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Mass Hysteria

Awful stink, nail polish remover. Especially the acetone based ones...
Yet more African school demon panic


Demons Attack Kiboga Pupils

New Vision (Kampala)
July 7, 2004
Posted to the web July 7, 2004

By Moses Nsubuga And Chris Kiwawuloa

Primary school in Kiboga district was closed in May after parents reported that their children were being attacked by demons.

At the time of arrest, Sserunkuuma said he could not afford the demons' enormous demands. He said the demons demanded for 300 virgin girls and cows to provide them with blood for sustenance.

Sserunkuuma added that when he failed to provide the virgins and cows, he set them (demons) free. They then attacked the pupils. He pleaded that he had no intention of harming the school, but only failed to control the demons.

The demons reportedly affected primary four, five, six and seven pupils below 12 years. When attacked, the pupils gabble and run around the compound. Others undress and foam around their mouths.

They also shake violently as if shocked by an electric current. Parents also said they had to tie their children on pegs with ropes to avoid their disappearance.
Spring heeled ghostly rapist?

Spirit stalks women, town fleshes out tales

Women stay home, men night patrols to keep ‘ghost’ away


Posted online: Saturday, July 17, 2004 at 0240 hours IST

AHMEDABAD, JULY 16: The Entity seems to have come to Vatva. At least that’s what residents of Saiyedwadi believe. They are living in mortal fear of a ‘‘ghost’’ that has been ‘‘sexually assaulting’’ women for the past 15 days.

Women here have stopped stepping out of their homes at night, while men have started night patrols to ‘‘keep the ghost away’’.

Saiyedwadi is a small locality comprising lower-middle and middle-class families. And the rumours have spread like wildfire. Be it an old man or a three-year-old — everyone can tell you about this ‘‘ghost that rapes women’’.

‘‘I have not seen him but I know what he looks like. He’s tall, about six-and-half feet, has shoulder-length hair, a marked face. He wears black shorts and knee-length shoes. His shoes have springs, which help him jump over terraces,’’ says Jahagir Khan, a resident.

The others — who have not seen the ‘‘ghost’’ — agree with the description. Many add to it. Seventeen-year-old Mohammad Rayeez says: ‘‘He carries a sharp-edged weapon, probably a dagger with him. He spends the day on a tree and comes out only at night.’’

Mohammad, who works as a mechanic at Narol, says the ‘‘ghost’’ raped three women at Narol on Thursday night.

Shaheedabanu Yusufbhai agrees. ‘‘Two days ago, he raped a women in the next lane and warned another that she would be next,’’ she says.

However, which lane and which woman, no one can tell you.

‘‘I don’t know who exactly. But how can you expect a woman to come forward and say that she was molested,’’ says Shaheedabanu, a housewife who no longer steps out of her house at night like most women of the area.

There are other stories, about the ‘‘ghost’’ hanging from a tree branch, slapping a child, stopping a woman on her way home and so on. But the fear is apparent. The men of the area — armed with sticks and pipes — can be seen guarding their localities.

Police have posted two constables in the area. ‘‘All these are baseless rumours. No one has seen any thing for the past two days. So, we plan to withdraw the constables,’’ says Vatva police inspector B.I. Patel.

It’s mass hysteria, explain experts

• Psychiatrists say what’s ailing Vatva is mass hysteria that affects members of a closed community. Dr Darshan Shah says that since members of a closed community are brought up in a similar way, they ‘‘all start believing something unreal and behave accordingly’’. He cites the example of Jones Town, where 1,000 people committed suicide thinking that the world was coming to an end. Shah adds that an evil male spirit that supposedly has sex with a sleeping woman is called an incubus — a term derived from myths. — ENS

The original link:


doesn't seem to work anymore but the story can be found here:


Another report (virtually the saem but with some extra details):


Of the ghost who stalks and why Vatva’s women are living in fear

Palak Nandi

Ahmedabad, July 16: The Entity (or our Tabu-starrer Hawa, if you prefer) seems to have come to Vatva. At least that’s what residents of Saiyedwadi believe. Living in fear of a ‘‘ghost who sexually assaults women’’ for the past 15 days, residents here are spending sleepless nights. The women have stopped stepping out of their homes, while their shaken men have started night patrols to ‘‘keep the ghost away.’’

Saiyedwadi is a residential colony with most residents belonging to the minority community and from lower-middle and middle-class families. The rumours have spread like wildfire — be it an old man or a three-year-old, everyone can tell you about this ‘‘ghost that rapes Muslim women.’’

‘‘I have not seen him but I know what he looks like. He’s tall, about six-and-half feet, has shoulder-length hair, a marked face. He wears black shorts and knee-length shoes. His shoes have springs, which help him jump over terraces,’’ says Jahagir Khan, a resident.

The others — none of who have seen the ‘‘ghost’’ — agree with the description. Many embroider it. Seventeen-year-old Mohammad Rayeez, another resident, says: ‘‘He carries a sharp-edged weapon, probably a dagger with him. He spends the day on a tree and comes out only at night.’’

Mohammad, who works as a mechanic at Narol, says the ‘‘ghost’’ raped three women at Narol on Thursday night. ‘‘I have heard similar stories in our locality.’’

Shaheedabanu Yusufbhai agrees that it’s true. ‘‘Two days ago, he raped a woman in the next lane and warned another that she would be next,’’ she says. However, which lane and which woman, no one can tell you.

‘‘Somewhere in the next lane. I don’t know who exactly. But how can you expect a woman to come forward and say that she was molested,’’ says Shaheedabanu, a housewife who no longer steps out of her house at night like most women of the area.

There are other stories — about the ghost seen hanging from a tree branch, slapping a child, stopping a woman on her way home and so on. But the fear is apparent. The men of the area — armed with sticks and pipes — can be seeing doing guard duty outside their localities.

Even kids have been affected. ‘‘He has long nails and hair. He wears a black shorts and carries a knife,’’ says three-year-old Aafrin. Parents claim that the children don’t sleep till the wee hours and keep crying.

So, where has this ‘‘ghost’’ come from? Residents have interesting explanations. While some say that he’s ‘‘a bad genie freed from a bottle,’’ others say he’s Satan himself, while some believe he has been sent by God to ‘‘punish wrong-doers.’’ Others say he may be a ‘‘monkey-man’’ or a ‘‘computerised machine.’’ ‘‘Some say he is a genie who was locked in a bottle, which was buried an year ago in the empty plot behind the locality. However, two months ago when the land was dug up for some construction, the bottle was broken, freeing him. Others who say he is wicked spirit, some believe he’s a shaitan,’’ says Mohammed Shamshad.

Following the rumours, the Vatva police had arranged for two constables to be present in the area for the past two nights. ‘‘However, all these are baseless rumours. Not a single person has seen it, nothing weird has been noticed, so we now plan to withdraw them,’’ says Inspector B I Patel.

Blazes in Egypt start "balls of fire" rumours
Sun 18 July, 2004 17:30

CAIRO (Reuters) - A series of fires in the southern Egyptian province of Sohag has destroyed some 160 houses, giving rise to rumours that spirits are at work or mysterious balls of fire are falling from the sky, a local official SAYS.

But the causes are mundane -- kerosene stoves, cigarette butts and electrical short circuits, Brigadier Ezzat Aboul Kassem told Reuters on Sunday. Flaming pigeons, their feathers set alight in the blazes, may explain talk of balls of fire, he added.

Two children have died in the fires, which started last month, and about 30 people have been injured, either from burns or from smoke inhalation, security officials said.

Aboul Kassem, who is director of police investigations in Sohag, said the number of fires was higher than usual this year, at 25 for the first half of July against 15 in the same period last year, possibly because the weather has been hotter.

"Investigations have shown that there are burnt pigeons on top of some of the burnt houses and it's probable that they fell there after catching fire at other houses," he said. "Maybe that explains the rumours of balls of fire falling from the sky."

‘Evil spirits’ possess high-school girls in Zamboanga City

ZAMBOANGA CITY - Classes at the Limpapa National High School in the western tip of this city has returned to normal a week after alleged evil spirits took possession of 11 female students.

Councilor Rodolfo Lim, chairman of the Committee on Education, gave the information after he motored, together with councilor Milabel Velasquez to Limpapa on Thursday last week, to look into the situation.

In the forest-covered village, the councilors witnessed an exorcism, which was performed by a male Subanen, who acted as intermediary.

“The evil spirits refused to talk to this Subanen tribe,” Lim said Wednesday.

He said the parents were apprehensive in sending their children back to school because of the incident. However, the students have returned to their classes on Monday.

Last week, the school has virtually become a ghost area as students refused to go to school after the incident.

The students started throwing up violently, speak in a different voice and with dilated pupils, shouting at the top of their voice when “evil spirits” allegedly possessed them.

Lim, who witnessed the queer reaction of four students on Thursday, appealed to the parents in Limpapa to send their children back to school while the authorities are investigating the phenomenon.

A health team has also been sent to the area, to check if such a reaction in some of the students had something to do with health problems, while the Catholic Church has not as yet issued any opinion on the matter.

Lim suggested not to allow the 11 students to go to school for sometime.

A Catholic priest have said a Mass twice and representatives of religious groups have tried to drive away the evil spirits out of the bodies of the girls.

Lim appealed to the residents not to be hysterical, saying Limpapa’s incident was an isolated case.

Mass Hysteria Strikes Small Rural U.S. High School

Thu Aug 19, 6:05 PM ET

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Ten healthy female students at a rural, co-ed North Carolina high school had repeated bouts of seizures, swooning and hyperventilation over a four-month period in 2002 -- an outbreak that experts are calling an example of mass hysteria.

The first girl began experiencing seizures in August. Over the next few weeks, more girls began to show the same symptoms. The attacks escalated throughout the fall months, then appeared to taper off by the winter holiday break.

One student experienced at least 30 attacks. All but one of the girls had no history of seizures.

Most of the attacks occurred while students were at school but not in class, such as during breaks or in hallways between classes.

Five of the students were current or former cheerleaders, but only two shared a classroom. None appeared to be experiencing more than their normal share of life's stressors, such as family problems or history of depression.

To investigate why these girls were experiencing seizures, Dr. E. Steve Roach of Wake Forest University in North Carolina and Dr. Ricky L. Langley of the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (news - web sites) interviewed the students and their parents, and spoke with teachers and the school nurse. They also reviewed the students' class schedules and medical records, and tested the high school's buildings for environmental contaminants.

Writing in the Archives of Neurology, the authors conclude that the evidence "strongly suggested" that the girls were experiencing an episode of mass hysteria, defined as "the simultaneous occurrence of related signs or symptoms with a psychogenic basis in multiple individuals in a group."

The authors explain that they suspect mass hysteria because the episodes largely occurred at the same place, there was no other obvious explanation for them, and all of the girls' symptoms appeared and disappeared at around the same time.

Moreover, previous research has shown that mass hysteria typically strikes women more often than men, and may also occur more frequently in children and adolescents, they write.

Many episodes of mass hysteria are triggered by harmless odors or when a "prominent" person begins showing symptoms, they add. No environmental trigger was found, and since the first girl to experience seizures was a cheerleader and four others were as well, Roach and Langley suggest that seeing the symptoms in these girls "could have encouraged additional students to develop similar episodes."

Unfortunately, mass hysteria was not seriously considered as a possibility until after some time had passed, the authors note. By then, some girls said they had been teased, were unable to drive, and their mysterious conditions had placed a strain on family and personal life.

Moreover, "had the similarities between these individuals been noted earlier," some of the girls could have avoided some unnecessary diagnostic procedures and treatment, the investigators add.

"Although the underlying dynamics that initiate and perpetuate mass hysteria are poorly understood, its prompt recognition allows physicians to avoid unnecessary tests and treatments and to reassure both the affected individuals and the public," they write.

SOURCE: Archives of Neurology, August 2004.


And the paper:

Episodic Neurological Dysfunction Due to Mass Hysteria

E. Steve Roach, MD; Ricky L. Langley, MD, MPH

Archives of Neurology (2004) 61 (8). 1269 - 1272.

We describe 10 students from a small rural secondary school with episodes resembling seizures or syncopal attacks. Several students were initially treated for epilepsy or syncope, but the temporal pattern of the attacks, the simultaneous resolution of the episodes during a school holiday, and the fact that 4 students subsequently had pseudoseizures confirmed by video-electroencephalography strongly suggest mass hysteria. Seven students were treated with antiepileptic medications, and most underwent multiple diagnostic studies. Prompt recognition of mass hysteria allows physicians to avoid unnecessary tests and treatments and to reassure those affected as well as the general public.



Bhoot hai, say villagers, cops find no clue

Express News Service

Ludhiana, August 25: AFTER reports that residents of village Hambowal Bet near Samrala were living in terror of some ghost(s) in the village, a police team led by an SHO spent last night in the village. The policemen went around the village and also checked the points where the residents claimed that the ghost had tried to attack them, but could find no such proof.

Members of the Tarksheel Society too visited the village today. The members made announcements through the gurdwaras and temples, urging people not to fall prey to the talk of ghosts or evil spirits.

Talking to Newsline, president of the society Jaswant Jheerakh said, ‘‘Our members are speaking to the families who have complained of ghosts in the area, and also meeting people who claim that they had strange experiences with the ghost.’’

Jheerakh said that it would take the society some days to educate the villagers in this regard. He added that till late today evening, the society members were present in the village, but they did not come across any strange incidents.

Meanwhile, the residents of the area claim that they have been living in terror on account of the ghost. Some villagers said that they have also decided to go to their relatives living elsewhere to escape the ghost.

In the last few days, some villagers have claimed that they have felt some supernatural power around them. A villager claimed that when he was watching TV at night, he felt that someone was pressing his chest. He claimed to have seen the ghost of a headless woman, who did not have hands either. Some other villagers claimed that when they were about to sleep, someone pulled them from the back.

Residents have started putting neem leaves at the entrance of their houses to make the ‘ghost’ run away. They have been giving theekri pehras in the village too, to guard against the ‘ghost’.


The Tarksheel Society is another name for the Rationalist Society India:


Who have done a lot of good work exposing fakirs/fakers.
Bhoot fear still reigns

Raakhi Jagga

Hambowal bet (machiwara), August 26: RESIDENTS of village Hambowal Bet are living under terror. Talk to them about the bhoot scare in the village, and they tell you that they wait for sunrise, and pray that the sun should never set. That’s because villagers fear that at dusk, the bhoot gets active and starts attacking people.

Nervous villagers say that the bhoot attacked two men as recently as on Wednesday night. Many women have left the village along with their children and have gone to their parents’ house. The men working in other villages, meanwhile, are also not coming home at night. The villagers are now convinced that an evil spirit is roaming in the village, which troubles them at late night hours.

Villagers assert that sometimes, it is seen in white clothes, sometimes in black, wearing ghungroos and at times, in the form of animals too.

Members of Tarksheel Society from Machiwara have been visiting the village and police teams have been making rounds of the area at midnight too, blowing jeep sirens to assure the villagers that they are around. However, the residents do not seem be convinced by any of these measures, and say they are planning to call a tantrik soon. The villagers claim that despite the police patrolling last night, two men were allegedly attacked by someone whom they could not see. An akhand path will also be started from tomorrow, say villagers.

Gurmel Singh is among those who claim to have been attacked by the bhoot. ‘‘Last night when I was sleeping, someone grabbed my neck. I shouted for help, but after some time I felt normal.’’ Gurmel, a daily wager, says he had been sleeping at the Machiwara gurdwara for many days and went home to sleep only last night. Today, he did not go for work either.

Said Pyar Kaur, another resident, ‘‘My two sons have gone to their in-laws’ house, along with their families, after the horrifying experiences here.’’

When contacted, SHO Machiwara Punni Chand said, ‘‘We have tried to convince the villagers that there is no bhoot, but due to illiteracy, they are still on the old track. People of about 10 houses have told me tales of a bhoot in the village, and all are giving different statements at different times. They themselves seem to be confused,’’ observed the SHO. He He added that although the villagers complain that the so-called bhoot had hurt them, there has been no sign of any injury so far.

Inquiries reveal that following the scare, many village children are not going to school either. Villagers have tied mustard and garlic seeds on the wrist of the children, under the belief that this will make the ghost go away.

Tarksheel to give Rs 5 lakh for proving bhoot

Master Bakshi Ram, a member of the Machiwara Tarksheel Society, has been distributing pamphlets amongst the villagers that the Society will award Rs 5 lakh as prize money if anyone can prove the existence of the ghost. However, the villagers are not happy with the way the society members are trying to educate them. The Society members have been telling the villagers that they are weak-hearted and ignorant to believe in such talk, which has led to confrontation between the villagers and the Tarksheel members.

Superstition galore

A strong rumour in the village is that about 20 days ago, a young woman had died to cancer, after which these incidents are being reported. Villagers say that the woman was cremated late in the evening. They add that it had rained that day, due to which more wood was required to burn the body, but this was not done, claim villagers. The villagers told the SHO that two boys tried to make the half-burnt body come alive again, but could not control the bhoot, which is now causing havoc in the village.

Ghost scare in UP villages

Press Trust of India
Muzaffarnagar, September 3

Reminiscent of the monkey man hallucination in Delhi and its neighbourhood, panic stricken villagers are spending sleepless nights following a string of incidents they believe were the work of a demon or an evil spirit.

For the past three weeks, residents in Muzaffarnagar and the neighbouring villages of Khampur and Meerut have reported incidents of finding "drops of blood in their houses, clumps of human hair and scratch marks on the children's faces, made allegedly by a demon", police said.

Senior Superintendent of Police Navneet Sikera said that some unidentified "mischief-makers" are involved in these activities to create terror among villagers.

"To restore confidence of the villagers we have deployed the Provincial Armed Constabulary (PAC) in and around the villages," he said.

Close circuit cameras have also been installed to detect them, the SSP said.

Interestingly a lot of these cases, esp. the ones in schools, are due to MSI (Mass Sociogenic Illness):

Mass Sociogenic Illness

"Mass sociogenic illness" (MSI), a form of mass hysteria, demonstrates the process. In MSI, mere sight and sound, like disabling viruses, can make so many people feel so sick that within minutes an entire town's ambulances are summoned. One such case occurred in a summer program in Florida for disadvantaged kids (Desenclos, Gardner, & Horan, 1992). Every day at noon, the 150 children gathered in a dining hall where they were served pre-packaged lunches. As lunch began one day, a girl complained that her sandwich didn't taste right: she felt nauseated, and came back from the restroom reporting that she had thrown up. Others began to complain that their stomachs hurt too and that the sandwiches really did taste funny. Then a number of them described having headaches, tingling in their hands and feet, and abdominal cramping. The supervisor, obviously worried about all the complaints, announced to the horrified children that the food might be poisoned. They were told to stop eating immediately.

Within 40 minutes, 63 children were sick. More than 25 of them had vomited. Ambulances were called and the children had to be divided up among three different hospitals.

But an hour later, it was all over. Every examination and test performed on the children was normal. Meal samples were analyzed, but no bacteria or pesticides were detected. Food processing and storage techniques had been faultless. And no one had become ill at any of the other 68 sites at which the very same food was served. Unmistakably, these children were victims of MSI.


Desenclos, J.C., Gardner, H. & Horan, M. (1992) Mass sociogenic illness in a youth center. Revue D'Epidemiologie et de Sant, Publique. 40. 201 - 8.

The article is adapted from:

Stranger Than Fiction: When Our Minds Betray Us
by Marc D. Feldman, Jacqueline M. Feldman (1998)

MSI seems to be an interesting insight into the way groups work - is it part of a herd mentality that has evolved so we can get out of trouble without thinking too much about it?
More on what is presumably the same outbreak:

May 11, 1990 / 39(18);301-304

Epidemiologic Notes and Reports Mass Sociogenic Illness in a Day-Care Center -- Florida

On July 26, 1989, 63 (42%) of 150 children attending a summer program at a day-care center in Florida experienced a gastrointestinal illness. An epidemiologic investigation by Orange County public health officials and the Florida Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services concluded that this outbreak was the result of mass sociogenic illness (MSI).

Onset of symptoms occurred within 2-40 minutes after lunch and included abdominal cramps (77%), nausea (75%), headache (51%), dizziness (30%), malaise (30%), and sore throat (11%). Vomiting was reported in 67% of children, but no distinction could be made between actual vomiting and spitting out food. The median duration of illness was 1 hour (range: 1-8 hours). Ill children ranged in age from 4 to 14 years (median: 9 years); 47 (75%) were female. Within 1-2 hours after onset, all symptomatic children were evaluated in emergency departments at local hospitals; when the children arrived at the emergency departments, most symptoms were no longer present, and all physical examination findings were normal. More than 90% of the children returned to the center on July 27, and no further episodes occurred.

A prepackaged lunch was served in one large room to the children and consisted of a ham and cheese sandwich, diced pears, chocolate milk, and apple juice. The center's staff reported that the initial case occurred in a 12-year-old girl who complained that her food tasted bad. She subsequently had nausea and vomited. As more children developed similar symptoms, some of the staff suggested to the children that the food may have been contaminated.

On July 28, 121 children at the center were interviewed in person. After the interviews, a case was defined as vomiting or nausea with abdominal cramps during or within 1 hour after the July 26 lunch. Forty-eight (47%) of 102 children who had eaten any foods served at lunch became ill, compared with one (5%) of 19 children who had eaten none of the foods (relative risk (RR)=9.1; 95% confidence interval (CI)=1.3-50.0). Among children who had eaten any of the foods, those who had eaten the sandwich were at greater risk for illness (37 (56%) of 66 compared with 11 (32%) of 34; RR=1.7; 95% CI=1.0-2.9). The attack rate did not differ by age but was greater for girls (39 (70%) of 56) than for boys (nine (20%) of 46; RR=3.6; 95% CI=1.9-6.7). Employees and teachers at the center had not eaten any of the foods and did not become ill.

Meal samples collected and tested by the Food and Drug Administration did not detect pesticide contamination, staphylococcal toxin, or Bacillus cereus; atomic absorption screening for heavy metals, zinc, and copper was also negative. Review of the food processing, storage, and refrigeration at the manufacturing plant and the day-care center did not identify deficiencies in handling or a source of contamination. The plant that had prepared the prepackaged meal had produced 3600 similar meals served in 68 different sites in central Florida on July 26. No complaints of similar symptoms were reported from the other sites. The investigation did not identify any chemical exposure, air conditioning failure, or unusually stressful situation at the center on July 26.

MSI was the suggested diagnosis by hospital physicians after children were examined on July 26. After the epidemiologic investigation, health department officials concurred with the diagnosis. Reported by: S Arcidiacono, JI Brand, MD, Orange County Health and Rehabilitative Svcs Public Health Unit; W Coppenger, PhD, Toxicology, Health and Rehabilitative Svcs Central Laboratory, RA Calder, MD, State Epidemiologist, Florida Dept of Health and Rehabilitative Svcs. Div of Environmental Hazards and Health Effects, Center for Environmental Health and Injury Control; Div of Field Svcs, Epidemiology Program Office, CDC.

Editorial Note

Editorial Note: In this outbreak, the rapid onset and disappearance of symptoms, the lack of physical findings, the preponderance of cases in females, and the absence of a laboratory-confirmed etiologic agent are consistent with MSI (1,2) (Table 1). However, three features of this outbreak distinguish it from the typical presentation of MSI: the young age of patients, the absence of documented hyperventilation, and the high prevalence of vomiting reported.

Other MSI outbreaks among children have been reported (Table 2). Risk for illness was lower among the youngest children in at least two of these outbreaks (3; CDC, unpublished data); age was not a risk factor in the Florida outbreak. In some outbreaks, the prevalence of hyperventilation, a common symptom in MSI outbreaks, has been low (7,10); in the Florida outbreak, hyperventilation symptoms could have been missed during the early phase of illness. Vomiting, although reported as the major symptom in two previous outbreaks (8,11), is not usually a principal symptom of MSI (2). Many of the children reported to have been vomiting in this outbreak may have been spitting out food because they had been told it was contaminated or because they were responding to the "line of sight" transmission that typically occurs in MSI outbreaks (1,2).

MSI outbreaks often generate substantial anxiety and concern in the community (1) and, as illustrated in this report, may present with an atypical pattern or syndrome. Early statements by local physicians and the media about the likely psychogenic origin of the illness may have contributed to the absence of recurrence in this instance (1). Timely recognition of the nature of the outbreak and prompt reassurance that the illness is self-limited and not caused by a toxic exposure are important considerations for the effective control and prevention of recurrence.


Philen RM, Kilbourne EM, McKinley TW, Parrish RG. Mass sociogenic illness by proxy: parentally reported epidemic in an elementary school. Lancet 1989;2:1372-6.

2. Small GW, Borus JF. Outbreak of illness in a school chorus: toxic poisoning or mass hysteria? N Engl J Med 1983;308:632-5.

3. Levine RJ, Sexton DJ, Romm FJ, Wood BT. Outbreak of psychosomatic illness at a rural elementary school. Lancet 1974;2:1500-3.

4. Modan B, Swartz TA, Tirosh M, et al. The Arjenyattah epidemic: a mass phenomenon--spread and triggering factors. Lancet 1983;2:1472-4.

5. Levine RJ. Epidemic faintness and syncope in a school marching band. JAMA 1977;238:2373-6.

6. Ruiz MT, Lopez JM. Mass hysteria in a secondary school. Int J Epidemiol 1988;17:475-6.

7. Moffatt MEK. Epidemic hysteria in a Montreal train station. Pediatrics 1982;70:308-10.

8. McEvedy CP, Griffin A, Hall T. Two school epidemics. Br Med J 1966;2:1300-2.

9. Robinson P, Szewczyk M, Haddy L, Jones P, Harvey W. Outbreak of itching and rash: epidemic hysteria in an elementary school. Arch Intern Med 1984;144:1959-62. 10. Smith HCT, Eastham EJ. Outbreak of abdominal pain. Lancet 1973;2:956-8. 11. Stahl SM, Lebedun M. Mystery gas: an analysis of mass hysteria. J Health Soc Behav 1974;15:44-50.

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Don't panic!

Could 'mass hysteria' explain why 55 pupils and staff from Collenswood school in Hertfordshire fell mysteriously ill last week? Margaret McCartney investigates

Tuesday September 14, 2004
The Guardian

Last Thursday, a school in Stevenage, in Hertfordshire, alerted the emergency services to a mysterious event that had taken place at the school. In what was described as a "hazardous incident", 55 people - 42 of them children, mainly aged between 11 and 13 - went to hospital. Some self-referred, others came by ambulance; all were complaining of headaches and sickness. The remaining children at Collenswood school were evacuated; police searched the school. Nothing, it seems, was found. "They were brought in as a precaution," says Peter Gibson, head of public affairs at the Lister hospital in Stevenage, "and it was not believed that anything serious or untoward had happened." None of the children or adults had to be admitted, and all were discharged later that day.

So what had caused quite so many children and adults to become suddenly so unwell? In a statement, the Hertfordshire police concluded: "After detailed examination, environmental and public-health experts have confirmed that the school poses no risk to the health of pupils and staff. Despite detailed investigations, no identifiable cause for the incident has yet been established. It is, however, clear that a number of unrelated incidents involving the health of some pupils could have contributed to a general feeling of concern at the school on Thursday."

One of the possible explanations being touted for this curious and - for the children, parents and staff involved - alarming incident, is "mass hysteria". But what is mass hysteria? Does it really exist - and if so, what are its causes?

The accepted definition of mass hysteria is "the occurrence in a group of people of a constellation of physical symptoms suggesting an organic illness but resulting from a psychological cause." Supposedly affecting women more than men, especially where grouped together - for example in halls of residence, clubs or schools - the symptoms can be varied, but include nausea, fainting, headaches, abdominal pain and fatigue.

Episodes of mass hysteria occur suddenly, with a dramatic onset and rapid recovery. Often there is a trigger and there are no specific organic causes found. It is supposedly one of the phenomena of collective or group behaviours - well known in incidents such as the Salem witch hunts, where illness among young women was attributed to witches' curses leading to a hunt for the perpetrator, sometimes to the death. Even "Beatlemania", which saw girl fans screaming and fainting in their hundreds, has been claimed as an example of mass hysteria.

The history of mass hysteria, however, is a deeply controversial one. Even the naming of it now sounds pejorative - hysteria having been a term given over to any illness supposedly connected with any of the female neuroses.

In 1955, in the UK, Royal Free Disease was ascribed to more than 300 nurses who were working in the Royal Free Hospital in London. They complained of paralysis which, in the majority, improved; but many were left with symptoms of fatigue. Two psychiatrists, McEvedy and Beard, wrote a description of events for the British Medical Journal and described it as mass hysteria. Since then, the history of mass hysteria is divisive. Some say that it is all, somehow, "in the mind"; others say that there may yet be an agent - infective or chemical - that could cause such symptoms, but it is still to be found.

In addition, mass hysteria is a diagnosis of exclusion - meaning that there is no test to diagnose it with certainty. Rather it means that other causes - such as chemical poisoning, or viral infections - have to be excluded as a potential cause first of all.

There have been many episodes of a similar nature. In Hollinwell in 1980, almost 300 Nottinghamshire children who were competing in a brass band competition in a field, collapsed and were taken to hospital. At the time there was little explanation as to why the children may have become so suddenly unwell, and, in the absence of a better explanation, it was thought to have been the product of mass hysteria.

However, one chemical, tridemorph, had been sprayed on crops nearby where the competition had been held, just days before the incident. There has since been some suspicion that the exposure to chemicals may have contributed towards the feelings of illness that the children experienced - all of whom subsequently recovered.

In 1992, in the USA, 196 children from an elementary school were evacuated after reports had been made that they had been exposed to an un known - and possibly toxic substance. This operation to evacuate them required more than 100 personnel - firefighters, police officers, paramedics and nurses - and, in the end, no child was diagnosed as being acutely ill.

The investigation concluded that the insecticide malathion had been used on crops 100 metres from the school, and had drifted on winds towards classrooms. The children taken to hospital, however, had no measurable exposure to the chemical, and investigators concluded that the incident was an example of mass hysteria. However, they did think that it could have been triggered by the malathion - or the stress of the emergency response.

Professor David Ray of the Institute of Neuroscience at Nottingham University has a research interest in pesticides. He says: "Smell can precipitate a strong emotional reaction that can make people ill in a subjective way, just as in the American incident in 1992, where the children could be shown not to have had any measurable exposure." Since the olfactory nerves - those concerned with smell - have deep and close neurological connections to the nausea centre, this may be at least a partial explanation.

Part of the problem in dealing with episodes like this is the deep uncertainty of knowing what you are dealing with. People in the middle of an incident need to be reassured if there is no toxin to worry about - but often that reassurance is not immediately available.

Ruth Engs, professor of applied life sciences at Indiana University, has written about the effects of mass hysteria on campus when students suddenly become ill. She writes about the importance of recognising such phenomena as they arise: "Lack of recognition of such a phenomena can lead to overextension of medical personnel, costly investigations, increased campus stress and even potential litigation." She describes how there have been incidents of mass hysteria throughout history - "hysterical contagion", where sets of symptoms occur because of alleged toxic fumes, but no toxin can be identified. She describes an incident known as the June Bug where female factory workers were affected by sickness over five days. The illness was supposedly due to a "bug bite" but, despite investigations, there was no evidence of any insect or toxin that could have caused it, and in the end it was thought to have a psychological cause.

Yet in the acute situation it can be difficult not to take people - particularly children - to hospital for assessment. It may only become clear in retrospect that there was not an organic cause for an incident. But it may be very hard to give people in the middle of a stressful incident clear reassurance that there is no problem.

Dr David Enoch, a psychiatrist and expert on psychiatric syndromes, is the author of Uncommon Psychiatric Syndromes. "There are two major phenomena that can explain these kind of incidents," he says. "One is a mass hysteria, the other is folie à deux , which is a shared delusion held between people. There have been many incidents like this along the years - and it is a primarily unconscious phenomena."

Enoch does not believe that such incidents are increasing. However, he does believe that we are living in an age that makes us susceptible to them. "It is an unconscious thing - but we can transfer tension and stresses into physical symptoms. We are faced with situations of terror. We see things on TV, and we should be aware that there might be more awareness of such experiences," - but not necessarily more experiences themselves.

While on one level these incidents are fascinating, they must be deeply frightening and disturbing for the individuals involved and their families. They invite endless speculation as to the cause - yet what is needed most by those affected is reassurance.

mass hysteria

This thread caused me to remember something that happpened in the sixties in my school.

It was in the year after I left so would be around 1966 (I think) and it made the national tv news at the time.

The school was in Lancashire, and it seemed that there was some sort of 'hysterical/sickness' type bug sweeping like wildfire through the school - it all happened during a few weeks, if my memory serves me, and I'm pretty certain it was in the summer.

It started with a few girls fainting and vomiting and doctors could find no reason for their illness - it wasn't a bug or a virus - it was eventually deemed to be psychosomatic. In the end, a couple of hundred of the girls succumbed to this mysterious ailment that left them in a shivering, crying state.

I also seem to remember that it coincided with a much publicised epidemic of polio in the town - this ailment was nothing to do with polio at all but experts thought is was a 'fear of the illness' type thing that got out of hand.

It disappeared as quickly as it appeared...
I'm not sure this fits under this category as such, please move if in wrong place.

New Yorkers still jittery when things go bang
Sat October 09, 2004 12:33 AM ET

By Carolyn Koo
NEW YORK (Reuters) - This time rumours of a car bomb in a New York City commuter tunnel came from as far afield as London, and even though they weren't true, it was enough to set New Yorkers on edge yet again.

The latest illustration of the city's jitters came on Thursday when a car exploded in Weehawken, New Jersey, near the Lincoln Tunnel which links New Jersey to midtown Manhattan, killing its owner and occupant.

Soon after the explosion, witnesses said the police had surrounded the tunnel with helicopters, sharpshooters and speedboats.

Within minutes word of the explosion had reached London's financial markets, prompting traders there to call contacts in New York to assess whether the city had suffered another attack.

A Weehawken Police Department spokesman said, "It was a tragic accident, absolutely nothing terrorist-related."

It does not "take very much to push you from relative quiescence to a point where you have a degree of anxiety in connection with renewed fears of terrorism," said Dr. Charles Goodstein, a psychiatrist, psychoanalyst and professor at the New York University School of Medicine.

Americans across the country are jumpy, but the nervousness may be more extreme in New York, which lost the World Trade Centre in the September 11 attacks three years ago and has remained on high alert for another attack ever since.

"We've been told that one should be vigilant and report anything suspicious. We were given the mandate from our leaders to exhibit this jittery state of hyper-observation," said Syracuse University pop culture professor Bob Thompson.

Since April, U.S. officials have warned that al Qaeda, the group responsible for the September 11 attacks, could be planning a large scale attack in the United States in an effort to disrupt the November 2 presidential election.

The March 11 train bombings in Madrid this year, days ahead of Spanish elections, prompted the Metropolitan Transit Authority in New York City to warn subway riders that danger could lurk anywhere.

For two years, MTA ads have proclaimed, "If you see something, say something: be suspicious of anything unattended."

The campaign was expanded recently with posters that draw on lessons learned by transport officials after meeting with Spanish authorities, according to the MTA.

However, Goodstein believes the resilience of New Yorkers will see them through.

"For the longest time, New Yorkers have lived with a state of alertness and vigilance. With 9/11 that has increased, but by and large as time goes on people are both able to be vigilant and make some kind of adaptation."

© Reuters 2004

Some friends were in New York last year and after coming out of a resturant heard a firework display celebrating the opening of a new play.

Being English they recognised the bangs for what they were but they said that the New Yorkers were visably paniced by the bangs, a lot of people just started to run, others just stood rooted to the spot terrified....
SOCIAL anxiety attacks- not what you are expecting...


I like to read about the unexplained etc, and this particularly intrigues me, and will probably do so for you too. Here are a few examples which I found in my books.

Sex and the Paranormal- Dr Paul Chambers

1)In Malay there is wide social anxiety about losing ones own penis,, known as 'koro', taken from the malay word for turtle. The man imagines his penis dissapears or withdraws into their scrotum and for a lady her breast shrink.

In Singapore 446 men and 23 women were hospitalised in one day.

2)Others in Japan and China can be fox spirits who steal your genitals.

Another example from Little Wilson and Big God (1987) tells how a scared chinese man in Kualor Lumpur who took a knife and stabbed ones own penis to stop it.

3)(Fortean Times snippet) In Nigeria, a man screamed in a bus that his penis had been stolen (there was panic that magicians were stealing them for amulets). The man grabbed a nearby passenger ad a riot was created which ended in the bus driver accidentally being shot dead by the police!

4)in 1993 there was a rumour in Chongqing in which kids started to believea big American robot was rampaging out of control and heading their way and kill anyone wearing red. (china morning post). (also similar one in houston texas).

5)In Engu, there was a rumour bout a mermaid visiting towns and schools. Some kids in school shouted they saw the mermaid walk in, and in a mad rush ended in nine being crushed to death.
Radiation Panic Sparks School Closings

Nov 12, 10:47 AM (ET)

SOFIA (Reuters) - Bulgaria moved to quell panic on Friday after rumors of a nuclear power plant accident in "a nearby country" sparked school closings and a dash to pharmacies by people seeking anti-radiation remedies.

It was not clear from where the rumors originated, but media reported earlier this week of a scare concerning the Cherna Voda plant in neighboring Romania and, later, at a reactor in the Russian town of Balakovo.

Both countries denied any radiation leaks, but Bulgarians have started buying iodine and other anti-radiation remedies in scenes reminiscent of 1986, when news of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster spread across then-communist eastern Europe by word of mouth amid an initial hush-up by the region's Soviet regimes.

Bulgaria's civil defense office said it had received scores of worried inquiries.

"This whole thing has been blown way out of proportion," said Civil Defense spokeswoman Lilia Kostadinova. "We have been measuring for seven days and there has been no increase in radiation levels."

Romanian authorities have said there have been no incidents of any type at Cherna Voda, which lies near the country's Danube-river border with Bulgaria. Russian authorities have also denied any radiation leaks.

Kostadinova said her office had sent a team with Geiger counters to at least one school to calm worried administrators, and two elementary schools closed in Sofia Thursday. Media said the closures had possibly fueled fear. In the Black Sea port of Varna, people were buying large quantities of iodine, a reputed antidote to radiation exposure.

New possible mass panic event in Wales

(For those not in the know Jane Hutt, mentioned extensively in the article, is the incompetent miniseter for health in the Welsh assembly government)

'No fault' with vaccine - Hutt
Health Minister Jane Hutt has said there are no grounds for suspecting any fault with the BCG vaccine which left 13 pupils at an Aberystwyth school needing hospital treatment
One pupil Dominic Hamer, 13, from Ysgol Gyfun Penweddig, suffered a severe allergic reaction to the vaccination.

After a night in intensive care, the teenager was moved to a general ward at Bronglais Hospital on Wednesday.

Two other pupils, who were also treated overnight, were also discharged.

Another 10 students were also treated in hospital after suffering "adverse effects" to the injections.

Nearly 120 pupils at the comprehensive school were being injected with the BCG vaccine, which combats tuberculosis.

There is no reason to suspect there is a problem with the vaccination
Health Minister Jane Hutt

Ms Hutt told assembly members at Cardiff Bay: "The National Public Health Service is investigating the circumstances and the initial indications are that there are no grounds for suspecting that there is any fault with this batch of the vaccine."

The minister added that the vaccine batch had been used extensively without any reaction of the kind experienced at the Aberystwyth school.

She said that the Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Agency's initial assessment also indicated that, "this is an isolated incident and there's no reason to suspect there's a problem with the vaccine."

Ms Hutt was responding to a question on the tabled by Welsh Conservative leader in the assembly Nick Bourne.

"There are serious concerns if this batch is still being used elsewhere in Wales or in the UK," he said.


In reply, Ms Hutt said: "The vaccine has been used extensively, as you know, without any reaction of this kind...there is no reason to suspect there is a problem with the vaccination."

Ceredigion NHS Trust is also investigating and the batch of vaccine has been withdrawn.

Ysgol Penweddig's head teacher, Arwel George, said a letter had been sent to parents explaining what had happened.

"The school's deputy head was at the hospital yesterday and again this morning (Wednesday) and he (Dominic) is out of intensive care and on a general ward," he said.

"It was upsetting for us all and especially the children who knew the children who were effected.

"They were worried too and feared they would have to go to hospital.

"We sent a note to all parents on Tuesday night explaining the situation."

"The vaccination is normally routine and we've never suffered anything like this before."

Dominic was said to have had an anaphylactic shock, which is defined as a very sudden serious physical reaction caused by an allergy.

The trust has said it is working closely with the school to ensure that pupils and parents receive any information or support they require.

Individual advisory letters have also been issued to pupils.

Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2004/11/17 16:26:21 GMT


Also relivent to the case are several facts that were mentioned on the report on BBC Wales today that do not appear to have made it into the online vertion of the report, these were (bear in mind I am paraphraseing here):

The child now in intensive care (Dominic Hamer) was the first pupal effected and clearly has suffered from an extramly serious and genuine allergic reaction.

The 10 other children involved have reported flu like symptoms and headaches.

None of the 10 other children appear to be suffereing an allergic reaction from the jab (which has an apparently of 1 in a million chance of happening).

The symptoms of the 10 other children is reminicent of many people in mass panic events, notably the Japanes pokemon M.P.E. where a large number of children who did not report seisures aparently complained about flu like symptoms and headaches. These symptoms tend to apear after knolage of someone having an adverse effect to a situation they have been in, perhaps as if the condition is caused by a combination of worry and hypochondria. for example if a child heard about the lad in hospital from a vacine they had taken and was feeling slightly under the weather they may then panic that they have the same thing that the lad in hospital has. the fact that on the first day of the vacinations no one had any ill effects is quite telling, it is likely that the vacines would all have been from the same batch too (although, for this I have no cast iron evidence as those details haven't been released).
Re: New possible mass panic event in Wales

Lord_Flashheart said:
The 10 other children involved have reported flu like symptoms and headaches.

None of the 10 other children appear to be suffereing an allergic reaction from the jab (which has an apparently of 1 in a million chance of happening).

The symptoms of the 10 other children is reminicent of many people in mass panic events, notably the Japanes pokemon M.P.E. where a large number of children who did not report seisures aparently complained about flu like symptoms and headaches. These symptoms tend to apear after knolage of someone having an adverse effect to a situation they have been in, perhaps as if the condition is caused by a combination of worry and hypochondria. for example if a child heard about the lad in hospital from a vacine they had taken and was feeling slightly under the weather they may then panic that they have the same thing that the lad in hospital has. the fact that on the first day of the vacinations no one had any ill effects is quite telling, it is likely that the vacines would all have been from the same batch too (although, for this I have no cast iron evidence as those details haven't been released).

I've moved this over as it makes a lot of esens when seen in context (esp. the posts on MSI a few posts above this one).

As you point out the secondary illnesses are classic MSI symptoms.

Also the setting is one of the prime environments for this kind of thing to spread rapidly.

Thanks for spotting this - I'd be very interested in seeing how this plays out and if they are really going to diagnose mass hysteria in this case.
Re: New possible mass panic event in Wales

Lord_Flashheart said:
She said that the Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Agency's initial assessment also indicated that, "this is an isolated incident and there's no reason to suspect there's a problem with the vaccine."

Here is the MHRA's press release on this:

Aberyswyth BCG – reports of suspected anaphylaxis: Department of Health statement

BCG immunisation programme should continue as normal. It should not be suspended.

Background to issue

We are aware that a small number of children receiving BCG vaccine developed reactions in a comprehensive school in Aberyswyth yesterday (16 November). Around 120 children received BCG vaccine at Penweddig Comprehensive school. We believe 13 children were taken to hospital yesterday. Most children were discharged but three remained in hospital overnight for observation. One child remains in hospital with suspected anaphylaxis. The other children are reported to have experienced hysteria or panic attacks.

We know the batch number involved is lot number 103068A (diluent lot 399404A). We know that this batch was used the previous day and there had been no problems. The immunisation session in the school concerned was suspended following the above incident.

Action taken by MHRA

The MHRA Defective Medicines Centre is aware of this incident and have contacted the manufacturer concerned (SSI) in Denmark. SSI have received a total of six reports of suspected but unconfirmed reports of anaphylaxis for the product over the last five years. Most of these were probably anxiety/fainting. There have been no other reports received relating to the batch concerned.

The MHRA are monitoring the situation carefully and will take appropriate action if necessary. On initial assessment, they advise that there is no reason to suspect that there is a problem with the product overall or a specific batch of BCG vaccine. They are treating this issue as an isolated incident. The batch of vaccine concerned has not been withdrawn.

Health professionals are reminded that they should submit a Yellow Card report to the MHRA where appropriate (http://www.yellowcard.gov.uk).

Department of Health advice

Anaphylaxis following immunisation is rare (0.65 to 3 per million doses) i, ii, and is not a batch specific issue. It is related to the individual's response to immunisation.

We advise that the BCG immunisation programme should continue as normal. It should not be suspended.
Contacts for further information

Immunisation enquiries
Loraine Gershon, Pharmacist, telephone 020-7972 1430
Arlene Reynolds, Senior Scientist, telephone 020-7972 1445

MHRA enquiries
Telephone: 020-7084 2000
[email protected]

i Bohlke et, 2003. Risk of anaphylaxis after vaccination of children and adolescents. Pediatrics 112:815-20.

ii Canadian Medical Association, 2002. In Canadian Immunisation Guide. Sixth edition. Canadian Medical Association.


I'd also be interested to see if the news of this causes "symptoms" to spread as I assume we are in the middle of BCG injection season.
Stench Forces Mass. School to Shut Down

Dec 8, 9:14 PM (ET)

PEMBROKE, Mass. (AP) - A mysterious odor that's making some students sick has forced town officials to close Bryantville Elementary School until they can figure out what's causing the stench.

The school, which received a $15 million renovation two years ago, was shut down by the Board of Health after a unanimous vote on Monday.

A smell of burnt rubber was first detected in early November after the cafeteria ceiling was painted with a sealant intended to prevent mold growth.

Tests to determine the source of the smell are scheduled for Thursday. In the meantime, town officials are coming up with alternative plans to educate roughly 570 students in grades K-6.

Some parents said the town overreacted to a few complaints from parents who said the smell was making their children sick. Air quality tests have indicated the school is safe.

"I'm upset my son's education is being interrupted," said Terry Finnegan, a Bryantville parent and chairwoman of the school's facilities committee.

"We wanted to err on the side of safety," said Lisa Spellmeyer, one of three Board of Health members.

Preceding the New Delhi Monkey Man by about 20 years was the Hoboken Monkey Man. I can't find much of it on the net. The panic must have been on a much smaller scale. The article was written in 1997:
Rumors had been circulating throughout the Hoboken school system during the month of October, 1982 about a mysterious ape-like creature that came to be known as the "Hoboken Monkey-Man."

This half-man, half-beast Monkey-Man was accused of terrorizing school hallways, attacking children walking home, throwing students out of windows and even killing a teacher.

The Hoboken police department, upset with the disturbing rumors that lasted over two weeks, set up a task force to inform the students as to the true facts (or non-facts) behind the scare. The Public Safety Council was called in to help quell the hysteria that pervaded throughout the community.

"There is no Monkey-man, no students or children missing," said one official from the Public Safety Council. "We went looking for him, he wasn't even in the streets. How do you stop a rumor that's growing like wildfire?"
Edit: Adjusted and underlined link.
Scary footage on the news of people trying to escape from the city:

Tsunami rumour sparks Chile panic

Thousands of panicking people in southern Chile have fled their homes after a false tsunami alarm.

One woman died of a heart attack and others were wounded as they tried to flee coastal areas near the towns of Conception and Talcahuano.

The exodus began as reports that fishermen had spotted apparent signs of an impending tsunami spread through the densely populated area.

Several hours after the alert, some people still stayed in the hills.

The rumours came in the wake of December's tsunami, which killed more than 160,000 in southern and south-east Asia.

'Bad joke'

Some 12,000 people live in the area, about 500km (350 miles) south of the capital, Santiago.

The panic began early on Monday, after local fisherman said the sea had retreated in just a few minutes - a phenomenon that could herald a tsunami.

Local television later aired images of people running to higher ground, while some others tried to make an escape by cars.

A 68-year-old woman died in a car, and several other people suffered bruising during the rush to safety.

Local authorities tried in vain to reassure the population, describing the alarm as "a bad joke".

One emergency worker said media coverage of the tsunami disaster in the Indian Ocean had created psychosis in Chile, which is one of the most seismically-active countries in the world.

Story from BBC NEWS:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/2/hi/a ... 183073.stm

Published: 2005/01/18 01:22:42 GMT

It's a girl, it's a lizard, it's a rumour


MUMBAI: They turned up in the thousands to see the girl who had half turned into a lizard. Nothing would convince them that it was a rumour. It's been madness for the last two days at J J Hospital at Byculla which has been besieged by curious mobs desperate to view the freak patient. Denials by harried doctors that any such patient had been admitted proved futile as the crowds continued to push their way in, scanned each ward and almost broke into the intensive care unit for heart patients.

According to a doctor at J J, the story doing the rounds is that the girl, a Pune resident, was watching television when her mother knelt down for evening prayers. The mother asked her daughter to turn off the television, but the teenager kicked the holy book, and immediately turned into a half-lizard-like creature.

No one knows how, when or where the rumour originated. One doctor said that he had been getting calls from Sunday asking for the patient, but the floodgates really opened on Tuesday. The crowds pouring in were mainly from the neighbourhood. "There were many women and youngsters," said J J Hospital and Grant Medical College dean Dr Pravin Shingare.

Almost all the personnel from the nearby J J Marg police station were on crowd-management duty at the hospital. Despite sealing most entrances and positioning police at others, the crowds could not be kept out. Genuine patients and relatives who had stepped out for medicines or food were annoyed by the ‘nakabandi'. "Everybody is being inconvenienced because of one patient," said a young boy, clearly unaware that the so-called patient was no more than a figment of someone's over-heated imagination.

'Lizard Girl' Starts Hospital Stampede

'Lizard Girl' Starts Hospital Stampede

'LIZARD GIRL' IN HOSPITAL Thousands of curious visitors have beseiged an Indian hospital to see a girl who is supposed to be half-human and half-lizard.Despite denials by doctors that a girl who had been brought in by her mother had actually turned into a lizard the crowds just kept growing. Staff and patients at the J J Hospital at Byculla tried to turn back the tide of thrill-seekers but the curious managed to get into the building and search the wards for the lizard-girl.

They were even close to breaking into the intensive care unit for heart patients.

The rumour was that the girl, from the Pune area in south west India, turned into a lizard after desecrating a holy book.

She was watching television when her mother knelt down for evening prayers.

The mother asked her daughter to turn off the television, but the teenager kicked the holy book, and turned into a half-lizard-like creature. No one knows how, when or where the rumour originated.Dr Pravin Shingare, J J Hospital and Grant Medical College dean, said that he was at first getting phone calls asking for the patient then people started turning up.He added: 'There were many women and youngsters.'Police from the nearby J J Marg station were put on alert to manage the hordes but they proved too little too late.Some patients complained about the near riot that ensued.One said: 'Everybody is being inconvenienced because of one patient.'

http://www.sky.com/skynews/article/0,,3 ... 17,00.html
Witch rumours haunt Delhi residents

[India News] New Delhi, March 24 : She is painted as mean, hungry for onions and perhaps thirsting for blood.

A witch rumoured to be on the prowl on the streets of Delhi has caused a scare among sections of people, the same who probably earlier fell for such gags as a monkey man who attacked at will, zucchinis filled with snake venom and milk-sipping Ganeshas.

The witch - some say three of them - turns up at the door and asks for onions.

"When you give her an onion, she cuts it in half and blood starts dripping. Then you die instantly," said Shanti Devi, a housemaid working in an east Delhi residential colony.

Added Saroj Chauhan, a homemaker from Rajouri Garden in west Delhi: "She is an evil soul. She can even disguise herself as someone you know."

Only a palm print in turmeric or henna on the door can ward off the evil hag, so don't be surprised at the sight of yellow handprints on houses in east, west and even upscale areas of south Delhi.

There are voices that the whole thing is political, given that the upraised palm is the symbol of the country's ruling party Congress.

But has anyone seen her? "No, we have heard it from various people," said 11-year-old Rahul, whose Mayur Vihar home has a palm print.

And now people swear she has been spotted in neighbouring towns such as Meerut and Faridabad.

The story goes that three witches escaped from Rajastan's Balaji temple when a child unwittingly pulled out the nails that had pinned them to a post! And now they are wandering in the streets of the capital.

Rumours have it that the nasty witch has claimed 100 victims already! Even natural deaths are being attributed to the unseen menace, causing phobia and some alarm among the local police.

"We are not aware of any such problem, but the police in those areas will be on the watch for any trouble," said Ranjit Narayan, joint commissioner (crime), Delhi Police.

Asked whether there had been any "incidents", Narayan chuckled. "Our men are there to protect. If they see her, they will tell her to lay off!"

But many people seriously believe the witch is bad business. Holy men sporting saffron and matted hair, who usually make house calls seeking alms, have apparently sensed the opportunity to "help" people ward off the witch for a price.

"It is all nonsense," said Sanal Edamaruku of the Indian Rationalists Association, who makes it his business to expose hoaxes and so-called supernatural phenomena that have often gripped public imagination.

"Unfortunately, people are so unquestioning and gullible. They are ready to believe anything," he remarked, referring to the mass hysteria over past rumours like the monkey man and the Ganesha idols drinking milk.

"Witch stories are interesting, but they are not real. People have to activate the critical faculties of their mind and develop some common sense."

Edamaruku said he spoke to all district police chiefs, who denied there had been any deaths caused by a witch attack.

Witch tales are not new to India, where superstition and blind belief thrive due to poverty and lack of education. There have been several instances of witches being lynched, publicly shamed or even killed on the tiniest suspicion of black magic.

--Indo-Asian News Service


See also the face-scratcher thread:
Sun Star

Supernatural beings causing jail deaths?
By Jeanette P. Malinao
Sun.Star Staff Reporter

Authorities have a medical explanation for this, but provincial inmates believe supernatural beings are causing the deaths and illnesses inside the Cebu Provincial Detention and Rehabilitation Center (CPDRC).

Gripped by fear over the “strange” incidents inside the new prison, the inmates welcomed and participated in yesterday’s mass and blessing officiated by Fr. John Llacuno, who also led prayers and rites to “exorcise” the place of bad spirits.

Some inmates believe bad spirits are roaming the facility.

Joel Monterrola, one of the inmates, said they noticed that one of them either dies or gets terribly sick after seeing a black cat, or sometimes a black dog, inside the new jail in Barangay Kalunasan, Cebu City.

“Patay jud dayun or 50-50 (You’re dead right away),” said Monterrola.

Aside from this, inmate Ricardo Olasima said there are also unexplained incidents, like an inmate waking up to find his face already distorted, although the doctor concluded his blood pressure was normal.

Another inmate also woke up and found that his neck was already in between his cell’s iron bars, said Monterrola.

“Imposible gyud kaayo, natural nangahadlok mi (It’s just impossible, so naturally we’re terrified),” Monterrola added.

Demosthenes Villariasa also narrated that at least 14 of them now have a swelling that started in their feet and eventually spread up to the waist. Many of them are no longer able to walk and are placed inside the jail’s infirmary.

“Mostly, these people who suddenly died were healthy,” he said. Guards reportedly tried to catch the cat but failed.

Capitol consultant Rory Jon Sepulveda said they have traced the black cat as coming from the neighborhood. It goes inside the jail for leftover food, as seen from the security cameras. “Manglungkab ra.”

Sepulveda said they will explain this to the inmates to allay their fears.

But the Capitol consultant, a lawyer, also admitted they are still trying to contact a technical expert who can explain strange things caught on the facilities’ security cameras.

Set on motion-detect mode, the cameras were able to capture, usually from midnight to dawn, what appears to be a white light flying from the cells and in other parts of the jail.

One video captured a light that looked like a dove, and another recording caught something that looked like a footprint moving fast on the ground. There were other similar moving lights recorded on other frames.

The dove-like light was caught near cells 56 to 58, where, guards said, several inmates got sick.

Sepulveda also disclosed that Fr. Llacuna told them the building is “cursed.” “The priest said this is not a joke, that this is serious. The facility really has some bad spirits.”

(March 17, 2005 issue)
Another report on this:

Fear envelopes jail as 4 inmates die in succession

Posted 05:12am (Mla time) April 10, 2005
Inquirer News Service

Editor's Note: Published on page A20 of the April 10, 2005 issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer

COTABATO CITY, Maguindanao, Philippines -- Fear continues to grip some 50 prisoners of the City Reformatory Center with the death of an inmate due to "cardiac arrest" on Wednesday, the fourth in less than a month.

Medical findings showed they died of heart failure but prison officials expressed doubts after tales of horror by inmates, who claimed to have witnessed and experienced the presence, in various occasions, of ghosts, a white lady, children playing, a giant creature and other eerie sights, cropped up, said city jail warden Insp. Panga Arab.

Arab said Rikki Mohammad Talilisan, 25, died while being rushed to the Cotabato Regional Medical Center.

Arab earlier sought the intervention of Islam and Catholic clerics following the death of the first three inmates prior to the observance of Holy Week.

Confirmed dead due to the so-called "cardiac pulmonary arrest" were Moki Sinsuat (March 14), Sherwin Tanghal (March 16), and Jaime Cardines (March 19), all in their early 20s.

"Before their death, they've been talking about seeing supernatural beings. Could it be that these inmates had been talking about seeing supernatural beings. Could it be that these inmates had been victims of witchcraft?" Arab asked.

Despite religious rituals aimed at driving out evil spirits, the reformatory center accounted for another puzzling death of a young inmate, jail guards commented.

Arab and the guards said they believed the presence of a huge balete tree at the jail compound could be the source of the horror stories.