spent another 30 minutes taking the bus to work, according to a report in the Shanghai Morning Post.

Jiang who works in Lujiazui used to take the Metro to her office every day. But last October, the pretty young woman began suffering frequent harassment. Her dress was cut by three slashes each 2 to 3 centimetres in length.

Similar incidents happened one after another. Up to June 9, six dresses, two overcoats and a coat had been cut in the Metro, with damage totalling roughly 7,000 yuan (US6). All the cuts were made in the fabric over the hips.

After carrying the story of Jiang's experience, the newspaper also received similar complaints from over 10 other women. Miss Wu said four pieces of her clothing had also been slashed in the Metro, she found all of the damaged clothes were expensive and brightly coloured.

The police said that someone had also stamped on a women's white close-to-body pants. Such harassment happens most often in summer in crowded public places such as the Metro and buses.

Even if the troublemaker were caught, the police could only punish them according to relevant regulations, which might not suffice to control the situation efficiently. The police said such harassment might be mischief, but the possibility of psychological abnormality also exists.

The police reminded young women to pay close attention. If anyone engages in an abnormal action nearby, women should keep their distance, ask for help from others or report to the police.


Messalina said:
I went to a Depeche Mode gig (Ok, you can all stop laughing now, i am in my 30's so I can be excused :) ) and I just didn't get the music at all so although everybody was jumping around going mental I just stood there in the middle of god knows how many thousands, absolutely still....

What I cannot understand is the teeny bop phenomeon where young girls will scream themselves sick and pass out but then I've never understood the 'groupie' thing either, I'm sure male music fans have sexual fantasies over female artistes but as far as I know there are no male groupies, which must mean that female artistes are rather moral creatures.....

Ha ha - I went to see Depeche Mode on their most recent tour. It ws excellent - although no jumping around as it was at Wembley and I was stuck up in the side balcony!

Interesting issue of the difference in sexual morality of male/female celebrities. Not wishing to enter into stereotypical attitudes of male/female psychology but the male prediliction for spreading his genes around would make male celebrities more suitable for the attentions of an admirer than a female celebrity.

That said, I seem to recall one of those Hollywood old slappers (Mae West I think) trying to use her fame to bed 20 year old blokes when she was in her 70's. So, it is perhaps more a case of a person using their celebrity to get sex where they would not have been successful without the celebrity. As most female celebrities are already attractive (hence why they are chosen starring roles in films) they can already attract all the decent looking blokes and indulge in as much sex as their libido will allow. Males on the other hand are often not sexually attractive in their own right, but become sexually attractive due to their fame. Hence, their sexual activity is overtly linked to their fame.

Similarly, the risks of indulging in promiscuity as male/female celebrities are totally different. When Jack Nicholson, in his '60s, is seen with a young blonde, we all laugh and think "good old Jack - what a guy..." and it adds to his legend and charm. If a female is in the paper for bedding a number of different men, she will be a slapper. It is not in the interests of a female celebrity to react to the attentions of male admirers in the same way as a male celebrity. A female should be flattered by the attention and slightly embarrased ("oh, I really am not attractive at all - you should see me without my make-up on..."). A male is allowed to grab it while he can - and most blokes would be surprised if he chose to turn down such offers (unless a husband/father).

It is heartening for me to think that were I to get a role in a soap-opera or movie I would attract a hoard female admirers... Well, perhaps not a hoard - but a few! :p
One whiff of nail polish remover and.............

Posted 7/5/2004 7:46 AM

Spilled nail polish prompts air emergency

BERLIN (AP) — A spilled bottle of nail polish on board an aircraft prompted emergency services to rush into action at an airport in northern Germany, police said Saturday.

Ambulances and security officials were summoned and part of the Bremen airport closed off Friday evening after police were alerted that passengers on board a flight from Amsterdam that was about to land were complaining of nausea for unknown reasons.

After the plane landed, the roughly 45 passengers on board were taken off by officials using breathing apparatus, police said. But doctors found that none was injured or ill, and the passengers soon felt better.

Police then determined that a female passenger's nail polish had leaked and its pungent odor was circulated by the aircraft's air conditioning system.

The passenger will not face any legal action, police spokesman Juergen Osmers said.