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Mass Hysteria

Students get sick while watching video

ADAM LYNN; The News Tribune
Last updated: May 10th, 2005 12:48 PM

School will not be back in session today at Rogers High, a day after officials sent everyone home early when three students came down with a mysterious illness while watching a science video.

Officials still don’t know what caused the illness and want another day to continue testing for clues, said Karen Hansen, Puyallup School District spokeswoman.

Neither a fire district hazardous materials crew nor a private environmental firm hired by the district could find anything wrong in a science classroom where three students took ill Monday morning.

“That’s why we’re taking another day to investigate,” Hansen said. “We’re going to continue to test and hope school will be open Wednesday.”

Teachers, however, will report to school today. “We will be working with them outside of the affected area,” Hansen said.

The three juniors were in the same room when they got woozy, said Matt Holm, assistant chief at Central Pierce Fire & Rescue.

The first student reported feeling ill about 10 a.m. and received permission to step outside, Holm said. She later fainted, Holm said.

A few minutes later, another student reported feeling light-headed. Soon after, a third.

Authorities don’t think the trio was in cahoots to avoid class, Holm said.

“Their teacher got concerned and notified the school administration, which called the sheriff’s office,” he said.

The three students were taken to Good Samaritan Hospital in Puyallup as a precaution, he said.

The scare first prompted school officials to evacuate all students to the gymnasium then to send all students home for the day, Hansen said.

“We decided to err on the side of caution,” she said.

A Central Pierce hazardous materials crews inspected the room but found nothing amiss, Holm said.

The district then hired a private environmental firm to test air quality in the school, Hansen said.

Would love to know what the 'science video' was. I remember being shown a video of childbirth in my high school health class and I wasn't the only one who was suddenly far from well.
Mass hysteria is an interesting phenomenon, and you have to wonder if you too may one day be affected without realizing it. An interesting subset of the mass-illness phenomenon is the celebrity cults. I am constantly amazed by the lemming-like behaviour of the people who leave cuddly animals on celebrities' graves, send get-well-cards to famous people who don't know them, buy certain cars because their favourite whoevers have them, etc.

In Australia right now (and I notice in the British press as well), there is breast cancer hysteria because Kylie Minogue has been diagnosed with it. Every day, women are diagnosed with cancer and have to undergo surgery or other treatment, but people are only interested when someone pretty and famous is involved. If only people showed as much interest and compassion to the fat middle-aged nobodies! Now everyone is on the breast cancer bandwagon and having their mammograms done (a good side effect).

Back to the hysterical illness issue, years ago when I lived in Vancouver BC Canada, there was a moth spraying program planned to eradicate a rather serious gypsy moth invasion. There was a test run of the planes over the city to see how the actual spraying would go, and there were quite a few phone calls to the health department and newspapers from people saying that they had been made ill by the spray that hadn't been sprayed yet! There had been a lot of protests about the proposed spraying (not without reason) and I think a few people went overboard and made themselves genuinely ill just from the hysteria. When the spraying actually happened a few days later, I don't remember any reports of anyone having ill effects.

I think I want to call this kind of phenomenon the 'me too syndrome' or 'look at ME-itis'. All those people not wanting to be left out of the latest whatever.
The Kylie/breast cancer thing is normal. We don't notice the women who get diagnosed with breast cancer every day, but when a celebrity gets it...

Particularly one who's breasts we've seen. They're national monuments.

I notice Dannii is back in town to lend support, and maybe some left over breast tissue.

Another example of this kind of thing (not sure whether it strictly matches the mass hysteria thing) is the Band-Aid campaign (currently undergoing a revival from the 20th anniversary). For a couple of years, the charity everyone was paying attention to was hunger in Africa. Then, they shifted to the next cause celebre, meanwhile the famine in Ethiopia and Eastern Africa didn't go away. we just stopped paying attention.
My flatmate recounted an interesting, hysteria-related (probably?) tale:

He went to visit his American ex-girlfriend - before she was ex- - last year, and her mother told him that not only were people terrified of Kruschev during the Cold War, but she continues to have nightmares about him to this day.

I don't know how true that is for 'ordinary' Americans (needless to say this didn't really sound normal to me.)

I'm pretty sure if you asked how many Russians were frightened of Roosevelt, well... they probably didn't have nightmares about him.
Not sure of the date of this but it was popping on Google News as being recent:

Girls' school closed after pupils started acting like cats

Source : Moneyplans.net Archives

An Indian girls' school has been closed down after its students fell ill and reportedly began behaving like cats.

Teachers at the school in Dolagobind in Orissa said at least a dozen students have suffered the mystery illness.

All of them started fainting and, after waking up, started behaving like cats, reports Asian News International.

The affected girls, aged eight to 12, clawed their own faces and shrieked like cats after the fainting spells.

The management called witch doctors to remove the 'evil spirits' but said they had no option but to shut down the school when the abnormal behaviour persisted.

School headmistress Manjubala Pande told the news agency: "First three girls fell down when they came to school. We thought they hadn't had food so we gave them something to eat but after that also they were not normal and behaved strangely.

"Next day again some six-seven girls started crying, fell down on the floor making sounds like that of a cat. We immediately informed others in the village but after the faintings and behaviour were repeated we were forced to shut the school".

The affected children have been since shifted to an ashram or hermitage run by a local saint where they are being made to recite Hindu religious hymns and undergo fire rituals to drive the spirits away.

It is reported parents of the affected students said the children had shown some improvement but were unable to recall exactly what had happened.

http://archives.moneyplans.net/frontend ... -9042.html
Leaferne said:
Would love to know what the 'science video' was. I remember being shown a video of childbirth in my high school health class and I wasn't the only one who was suddenly far from well.
I remember my sister having to go home after seeing a video with snakes in (she's pretty scared of them, to the extent of having panic attacks at hosepipes on bad days). <conjecture mode> I wonder if something like that were to spread, it might be the root of this kind of hysteria - like someone having an extreme emotional reaction to something, and this being picked up by others around them.
It could be a kind of psychic contagion, or even transmitted by smells (?!) like some trees apparently communicate, when something starts munching on them, and all the others make their leaves bitter. </conjecture>
Show that sparked a riot

This might be more suitable for a dedicated War of the Worlds/Ghostwatch etc. media panic thread, but I couldn't find one. Anyway...

From BBC's Newswatch

the BBC interrupted an academic lecture from Oxford to announce that rioters were gathering in Trafalgar Square.

Then in a series of progressively dramatic announcements, complete with sound effects, the BBC reported that the transport minister had been hanged from a lamppost, the Savoy Hotel destroyed and Big Ben blown up.


Women fainted, mayors dusted off their emergency plans and one angry listener called the Admiralty and demanded that the Navy be dispatched up the Thames to quell the riot.

It was of course all a spoof - the first of its kind to be broadcast- and was the work of a colourful Oxford Catholic priest and crime novelist, Father Ronald Knox.

Fascinating. I'd never heard of this one before. There's going to be a documentary about this on Radio 4 on Thursday. See here for details.
Monday, October 31, 2005

Evil spirits descend in Banga school

By Aquiles Zonio

CLASSES were suspended for two days in a Catholic-run school in Norala town, South Cotabato after several students collapsed Monday morning after reportedly being possessed by evil spirits.

Fear gripped the students and school officials after 18 female students collapsed one after the other while the mass was ongoing.

Magdalena Aperocho, school principal, told reporters the unusual incident has been going on in Notre Dame of Norala for about three weeks already.

But she said last Monday's incident was the worst.

This prompted her to suspend classes until Tuesday to give time to religious leaders in the area to hold a prayer and bless every school building.

Aperocho on Monday called up a priest to say mass inside the school after one student collapsed.

But while the mass was going on, several others were also reportedly possessed.

Several religious leaders then from other sects troop to the school and held an ecumenical prayer to drive away bad spirits.

The principal claimed that other victims were shouting "Leave me alone. I'm not going with you!"

One schoolteacher took photographs of the victims using a cellular phone with built-in camera.

Mario Castin, who finished his secondary course from the same school in 1974, told reporters the incident was first of its kind in the history of the school.

Castin's youngest daughter was among the 18 female students possessed by the evil spirits.

(October 31, 2005 issue)

www.sunstar.com.ph/static/gen/2005/10/3 ... chool.html
Evil Spirit Terrorises School

New Era (Windhoek)
November 17, 2005
Posted to the web November 17, 2005

By Emma Kakololo

A PARANORMAL figure, a poltergeist, allegedly resurfaced for the umpteenth time at Mumbwenge Combined School, five kilometres from Oshigambo in the Ohangwena Region, tormenting 40 learners.

The mysterious and extremely sinister image, as described by learners, carries a garden fork and it is with this fork that it presses them down to the ground trying to tie them up and to kill them.

The voices of children screaming could be heard in the background when New Era called the school principal, Helena Makili, amidst the unfolding drama yesterday afternoon after three o'clock.

"They are shouting, 'Satan leave our school, let us free, the whole school and our teachers, we want to learn,'" was Makili's reply to the journalist's query about the importunate noise in the background.

"This whole thing started on July 8, this year. The children say they see something approaching them, carrying a garden fork and rope trying to tie them up and the learners start beating back, shouting 'Satan leave us alone, we want to learn.' Some of the learners collapse and lie down motionless as if they are in a trance," she stated.

She said prayers from local church leaders are not helpful and appears to make the "beast" furious and powerful according to the principal.

"We called in pastors from Elcin Church, they came four times to our school to pray, and after that the situation has been growing and the number of children attacked by this beast has increased.

After that, we contacted the Universal Church in Oluno, they were here on Saturday, but the situation is still on."

Yesterday, Jesus Centre in Ondangwa was called in for prayer.

"They prayed and prayed and after the prayer, the children started shouting again, but some of them collapsed and they are lying on the ground as we speak. But we are more worried about those we sent home when the thing started - what might happen to them on their way home."

"What we are seeing here is children collapsing and shouting, 'Satan you are jealous of us we were sent here by our parents to study, why won't you leave us alone'," said a staggered Pastor Matthew Iyambo yesterday.

"According to my analysis, those who recovered say a human was tormenting them, pressing them down with a garden fork, kicking them. Some of them are praying, some swearing.

"One thing that I noticed is that they can hear us. One learner was wearing shoes and when the teacher asked her to remove them she did."

Iyambo suspects witchcraft at the school.

"We have just arrived at the school now but so far, I'm suspecting witch-craft."

My suggestion is that the education sector must reconsider Bible teaching at school.

When you reject God, then you are inviting Satan. There are only two kingdoms, God's and Satan's. The devil has seen a hole and now he is tormenting learners.

This only started after the rejection of Bible teaching at schools."

"She is just lying there calling her Lord Jesus Christ and crying," said a disheartened parent Taimi Eliaser, mother of Ndapandula Uyumba, a Grade 3 learner.

Eliaser is calling upon Government to go to the school together with the media and get the "oshiluli" (ghost) out of his hiding place and take pictures of it.

"We want to see where this thing is hiding and attacking our children. We want Government to assist us,' she said.

Copyright © 2005 New Era.

Ghost phobia creates panic

Chronicle News Service

Khandwa, Jan 5 Now-a-days the news about ghosts are in circulation in the district. It had its impact in village Revada where the students of a school had to be shifted to another building. Earlier to this the news about ghosts were coming from village Dhuma or from the remote areas of Jagdalpur. In a fresh incident, in Khandwa, the students are facing the problem of ghost.

There is widespread fear among the villagers and the students due to fear of ghost in Revada. For the last ten days the residents live in awe and fear.

It is said that 7 students had become unconscious after seeing the ghost. When the students regained their consciousness, they informed that there is a ghost at the tamarind tree. The students said that the ghost calls them and in fear they lose consciousness. With a view to ward off the evil spirits, the parents of all the 128 students have tied strings in their wards hands.

Moreover at the door of the school also the villagers had tied the string. To save their children from fear of ghost the villagers have changed the place. A member of Parents-teachers Association, Dheeraj Singh Thakur said that the students were taken to the doctor but to no avail.

There was no alternative but to change the place. Headmaster Ratan Singh Darbar said that the school has been shifted to Swaraj Bhawan from Dec 31. The villagers are performing various rituals at the Bhairon temple and a big programmes is planned to protect the villagers from bad effect of ghost.

Whereas Dr Ojha of PHC, Chichgohan says that due to confusion a child may have become unconscious and rumours could have confused the children. A camp for removing the doubts of the villagers regarding the ghost would soon be organised. Child specialist Dr Sharad Agrawal terms the fear as "serial conversion reaction".

This has traces of the Salem witch trails about it:

Monday, January 23, 2006 - Web posted at 7:02:30 GMT

'Fiendish' events continue to plague village in North


PEOPLE at the village of Ombalamumbwenge near Oshigambo in the Ohangwena Region say demons are still terrorising children at the local school, despite the prayers of several religious groups and the intervention of a witchdoctor.

During one cleansing ceremony, one of the affected children named some villagers, including a teacher and some schoolchildren, as the people responsible for sending demons to affect them.

This has caused division in the village, and the people named by the girl have been attacked by schoolchildren, says school principal Helena Makili.

Some parents even want to remove their children from the school.

The problems started in July, when pupils reported seeing supernatural beings and started to scream and faint.

Makili said she reported the phenomenon to the school board, Police, and the Regional Education Office.

When it was reported in the media, several religious organisations came forward to pray and try to chase away the 'demons'.

But their efforts were to no avail.

During the prayer sessions, schoolchildren again fainted or attacked others in a trancelike state, Makili said.

During one such session, one girl shouted out the names of people she claimed were bewitching them.

The teacher, pupils and other community members named by the girl have complained to the Police, the local school inspector and the Regional Education Office.

Regional Education Director Josia Udjombala, his deputy, Martha Shikalakuti-Immanuel, and Ondobe Circuit Inspector Likius Nakamwe visited the school last week and held meetings with the principal and school board.

Udjombala criticised the principal.

He accused her of allowing disorder at her school and not disciplining pupils who beat up their schoolmates.

He also berated her for allowing witchdoctors to become involved in school matters.

Udjombala appealed to the community to guard against witchcraft and superstition.

"Nothing good but poor performances by our children will come from a situation such as the one prevailing at our school, and I repeat my call on teachers, learners and the community to desist from bringing unscientific and controversial practices like witchcraft into schools," Udjombala said.

He also urged the community only to allow churches at the school that really have the interests of the children at heart, and not "those which want to advertise themselves".

The Education Director said if the situation did not return to normal in the next two weeks, he would have no option but to close the school and send the children to other schools.

www.namibian.com.na/2006/January/nation ... 9A113.html
Mighty_Emperor said:
Students get sick while watching video

ADAM LYNN; The News Tribune
Last updated: May 10th, 2005 12:48 PM

School will not be back in session today at Rogers High, a day after officials sent everyone home early when three students came down with a mysterious illness while watching a science video.


The mysterious illness can be identified. It's called "bunking off".
I can't believe I never thought of this when I was a kid.

"mum, I've got a poorly tummy" what the hell was I thinking, it should have been; "mum, the devil's out to get me and he's waiting at school. infact, he'll always be there so unless you want me spit roasted in hell..."

It's quite a thing to have a school closed down because kids say there are demons there. In Britain, kids just burn the place down.
Mighty_Emperor said:
This has traces of the Salem witch trails about it:

Monday, January 23, 2006 - Web posted at 7:02:30 GMT

'Fiendish' events continue to plague village in North


PEOPLE at the village of Ombalamumbwenge near Oshigambo in the Ohangwena Region say demons are still terrorising children at the local school, despite the prayers of several religious groups and the intervention of a witchdoctor.


www.namibian.com.na/2006/January/nation ... 9A113.html

Thursday, February 9, 2006 - Web posted at 6:32:53 GMT

Head of 'bewitched' school suspended


THE principal of a school in the Ohangwena Region that made headlines last year because of claims that demons were terrorising children has been suspended.

The regional Director of Education, Josia Udjombala, told The Namibian yesterday that the principal of Mumbwenge Combined School, Helena Makili, was suspended without pay on Monday.

During Makili's suspension, there will be an investigation into allegations that her actions had caused chaos at the school and endangered the lives of people.

Rumours that 'demons' were terrorising pupils at the school surfaced in July last year.

Pupils reported seeing supernatural beings and started to scream and faint.

After the happenings were reported in the media, several religious organisations volunteered to visit the school to pray and try to chase away the 'demons'.

On January 19 this year, Education Director Udjombala and other regional education officials visited the school to investigate.

In a meeting with the principal and school board, it was revealed that some of the 'bewitched' pupils had named other children, a teacher and community members as responsible for sending demons to torment them.

This had led to division in the community and some of the people named by the children were assaulted.

During the meeting, Udjombala was also informed that a witchdoctor had been called to the school to offer his services.

Udjombala accused principal Makili of allowing disorder at the school and not disciplining pupils who assaulted their schoolmates.

He also berated Makili for allowing witchdoctors to become involved in school matters and appealed to the community to guard against witchcraft and superstition.

Udjombala told the meeting that if the situation did not return to normal soon, he would have no option but to close the school and send the children to other schools.

www.namibian.com.na/2006/February/natio ... 48537.html

Thursday, February 23, 2006 - Web posted at 7:54:14 GMT

'Demon-tormented' school calms down


THE emotional turmoil at the Mumbwenge Combined School in the North, where children claimed to be terrorised by demons last year, seems to have simmered down.

Regional Education Director Josia Udjombala told The Namibian that the situation might return to normal with the help of psychologists from the Oshakati State Hospital.

He said the psychologists had already visited the school and he was waiting for their findings and recommendations.

Some pupils still have fainting spells, but the community now seems to be taking it in their stride.

"I was told from the school that those pupils who are still collapsing, do so only at the end of periods and not in the middle of the periods as in the past, an indication that the situation might return to normal now," Udjombala said.

According to the acting school principal, Magnaem Shiimi, some pupils still scream and faint, and claim to be seeing supernatural beings, but the teachers and other pupils are not as frightened of the phenomenon as before.

She said no religious groups were coming to the school in an attempt to exorcise the 'demons' anymore.

Shiimi has been acting as principal since Udjombala suspended principal Helena Makili on January 6 to allow an investigation into allegations that she had caused chaos at the school and endangered the lives of people.

Makili has been accused of allowing witchdoctors to come to the school and get involved in school matters - something that is not allowed.

Udjombala also accused Makili of allowing disorder at the school and not disciplining pupils who assaulted their schoolmates.

Some teachers, parents and children were not happy with the Director's decision and demonstrated at his Ondangwa office, demanding Makili's immediate reinstatement.

However, after Udjombala explained the reasons for the suspension, children returned to school.

www.namibian.com.na/2006/February/natio ... 0DBD2.html
A real odd one along the lines of the green underpant creature:

‘Three-headed’ woman stalks Navi Mumbai psyche

Samod Sarngan
Thursday, February 23, 2006 23:18 IST

Believe it or not, residents of Kopar Khairane have been seized with the terror of a three-headed woman stalking the neighbourhood with supernatural powers. The fear felt by residents of sectors 2, 5, 6 and 8 is so intense that people are marking their doors with names of Lord Ram and three crosses to ward off the ‘monster’.

Though description of the woman varies, there seems to be a consensus that she has three heads, visits at night to prey on infants and small children, mimics voices with worrisome accuracy and death is instantaneous if anybody looked in the eye. Lanes and streets which used to buzz till late in the night look deserted with residents avoiding to venture out, apprehensive of meeting the devil. Residents of chawls behind the RF Naik College have stopped sleeping out in the open for the past one week. “People used to sleep out but once the scare seized them, no one dares,” said 40-year-old Shobha Pingle.

Even though Pingle readily dismisses it as rumour-mongering, she is not willing to take chances and has scribbled “Ram” and three multiplication signs on her door. The rumours only seem to be thickening in the air. “She knocked at my friend’s house two days ago between 2 and 4 am,” said 14-year-old Deepak Gupta, a resident of Sector 2.

“No one opened the door to invite death,” Gupta’s friend Tanmay chipped in. “I heard she comes through the backdoor, so I keep away from it and do not open it after dark,” said another Kopar Khairane resident Tejaswini Nimbalkar, 16.

Reacting to the reports, deputy commissioner of police Amar Jadhav said, “It is pure rumour-mongering.” He advised people to stop paying heed to scare stories. “Anyone found spreading rumours would be dealt with seriously,” he said, adding that the police were maintaining strict vigil to counter the rumours and ensure law and order.


Ghostly vigil for three-headed woman!

PHILIP VARGHESE | Monday, February 27, 2006 11:11:29 IST

An Afternoon Team does night bandobast with Turbhe policemen to look for a supernatural being that has spread fear in Khopar Khairane..

Khopar Khairane in Navi Mumbai these nights resembles a ghost town. Rumours of a three-headed woman of supernatural powers, who brings death to anybody who meets and looks at her, have been keeping people shivering indoors. The woman is reported to be stalking the streets of Sectors 2, 5 and 8 of this township searching for prey. Infants and children are supposed to be on her death list. Till now, there is not a single instance of anybody being done in by the three-headed woman. Nor of a sighting of the sinister figure. But the story of her doing the rounds of the housing colony is enough to keep several thousand residents behind closed doors. And not just closed and barricaded doors, but doors on which superstitious residents have invoked the name of God to keep the evil spirit away. “Shree Ram” has been hastily scribbled on several doors. Others have while chalk crosses. Fear has indeed gripped Khopar Khairane in a big way. The three-headed woman supposedly comes calling and knocking on doors between 2 and 4 in the morning.

This reporter and photographer, commending their souls to God, arrived at the sleepy Khopar Khairane Railway Station a little before 2 a.m. on Saturday to check out the rumour. Jayant Prajapati, the lone autorickshaw driver outside the station, rolled his eyes in fear when told our destination was Sector 2. "Of course, I know about the three-headed woman,” he declared emphatically. “And while I don't believe she exists, I do believe in the existence of ghosts. So I don't want to venture in that area at odd hours. People say that if you look into the three-headed woman’s eyes, death is a certainty." We managed to persuade him to drive us to the Turbhe Police Station, instead. Earlier that day, DCP Amar Jadhav of Navi Mumbai had told us, "Someone is spreading these rumours. Our policemen are patrolling the area and if we find whoever is responsible for it, that persons will be seriously dealt with."

At the police station, ACP Nandkumar Chaugule (a former gutsy and flamboyant Mumbai policeman) sat dealing with the issue. He too said, "These are just rumours that people are spreading about a three-headed woman. Our policemen are out. I haven't visited the supposedly haunted areas myself. I don't feel that's necessary because no one has seen the woman as yet." However, he was cooperative enough to send us out with a team of four policemen to survey the ghost town for ourselves. At that part of the night, Khopar Khairane looked eerie. Not a soul moved around, not a leaf stirred on the trees, only a dog howled hauntingly in the distance. One of the constables remarked, "Earlier, when we used to patrol this area, there were people sleeping on the footpaths. But now with this rumour, people have stopped doing that."

We drove past a chawl opposite the R. K Naik College over there, where almost all the doors of the two-storey buildings had 'Shree Ram' and three crosses written on them with 'chunna'. On the policemen’s urging, we daringly knocked on a door whose nameplate said the resident was “Prakash Desai”. What this late night call must have done to the people indoors we cannot even begin to think, but a quavering voice answered, “Kaun chahiye? Yahan koi nahin hai!” The policemen spoke up. But Prakash Desai was clearly not assured. Thethree-headed woman is said to mimic voices to gain entry into people’s homes. The door to Prakash Desai’s place not even open a crack. A little further, there was some life. A milk vendor preparing for his crack of dawn deliveries in Khopar Khairane. Dharmu Singh, this braveheart, laughed when asked about the three-headed woman, “I have to be awake from 2 a.m. every day to get delivery of the milk. I have not come across the three-headed woman yet and cannot shut shop for fear of her."

By 3.30 a.m., we set foot in Sector 8, which was said to be the most haunted of the areas in Khopar Khairane. A lonely coolie walked with bowed head on the tarred road of this beautiful complex, the gleaming and bright street lights throwing his shadow ahead and behind him. The policemen pointed out that even the watchmen of the five-storey buildings in the complex had left their posts for fear of the three-headed woman. The coolie, Pandurang Maske, said he worked at the CST Railway Station. "I get up at 3 a.m. to leave for CST by the first train. I have to walk through these roads at this odd hour. But I haven't seen the three-headed woman. Perhaps somebody is playing a prank, but I am grateful I have been spared,” he said with a glance over his shoulder. At 4 a.m. the milk vans rolled in and Khopar Khairane came awake. Men and women in assorted nightwear came out to take delivery of their milk pouches. Other office-goers stepped out to take the early trains to their workplaces. But we noticed, they stuck to small groups of fours and fives. Nobody was taking chances.

And an interesting one - is mass hysteria being used as a smokescreen?

Poison in the air

When a sinister illness hit schoolchildren and their teachers in war-torn Chechnya in December, doctors were convinced it was a case of poisoning. Then the government came up with its own diagnosis - mass hysteria. Is there an official cover-up going on? Anna Politkovskaya reports

Wednesday March 1, 2006
The Guardian

Awar has been raging in the north Caucasian Republic of Chechnya in the Russian Federation since November 1994. Over the years, officials in Moscow have given the war various names. Sometimes it is called "putting the region in order"; since the beginning of the international "anti-terrorist" era, it has become a "counter-terrorist operation". But it is never called a war, despite the fact that an estimated 70,000-200,000 Russian military personnel are conducting operations as if on enemy territory. The civilian population has taken the brunt of the military impact. For the past 12 years, those living and working in Chechnya have been aware that federal forces were testing new types of weapons. The story of what happened in the Shelkovsk district is simply the biggest such case.

In December last year, there were reports of mass poisonings at schools in the Shelkovsk region. Just before new year, a government commission published its official verdict: there was no need to worry - there were no poisonings, it was mass psychosis due to stress. But did anyone in Chechnya believe these explanations?

On a bed by a wall in room one of Shelkovsk regional hospital a young woman called Sina is having a seizure. Her face is white, then yellow, then bright red; her brother unclenches her teeth with a spoon in order to pull out her tongue while her mother lies on top of her to control the spasms. The girl is now bent in an impossible arch, her heels touching the back of her head.

It is January 6, a third week has gone by, and there is no improvement in her condition. Aset (Sina) Magamshapieva is not a pupil at the school where most of the victims came from. A 20-year-old student teacher, she had gone there for some teaching practice. An elderly nurse arrives with a syringe. The fit has lasted 15 minutes already. The nurse is alone, taking care of 40 patients, and has just been dealing with Marina Tereshchenko in a neighbouring room. Marina has been suffering from similar seizures.

What is in the syringe? "Analgin [an analgesic] and dimedrol [a sedative]," she sighs. But that can't really help, can it? "We don't have anything else," she says. "What can we treat them with? Analgin will at least take the pain away from the spasms, and dimedrol will quieten them down, let them sleep after the fits ..."

Rabadan Ahmethanovich Rabadanov, deputy chief of therapeutics, arrives. He looks at Aset sadly. A sedative is introduced into a vein, and soon tears start to flow down her cheeks. It is the 47th minute of the seizure. Though the girl sees and hears no one, she noticeably starts breathing again. "Tears mean that the seizure is passing," says her mother.

How often do such fits occur? "Three to four times a day. We almost broke her teeth to keep her from swallowing her tongue," her mother says. "I'm in such torment, and she's exhausted by all the fits ... If they could just find out what they were poisoned with, even if they don't tell anyone, just tell us how to treat it ... How long are they going to keep this up?"

Vaha Dardayevich Ehselayev, chief physician at the hospital, is sitting in his office. "We are the doctors who were with these victims from the start," he says, "and we will not change our diagnosis - an intoxication of unknown aetiology. How could it be hysterics or mass psychosis?" A tired Rabadanov enters. Together with Dr Jamilya Halilovna Aliyeva, he was the first to be called to the school in the village of Starogladovsk on December 16 after reports of children collapsing unconscious. "Every child had psycho-motor excitation, hallucinations and some kind of strange laughter," Rabadanov recalls. "Severe spasms. Nothing seemed to help. We gave sedatives and anti-convulsives. But the spasms just kept repeating. I am certain that such a number of children could never enter a state of psycho-motor excitation simply from hysterics. It was some kind of agent. If these were merely hysterical fits, as the commission says, then they would be easy to isolate."

Ehselayev interrupts: "I think that if this was a mass psychosis spread by rumours and the media, then the first to react would have been the 80-plus schizophrenics and as many epileptics we have in the region. But they had no such reaction. We checked. I believe that there is a poisonous agent in the victims' schools. But the political situation is such that it has to be denied. We don't know what the agent was. We don't have the resources to find out." At the hospital there is not a single computer and no internet access; none of the doctors who encountered this unprecedented phenomenon could put out an SOS on the web.

So what next? "We don't know. A dead end." What are they treating? "Only the symptoms. If there are spasms we give an anti-convulsive. If there is pain we give an analgesic. But the fits continue. We have requested, and continue to request, some kind of a treatment plan. But no one is rushing to bring us one. The commissions from Moscow and Grozny were here and told the patients, 'Don't fake.' But how could they? We were alone with them. The agent acting on them is some kind of toxic substance which makes the nervous system hypersensitive. The fits can be summoned by the creak of a door or the rustle of a packet. This doesn't fit any known disease picture."

The relatives of the victims, just like the majority of the local inhabitants, are sure that the source of the infection was the women's toilet in the Starogladovsk school. All the victims at one time or another were there. It was clear that whoever went to the toilet had the most serious symptoms, while those who were nearby had fewer. The doctors insist it is a toxic substance, most likely a solid, but capable of propagation in a gas wave, one that loses its potency in direct proportion to the distance from the source. The same picture is repeated in the Shelkovsk and Shelkozavodsk schools.

The strict localisation of the sick people by school, time and place is the determining detail in this picture of a massive disease outbreak. At Shelkozavodsk, for example, only those who were on the school building's first floor became ill. Those who did not come to school that day are still healthy.

It all began on December 7, when 13-year-old Taisa Minkailova, a pupil at the Starogladovsk school, started suffering attacks of asphyxia, spasms, a severe headache and numbness in her extremities. Her parents took her to the hospital in Kizlyar, in Dagestan, but the treatments there had no effect and her condition deteriorated. On December 9, two high-school seniors from the same school were taken to hospital in Grozny suffering from the same symptoms.

The peak of hospitalisations occurred on December 16, when 19 children and three adults from Starogladovsk were taken to the Shelkovsk hospital. The doctors observed multiple cases of unconsciousness, comatose states, seizures, weakness, amnesia and asphyxia of increasing severity, as well as numbness of the extremities and chills. The children complained of sharp pains in their eyes and dry mucous membranes. It was clear this was a poisoning, and the source was the school. On December 16, a government commission was set up, with V Boriskina, the Chechen president's deputy chief of staff, as its chairman. Military specialists and chemical defence officers were called in. Medicines were offered by the International Red Cross and Médecins Sans Frontières.

And then came the turning point. A memorandum from a military specialist with the results from the trips to Starogladovsk and Shelkovsk landed on the commission chairman's table. Within two days investigators would remove it from circulation, although we obtained a copy. It reports, "The source of the poisoning was located in the main school building, presumably on the second floor [where the ill teachers were working]. The primary route of intoxication could be the respiratory tract, though direct contact is not ruled out. The aggregate state of the toxic substance was probably a liquid or solid, which, under the effects of the environment, could separate into poisonous vapours. It is not possible to determine accurately the form of the toxic substance from only one clinical picture [the victims' symptomology]. Recommended: in order to clarify what the toxic substance was, conduct toxicological testing of the victims and have this examined by toxicology specialists with the necessary equipment and reagents."

After December 17, the commission took an abrupt change of direction, to a psychological-psychiatric diagnosis, disregarding the fact that cases of poisoning continued to appear. On December 19, pupils were brought in from the middle schools of the villages of Kobi, Shelkozavodsk and Shelkovsk. Up to 17 cases of asphyxia were observed. Several were extreme, and comatose. On December 20, all the schools in the Shelkovsk region were closed and the republic's attorney general initiated a criminal investigation.

Then, on December 21, official reports suddenly appeared that "the mass media are totally to blame": the seizures had allegedly increased and new cases showed up in proportion to the number of subjects shown on television. On December 22, the chief narcologist of the Chechen Republic, psychiatrist Musa Dalsayev, gave his diagnosis: there was no poisoning, it was a "pseudo-asthmatic syndrome of a psychogenic nature". Or a "psychological self-infection". Dalsayev assembled the parents and accused the sick children of faking, and their mothers of indulging them. He claimed that the fits were just for show and that if there were no spectators, then the seizures ceased. He called the victims' mothers "renters" - mercenaries who try to prolong their children's diseases to get compensation. (There has been no request from the victims' families for any material assistance.)

On December 23, a further 81 cases were recorded, provoking panic in the Shelkovsk district. No one believed Dalsayev or the commission, which had delivered its conclusions: "i) No evidence of chemical poisoning; ii) No potentially dangerous objects were revealed on the school premises; iii) Final diagnosis: dissociative (conversional) disorders - dissociative disorders of movement and sensation, dissociative disorders of motor activity, dissociative spasms; iv) The commission has come to the conclusion that there was an outbreak of mass hysteria in the Shelkovsk region related to the prolonged emergency situation in the Chechen Republic."

On December 25, the hospitals started to discharge the first victims. On December 26, the country's chief public health officer, Gennady Onishchenko, visited Chechnya and declared that there were no alarming or health-threatening phenomena. Two days later, President Alu Alhanov confirmed this success by travelling to Moscow to report to President Putin that it was all a mass psychosis. He then handed him reports on how much money would be needed in the short term for a grandiose building to overcome any new mass psychoses. On December 31, a group of 17 children and three adults - the most seriously ill - were sent out of sight to the Salyut children's sanatorium in Zheleznovodsk.

Others have not been so lucky. There is not enough room for the rest. Those such as Aset Magamshapieva and Marina Tereshchenko are victims of official lies, sidelined, since they are unable to be discharged "correctly". They are ordered to be forgotten as malingerers.

This is not an isolated incident. At Shelkovsk district central hospital, Aliyeva recalls a similar, though less severe, outbreak in the autumn. "On September 23, 19 children and one teacher were brought from Staroshchedrinskaya village with similar symptoms. We saw the same strange laughter, hallucinations - it was a frightening sight."

Ehselayev says: "The results went for analysis at the legal medical expert's office. There, they acknowledged that the children were poisoned by carbon monoxide. How on earth did that happen during a heatwave, when the stoves had not been fired up? We raised a stink, but everything came to a halt."

Ehselayev thinks the results of analysis are "political", just like the conclusion by the commission on the December poisonings. So what happened in Staroshchedrinskaya? "The same as now: poisoning by an unknown chemical substance. It is being tested on our children."

Halid Dudayev, the head of Staroshchedrinskaya middle school, is also convinced of this: "Until September 23 I had been demanding that criminal proceedings and an investigation be undertaken. On October 23, I received a rejection for instituting proceedings, due to the 'absence of a crime being committed'. That day, there was a second mass poisoning. Eight of our children were affected. Since then they have not been seriously examined and they have difficulty studying."

Abzo Shamilov, the father of one of the victims, says, "My daughter, Seda, constantly has high blood pressure. She's always ill. We can't do anything. Before the autumn, she was never ill. She now has nosebleeds, constant headaches, her hands and feet are cold. What are we to do?"

Similar symptoms of poisoning occurred in 2000, when on July 26, in the outskirts of the Stariye Atagi settlement of the Grozny farming region, two faint explosions were heard and a silvery-violet, tulip-shaped column of smoke appeared, rising to 150m. The column formed a cloud which hung over the outskirts of the village.

An epidemiological report concluded: "A day after the explosions, the first cases occurred showing signs of poisoning: powerful tonic spasms, loss of consciousness, aggressive agitation, inhibited movement, uncontrollable vomiting, severe headaches, sensation of fear and, in some, haemoptysis [coughing up blood]."

There are differences, however. The tragedy in Stariye Atagi led to three deaths out of 23 cases, with death occurring within about two days. The investigation concluded that "the poisoning of inhabitants of Stariye Atagi was caused by a chemical compound of obscure aetiology, excluding any infectious cause for the outbreak".

It is now 2006. Behind us are 11 years of war with short breaks for clearing mines and unexploded shells. So many war crimes have been committed that the tribunals are scared of setting about analysing these atrocities. But the ideology remains: as before, people who have the misfortune to live in Chechnya are seen as biomaterial for experiments.

The authorities have tried to distance themselves by taking a group of the most seriously ill for a month to a medical academy clinic in Stavropol, the largest city in southern Russia. What happened there has been kept secret. During treatment, none of the patients was told which medicines were being injected into them or what the results of the analysis were. On discharge, the case notes contained not a single record of the nature of the treatments administered.

In the Shelkovsk district, the schools where people were poisoned are closed; the parents refuse to allow healthy children to go back there and insist that the premises are detoxified and that the victims' diagnoses be made public. The authorities maintain that nothing unusual has happening.

· This is an edited version of an article that first appeared in the Novaya Gazeta newspaper

More on that African school:

Ondonga Leaders Visit 'Demon' School

The Namibian (Windhoek)

March 2, 2006
Posted to the web March 2, 2006

Oswald Shivute

THE King of Ondonga, Immanuel Kauluma Elifas, on Monday sent a delegation from his Traditional Council to Ombalayamumbwenge village near Oshigambo in the Ohangwena Region to meet residents and study the phenomenon of fainting children who claim they are terrorised by 'demons'.

However, before the meeting could start, children who gathered with their parents and teachers under a tree at the school started screaming and fainting.

When they got up again, they started attacking parents and fellow students.

"We cannot have a meeting under such conditions and we have to go back to report to the King what we have seen.

This is terrible ...

no one can believe this.

This is terrible," said the Chairman of the Ondonga Traditional Authority, Senior Traditional Councillor Peter Kauluma.

The delegation then met behind closed doors with the School Committee and were briefed on the situation by the acting school principal, Magnaem Shiimi.

The meeting was also attended by the suspended principal, Helana Makili.

She was suspended by the Regional Education Director, Josia Udjombala, for allegedly allowing disorder - not being able to stop the fainting spells - at the school.

Spiritual leaders from the Body of Christ Church, led by pastor Isidor Mundla, are now at Mumbwenge Combined School, praying for the children.

Many parents were disappointed with the delegation's visit.

"We thought they, as traditional leaders, would have brought something traditional to fight the demons traditionally, but they came empty handed.

They are not traditionally armed as we thought they would be when they come to visit this place overpowered by the demons," one resident said.

"We know there are strong people in traditional matters, sciences in the Ondonga traditional community, and we thought the King would send those people to Ombalayamumbwenge village to fight these demons.

"We have given up hope because our children still continue seeing supernatural beings and start screaming and fainting during classes and also at their homes," said Sylvia Johannes.

"They haven't come to solve the problem, but rather to make it bigger.

How can you expect from a traditional leader to come to assist you in traditional matters, but he comes empty handed?" Johannes said.

The Education Director said he had asked the Oshakati State Hospital to send psychologists to the school.

Earlier, Udjombala said the situation had improved slightly.

However, everybody who was at the school on Monday felt the situation had not changed.

'Death calls' rumour sweeps Orissa

Posted Wednesday, March 29, 2006 at 12:58
Updated Wednesday, March 29, 2006 at 15:16

New Delhi: About two years back, the state of Uttar Pradesh was abuzz with a new urban legend - muhnochwa, a face-scratching creature.

Scores of people in the state reported being attacked by a strange and brightly-lit flying object that apparently left scratch marks on their faces.

A few months after it began, the muhnochwa seemed to disappear as mysteriously as it had appeared.

Now, there is a new scare in India - calls from mobile phones that kill or make people sick.

People in the eastern state of Orissa are switching off their phones after rumours of the "devil calls" swept the state on Sunday.

The rumour in the state is that the receiver of an SMS or a phone call from an 11- to 14-digit numbers, instead of the regular 10, will fall sick or even die.

Though phone companies have said the rumour was baseless and looked more like a prank, people in Orissa have been calling up their relatives and friends in other states to warn them.

A state government spokesman has also dismissed the story as rubbish. "We investigated and found out that no one was dead nor anybody taken ill. It was all rubbish," the spokesman said.

A mobile phone user in Bhubaneswar said he had received a call early Monday that flashed an eleven-digit number. The caller warned him to switch off his mobile.

"The caller told me if I continue to receive calls on my cell I could be receiving (a) virus that could blow up my phone. Interestingly, when I called back the number, the service provider voice said no such number exists. I simply switched off the set," he said.

May 4, 2006

Mass fits among school girls reported

VIENTIANE, Laos (AP) - Villagers believe it was the work of evil spirits, a psychologist says it may have been shock but authorities are still uncertain what caused 36 high school girls to suffer simultaneous fits, a newspaper said Thursday.

A high school in the central province of Bolikhamsay reported that on April 25 a girl began shaking uncontrollably in her classroom. On seeing her, 21 others began to exhibit similar symptoms, while the next day 14 more girls were similarly affected as they were walking into the school, according to the Vientiane Times.

An ambulance was called to the school and several girls were taken to the provincial hospital, where authorities could not establish the cause of the fits. The school was closed for the rest of the week, and monks were brought in to bless it "to get rid of evil spirits, as local residents believed that spirits were the cause of the strange phenomenon," the newspaper said.

Dr. Sisouk Vongphachan, head of mental health at Vientiane's Mahosot Hospital, was quoted as saying that the fits could have resulted from stress and that some girls might have fallen into a state of shock when they saw the condition of their friends.

The doctor said he had seen five similar cases among garment factory workers.

http://cnews.canoe.ca/CNEWS/WeirdNews/2 ... 35-ap.html
Telling the truth to the terrified

Mass hysteria

Telling the truth to the terrified

May 18th 2006
From The Economist print edition

Knowing that anxiety causes the same symptoms as poisoning could help in a biochemical attack

LAST December a mysterious illness broke out in a school in the Shelkovsk region of Chechnya. Symptoms included convulsions, nausea and breathing difficulties. The illness spread to neighbouring schools. Local doctors suspected mass poisoning, but when a delegation of medics arrived from Moscow, they attributed it to mass hysteria.

Chechnya has been the scene of Russian military operations since 1994, so understandably those affected have little faith in the official verdict. Meanwhile, without knowing the nature of the suspected toxin, local doctors are at a loss as to how to treat their patients. The only way to break the impasse, public health experts say, is to send in an investigating team from outside the former Soviet block—one that the Chechens will trust. If mass hysteria is to blame, they say, the truth is the best medicine.

Zsuzsanna Jakab is director of the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control in Stockholm but, in 1996, she worked for the World Health Organisation and helped to investigate an outbreak of illness in Macedonia. It affected schoolchildren in the mainly Albanian district of Tetovo. Dr Jakab received reports from Albanian representatives of mass poisoning, which were denied by the Macedonian authorities. She led a team consisting of a paediatrician, an epidemiologist, a toxicologist and a clinical expert. They spent a couple of weeks in the region, taking samples that were sent to laboratories outside the country for analysis, reviewing the hospital's case reports, interviewing affected families and searching for possible environmental contaminants.

The team found no evidence of poisoning, and concluded that the illness was probably caused by stress resulting from high political tensions in Tetovo. Its report was rejected both by the Albanians, who continued to stick to the poisoning theory, and by the Macedonians, who denied that a climate of fear existed in the region. Nevertheless, after the team returned to explain its findings to the families, reports of symptoms gradually subsided. Dr Jakab says that a region where conspiracy theories and fear abound is a prime breeding ground for mass hysteria. In a war zone, allegations that a toxic agent has been deployed cannot be dismissed—indeed they need more urgent investigation, she says.

A familiar problem
Mass hysteria, or medically unexplained epidemic illness, has been documented since medieval times. Simon Wessely, a director of the King's Centre for Military Health Research at King's College London, says such outbreaks tend to reflect a society's beliefs. In the past witchcraft or demonic possession were often blamed—they still are in some societies. In today's industrialised world, environmental contamination is more likely to be invoked. In 2001, after al-Qaeda's attacks on America, Dr Wessely predicted more of these outbreaks, because of the heightened risk of terrorism and, in particular, bioterrorism. The later anthrax attack, which killed five people, was second only to the assault on the twin towers in terms of the shock and anxiety it caused the American people.

Dr Wessely distinguishes acute episodes of mass hysteria from the chronic sort. He says that he has a huge boxful of reports of the first type, which often occur among schoolchildren and are investigated rapidly. Symptoms vanish within days, once the patients have been gently reassured that their imagined cause does not exist. When an outbreak occurs against a backdrop of social trauma, it can go on for months or longer. For an episode to become chronic, patients' beliefs that they are being poisoned must be reinforced by local physicians and media. Shelkovsk may be a case in point, he says.

Whether or not the Chechen incident turns out to be mass hysteria, the patients' symptoms are real enough. What people find hard to believe, says Dr Jakab, is that anxiety-related illness can so closely mimic illness caused by an organic cause. In 1987 thieves stole a canister containing highly radioactive caesium chloride that would have been used in radiation therapy from an abandoned hospital in Goiânia, Brazil. They sold it to a junkyard owner, exposing a number of people to high doses of radiation. Some 112,000 people were screened, and 250 of them were found to have been contaminated. Yet another 5,000 people reported vomiting, diarrhoea and rashes—all symptoms of acute radiation sickness.

Dr Jakab says medical staff need to realise that the cause of these symptoms is anxiety so that patients can be treated accordingly. The World Health Organisation now has instructions describing what to do. Being told to stop faking it is unlikely to speed patients along the road to recovery. Instead, they should be removed from the stressful environment and persuaded that nothing is poisoning them except their own worries. People also need to be educated about the real risks of bioterrorism, says Dr Wessely. Ignorance breeds fear. The danger is that medical and social services will be overwhelmed, as they were in Brazil, and so take longer to identify the real victims of the incident. That, he says, is why biochemical warfare is really psychological warfare.

http://www.economist.com/science/displa ... id=6941729
Namibia: Calm Returns to School Terrorised By 'Demons'

The Namibian

The Namibian (Windhoek)

June 19, 2006
Posted to the web June 19, 2006

Oswald Shivute

CALM has returned to the Mumbwenge Combined School in the Ohangwena Region in the wake of claims that demons have terrorised the school for nearly a year.

Ohangwena Director of Education, Josia Udjombala, told The Namibian: "The school has reported to me that the big problem they had has now stopped, seemingly for ever."

Last July, some children from Mumbwenge Combined School in the Ombalamumbwenge village near Oshigambo, claimed to see supernatural beings and started screaming and fainting during classes.

Various church organisations visited the school to pray for its pupils, their parents and teachers.

Ondonga King Immanuel Kauluma Elifas sent senior members of his Traditional Council to familiarise themselves with the situation and reported back to him.

The school also called in the help of traditional healers, a practice that led to the suspension of the school Principal, Helena Makili, on January 6.

According to Udjombala, Makili's suspension had been necessary because of investigations into allegations that Makili's actions had caused chaos and endangered the lives of people at the school.

She had allowed witchdoctors to come to the school and become involved in school matters, something that was not permitted at schools, Udjombala said.

He also charged that Makili allegedly failed to discipline pupils who assaulted their schoolmates during and after the fainting spells.

Udjombala and teachers appointed teacher Magnaem Shiimi as acting Principal until the investigation was completed.

Udjombala told The Namibian that the investigation into Makili's case had been completed and recommendations made by the Disciplinary Committee had been submitted to the Public Service Commission and the Office of the Prime Minister for their final decision.

The Namibian spoke to parents of children attending classes at Mumbwenge Combined School, most of who wanted Makili to be reinstated.

"We are happy that demons are no more at the school, but we are appealing to our Director of Education to reinstate our principal again," said one of the parents who did not want to be named.

Copyright © 2006 The Namibian.

Re: Spring heeled ghostly rapist?

Mighty_Emperor said:
Spirit stalks women, town fleshes out tales

‘‘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.


apologies if someone else has already mentioned this, but does this sound like spring-heeled jack to anyone else? wonder if we'll hear next that he breathes blue flames at them (whatever happened to spring-heeled jack?)
Messalina~ said:
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....

westminster council tried to ban fireworks last guy fawkes night cos people might think the bangs were bombs - pretty ironic for a celebration of parliament NOT being blown up...

and anyone who hears bangs on fireworks night and assumes its a bomb is an idiot ;)
Mighty_Emperor said:
Students get sick while watching video

ADAM LYNN; The News Tribune
Last updated: May 10th, 2005 12:48 PM

School will not be back in session today at Rogers High, a day after officials sent everyone home early when three students came down with a mysterious illness while watching a science video.



anyone seen 'The Ring'...... :lol:
Mass hysteria forces evacuation of school
Michael Horsnell

A specialist science college was evacuated yesterday after a film on human biology apparently sparked mass hysteria.
More than 30 pupils, aged from 11 to 13, as well as a teaching assistant were taken to hospital after three children initially told teachers that they were feeling unwell.

As other children, mostly from Year 7, at Royston High School in Barnsley, South Yorkshire, joined the sick list, staff reported a domino effect. When the entire class began feeling faint and nauseous, they called in the emergency services, fearing a gas leak.

All students and staff were assembled in the hall and sports hall before it was decided, on the advice of paramedics, that everyone at the 627-pupil school should be removed.

Eventually 32 pupils were taken by ambulance and patient transfer vehicles to Barnsley District Hospital for check-ups, as emergency services monitored the school. A hospital spokesman said: “The children were brought into our emergency department. We checked their blood pressure, pulse and blood sugar levels. I have never come across anything like this before.”

Two hours after the evacuation the all-clear was given and lessons for the older children unaffected by the scare resumed as normal after the lunch break.

Kay Jenkins, the head teacher, said: “I must emphasise that no children were ever in danger because of the fast, effective, co-ordinated response from the school and the joint emergency services.”

She said that no gas leak had been found and that there were no experiments taking place in the science laboratory at the time. “We are still unsure about what happened, but a group of 30 students were watching a human biology video which is regularly shown in a science class,” she said. “It is about the human body and how it works and no blood is shown on the screen.

“Three children asked to leave and came down to the medical room feeling a bit queasy. Then another couple came down and at that point, as a few pupils were showing similar symptoms. We contacted the ambulance service and on the advice of the emergency services the school was evacuated as a precaution.

“The police and fire services searched the building while the paramedics stayed with us to see it through. We evacuated the school because there was a lot of upset.”

All the children were discharged within four hours of arrival at hospital. Many were picked up by anxious parents.

The incident was the latest of several ascribed to mass hysteria.

Almost 300 children in Holinwell, Nottinghamshire, collapsed and were taken to hospital while competing in a brass band competition in a field in 1980.

But the biggest outbreak was in 1955 when 300 nurses at the Royal Free Hospital in London complained of paralysis.

Psychiatrists wrote a description of events for the British Medical Journal and described it as mass hysteria.

But since then, the history of mass hysteria has become divisive. Some claim it to be all in the mind while others assert that there may yet be an agent, infective or chemical, that could cause such symptoms.

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/newspaper/ ... 12,00.html
Hysteria Is All in Your Head
By Gisela Telis
ScienceNOW Daily News
12 December 2006

Three neuroscientists have news for Freud-bashers everywhere: hysteria may not be imaginary after all. A study in this week's issue of Neurology adds to a growing body of evidence that real cerebral dysfunction lies behind the mythic malady--and that distractions may offer a way around it.
Hysteria involves symptoms ranging from paralysis to seizures that doctors can't trace to an underlying medical problem. Because its sufferers have typically been women, the disease was once dismissed as fakery and even witchcraft. To escape its charged history, the American Psychiatric Association in 1980 began using the term "sensory conversion disorder," after Freud's theory that hysterical patients convert their mental distress into physical suffering. With the advent of new imaging technologies, however, researchers started to conduct novel studies on the subject, scanning the brains of hysterical patients in search of a brain-based cause for the disorder--with conflicting results. Studies that involved stimulating either the afflicted or the unafflicted appendage turned up evidence of cerebral dysfunction. But studies that stimulated both appendages at once found no such evidence, and concluded that there was no brain basis for hysterical symptoms.

In hopes of making sense of these conflicting findings, neuropsychiatrist Omar Ghaffar and his colleagues at the Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre in Toronto, Canada, decided to repeat these experiments--this time using advanced functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). The researchers recruited three women with sensory conversion disorder and used vibrations to stimulate both numb and feeling body parts. As in the previous experiments, the women had no cerebral response when only the numb appendage was stimulated, but they did show an fMRI response in the appropriate brain region when the numb appendage was stimulated in tandem with a feeling appendage.

Ghaffer says that these results confirm that "hysteria" is indeed a true physiological disorder and may explain the differing findings of previous studies. Patients really can't feel their "numb" appendages--as evinced by fMRI, he says, but distracting them with stimulation elsewhere on the body somehow helps them overcome this neurological block. As a result, distraction may prove a useful therapy for the disorder.

Stanford neuropsychiatrist and conversion disorder expert Jose Maldonado notes he would have liked to see more patients included in the study, but he says it is a step in the right direction. "Any study that allows us to find ... an organic explanation for these unexplained symptoms is a good one."

http://sciencenow.sciencemag.org/cgi/co ... 006/1212/3
Rather than lose this in the current general "examples of mass hysteria" thread, I thought this would be an interesting topic on it's own.

First, let me quote the current Wikipedia article:
Collective hysteria, or mass hysteria, is the sociopsychological phenomenon of the manifestation of the same hysterical symptoms by more than one person. It may begin when a group witnesses an individual becoming hysterical during a traumatic or extremely stressful event. A potential symptom is group nausea, in which a person becoming violently ill triggers a similar reaction in other group members.

Examples include certain cases of rioting and frenzy, and accidents in which people act "irrationally" (screaming, running in the wrong direction, attacking scapegoats, etc.).

Writer Jerome Clark—while recognizing that mass panic can undoubtedly be genuine and widespread—argues that mass hysteria can be "a classic blame-the-victim strategy" in cases where authorities or experts can find no explanation for puzzling or frightening events. It can also manifest in situations where there is a problem that is endangering their society, but the people want to find a scapegoat and take out their frustrations out on him/her/them (often fatally to the scapegoat) instead of looking for the cause of the problem and potentially finding themselves to be guilty.

Depending on one's personal beliefs, the phenomenon can also be theorized to be described in certain religious contexts.

I was already thinking along the lines of the above highlighted passage about Clark's position, and it made me wonder if there has ever been a scientific creation of mass hysteria under laboratory conditions proving that such a thing exists.

I'm not even saying that anything paranormal has to be at the bottom of any of the kinds of events that are usually dismissed by "mass hysteria", but it seems like there is a curious lack of actual documented evidence for it's existance (though I'd be interested if some does exist out there).