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Top 10 Bizarre Cases of Mass Hysteria

Jamie Frater . . . Comments

Mass hysteria is the common term used to describe a situation in which various people all suffer from similar hysterical symptoms – either from a phantom illness or an inexplicable event. This list looks at ten of the most well known cases of Mass Hysteria – from the past and present.


Mumbai Sweet Water


The 2006 Mumbai “sweet” seawater incident was a phenomenon during which residents of Mumbai claimed that the water at Mahim Creek, one of the most polluted creeks in India that receives thousands of tonnes of raw sewage and industrial waste every day, had suddenly turned “sweet”. Within hours, residents of Gujarat claimed that seawater at Teethal beach had turned sweet as well. In the aftermath of the incidents, local authorities feared the possibility of a severe outbreak of water-borne diseases, such as gastroenteritis. The Maharashtra Pollution Control Board had warned people not to drink the water, but despite this many people had collected it in bottles, even as plastic and rubbish had drifted by on the current. By 2pm the following day, the devotees said that the water was salty again.


Tanganyika laughter epidemic

 1535800 School300Bbc.Jpg

The Tanganyika laughter epidemic of 1962 was an outbreak of mass hysteria, believed to have occurred in or near the village of Kashasha on the western coast of Lake Victoria in the modern nation of Tanzania near the border of Kenya. It is possible that, at the start of the incident, a joke was told in a boarding school, and that this joke triggered a small group of students to start laughing. The laughter perpetuated itself, far transcending its original cause. The school from which the epidemic sprang was shut down; the children and parents transmitted it to the surrounding area. Other schools, Kashasha itself, and another village, comprising thousands of people, were all affected to some degree. Six to eighteen months after it started, the phenomenon died off. The following symptoms were reported on an equally massive scale as the reports of the laughter itself: pain, fainting, respiratory problems, rashes, and attacks of crying.


Hindu Milk Miracle


The Hindu milk miracle was a phenomenon considered by many Hindus as a miracle which occurred on September 21, 1995. Before dawn, a Hindu worshiper at a temple in south New Delhi made an offering of milk to a statue of Lord Ganesha. When a spoonful of milk from the bowl was held up to the trunk of the statue, the liquid was seen to disappear, apparently taken in by the idol. Word of the event spread quickly, and by mid-morning it was found that statues of the entire Hindu pantheon in temples all over North India were taking in milk. A small number of temples outside of India reported the effect continuing for several more days, but no further reports were made after the beginning of October. Skeptics hold the incident to be an example of mass hysteria, and when reports of the Monkey-man of New Delhi (item 3) began to appear in 2001, many newspapers harked back to the event.


June Bug Epidemic

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In 1962 a mysterious disease broke out in a dressmaking department of a US textile factory. The symptoms included numbness, nausea, dizziness, and vomiting. Word of a bug in the factory that would bite its victims and develop the above symptoms quickly spread. Soon sixty two employees developed this mysterious illness, some of whom were hospitalized. The news media reported on the case. After research by company physicians and experts from the US Public Health Service Communicable Disease Center, it was concluded that the case was one of mass hysteria. While the researchers believed some workers were bitten by the bug, anxiety was likely the cause of the symptoms. No evidence was ever found for a bug which could cause the above flu-like symptoms, nor did all workers demonstrate bites.


Soap Opera Hysteria


Morangos com Açúcar is a Portuguese youth soap opera, which is very popular in Portuguese communities, especially amongst children and teenagers, aiming to depict the adventures of typical Portuguese youths. In May, 2006, an outbreak of the “Morangos com Açúcar Virus” was reported in Portuguese schools. 300 or more students at 14 schools reported similar symptoms to those experienced by the characters in a recent episode. These included rashes, difficulty breathing, and dizziness, forcing some schools to close. The Portuguese National Institute for Medical Emergency dismissed the illness as mass hysteria. This story concerned some parents because of the major influence this series has on the kids and teens that watch, it was in newspaper and magazines articles and elsewhere.


The Toxic Lady


Gloria Ramirez was a Riverside, California, woman dubbed “the toxic lady” by the media after exposure to her body and blood had sickened several hospital workers. She was rushed to hospital in 1994 suffering from the effects of cervical cancer. The medical staff who attended to her all began to feel ill and eventually fainted. Gloria’s body exuded a garlicky and fruity smell and her blood contained flecks of a strange substance like paper. The odd thing about this case is that of those who handled Gloria’s body or treated her, more women than men suffered from the ill-effects and everyone involved had normal results in blood tests. The health department issued a statement at the conclusion of their investigation which said that those who had become sick were, in fact, suffering from mass hysteria.


The War of the Worlds


The War of the Worlds was an episode of the American radio drama anthology series Mercury Theatre on the Air. It was performed as a Halloween episode of the series on October 30, 1938 and aired over the Columbia Broadcasting System radio network. Directed and narrated by Orson Welles, the episode was an adaptation of H. G. Wells’ novel The War of the Worlds. Some listeners heard only a portion of the broadcast, and in the atmosphere of tension and anxiety leading to World War II, took it to be a news broadcast. Newspapers reported that panic ensued, people fleeing the area, others thinking they could smell poison gas or could see flashes of lightning in the distance. Some people called CBS, newspapers or the police in confusion over the realism of the news bulletins. Initially Grover’s Mill (the site of one of reports in the drama) was deserted, but crowds developed. Eventually police were sent to control the crowds. To people arriving later in the evening, the scene really did look like the events being narrated, with panicked crowds and flashing police lights streaming across the masses. There were instances of panic throughout the US as a result of the broadcast, especially in New York and New Jersey.


The Monkey Man of Delhi

Monkey Man.Jpg

In May 2001, reports began to circulate in the Indian capital New Delhi of a strange monkey-like creature that was appearing at night and attacking people. Eyewitness accounts were often inconsistent, but tended to describe the creature as about four feet (120 cm) tall, covered in thick black hair, with a metal helmet, metal claws, glowing red eyes and three buttons on its chest. Theories on the nature of the Monkey Man ranged from an avatar of a Hindu god, to an Indian version of Bigfoot, to a cyborg that could be deactivated by throwing water on the motherboard concealed under fur on its chest. Many people reported being scratched, and two (by some reports, three) people even died when they leapt from the tops of buildings or fell down stairwells in a panic caused by what they thought was the attacker. More than 15 people suffered from bruises, bites, and scratches.


Penis Panic


A penis panic is a mass hysteria event or panic in which male members of a population suddenly experience the belief that their genitals are getting smaller or disappearing entirely. Penis panics have occurred around the world, most notably in Africa and Asia. Local beliefs in many instances assert that such physical changes are often fatal. In cases where the fear of the penis being retracted is secondary to other conditions, psychological diagnosis and treatments are under development. It is becoming increasingly clear that these forms of mass hysteria are more common than previously thought. Injuries have occurred when stricken men have resorted to apparatus such as needles, hooks, fishing line, and shoe strings, to prevent the disappearance of their penises. An epidemic struck Singapore in 1967, resulting in thousands of reported cases. Government and medical officials alleviated the outbreak only by a massive campaign to reassure men of the anatomical impossibility of retraction together with a media blackout on the spread of the condition.


The Dancing Plague


The Dancing Plague of 1518 was a case of dancing mania that occurred in Strasbourg, France (then part of the Holy Roman Empire) in July 1518. Numerous people took to dancing for days without rest. The outbreak began in July 1518, when a woman, Frau Troffea, began to dance fervently in a street in Strasbourg. This lasted somewhere between four to six days. Within a week, 34 others had joined, and within a month, there were around 400 dancers. Most of these people eventually died from heart attack, stroke, or exhaustion. Historical documents, including “physician notes, cathedral sermons, local and regional chronicles, and even notes issued by the Strasbourg city council” are clear that the victims danced. It is not known why these people danced to their deaths, nor is it clear that they were dancing willfully. You can read a much more indepth article on the dancing plague here.

This article is licensed under the GFDL because it contains quotations from Wikipedia.

Contributor: JFrater

Jamie Frater

Jamie is the owner and chief-editor of Listverse. He spends his time working on the site, doing research for new lists, and collecting oddities. He is fascinated with all things historic, creepy, and bizarre.

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  • kipples

    Dancing mania ey! HAPPY PADDYS DAY!

  • Happy St Patrick’s day everyone! Sorry for the lateness of this post – I got sidetracked by an excellent film called “Taken” – I strongly recommend it for anyone who wants to see a film which doesn’t require much thinking :)

  • jajdude

    Destabled guns on the list, g – brought back bitter memories of untouched ovaries yo…

  • jajdude

    St. Rice Paddies Day here in Asia – drink the green rice and eat the white beer, meitian chi, meitian he, xie xie la~~ ^^

  • shar

    Wow. People are stupid.

    Great list though.

  • stevenh

    Great photo #2 :)

    #1 sounds like ergot poisoning. Any evidence of that possibility?

    Happy Pat Day to all.

  • Bad Hair Bear

    Weird. I had a dream the other night about a load of people dancing.. odd.

    Great list anyway :-D

    Happy St Paddy’s day to one and all :-)

  • MattNZ


  • shar

    Paddy’s day pints, anyone?

  • stevenh: ergotism (St Anthony’s Fire) is unlikely – Wikipedia mentions it in fact – with regards to this event: “However, another symptom of ergotism is loss of blood supply to the limbs, making coordinated movement like dancing difficult. For this reason, this theory is widely discounted.”

  • Yazzmino

    Haha. The milk thing is quite funny. I can see the milk dripping down the statues!
    And Taken is a great film!

  • AniH

    Hahahaha @ pic no2!

  • astraya

    The List Universe family???? (especially “Should creationism be taught in schools?”, “Should gay marriage be legal” and “Great ocean liners”) (c’mon: the definition “various people all suffer from similar hysterical symptoms” fits perfectly!)

  • maximuz04

    This is an awesome list, best in a while

  • Copaface

    I would loved to have been in #9
    Everyone just laughing, how good would that be?

    Another funny kind of mass hysteria should be a zombie attack… that would be fun too :D

  • LilyBily

    Great list. #2 made me giggle, as did the incomprehensible comments of jajdude.

  • Matt

    Super list JFrater.

    Monkey Man of Delhi – “a cyborg that could be deactivated by throwing water on the motherboard concealed under fur on its chest”. Outstanding!

  • stevenh

    @11 jfrater: hmmmm, no dancing while using LSD* according to wikipedia? I guess Jimmy Wales was not at Woodstock ;)

    *(ergotomine is used in the making of lysergic acid)

  • dor

    Indians are religious fools! ANY thing can take a religious twist & I’m not at all surprised to see they appear thrice on this list!!
    I remember how it was when the 3 events were happening.
    The idols did in fact soak up milk, & not just milk & certainly not just A particular God & definitely not only in temples. We tried it at home :) bcoz my mother wanted to try it out & the temples were super crowded!! So v took one of our idols & fed a spoonful of milk! & it disappeared!!!! Of course there is a theory somewhere that marble & other such rocks have a capacity to soak up an amount of liquid, & most of the idols are made of marble. Dont really know if that’s true. I kinda hope so.
    So finally after a few days wen the idols stopped ‘drinking’ the milk… believers started saying that the Gods had had enough & that their stomachs were full & were happy & impressed by their disciples & that they would now shower their blessings on mankind!!!
    p.s LOVE the picture for no. 2!!

  • Spocker
  • stevezio

    Global Warming should have shown up on this list.

  • chocmilkshake24

    i like the photo to #2.

  • ronsantohof

    The picture for #2 is out of line.

  • Palrão

    I was in shock when I saw #6, I’d never heard of it here (I’m from Portugal). But one thing I can guarantee is that Morangos com Açúcar is one of the worst things to ever come up on Portuguese Television, it’s like a plague and there is no end in sight (the cast keeps being replaced with new characters and I’m afraid it will go on for years and years to come…HELP US!!!!).
    Nice list.

    • Emperor42

      I actually watch it, and I like it (sorry). And I didn’t hear of this either.

  • cymraegbachgen87



  • Kris

    Isn’t religion a form of mass hysteria?

  • ash1000

    absolutely kris

  • 6twistedbiscuits

    i think global warming is a myth

  • Mendacity

    No, religion is not a form of mass hysteria.
    Also, the picture for number 2 is hilarious, well chosen!


  • DiscHuker

    great job, jayfray.

    it is weird to think that so many people could have psycho-somatic problems in such a small area with the same trigger. who can understand the human brain?

    my grandparents listened to war of the worlds and were making plans to drive to the midwest to avoid major cities. in listening to their stories, they never perceived that it was anything other than real and they definately did not think of it as a joke.

    and, no, kris, religion is not a form of mass hysteria.


    I used to work selling paint. Many times when they would go in and paint an office, most all the women would complain of sickness and nausea do to the PAINT ODOR. This happen at a time when the old oil paints were not used and the new odorless latex paints were on the market. We took a can of open paint and placed it under the desk of one of the most vocal complainers and it remained there most of the day. Nary a word was said. When the office manager came in and reached under her desk and showed her the open can of paint, she damned near fainted with embarassment.


  • SuperHero3

    Truly Bizarre

  • Twinkle

    Jfrater! i just watched Taken and I swear it was really awesome, i have a weakness for movies like that AND men like that. anyways, cool list.

    i wish a mass hysteria would happen in my university right now i’m sick and tired of all the requirements for graduation.

  • Callie

    very very interesting stuff. Didn’t know you could laugh yourself into a rash.

  • DiscHuker

    oh yeah. taken is a great movie. that man is one of the baddest men ever. when he asked that guy “you don’t remember me do you?” me and my wife almost fell out of our chairs. his balls must drag the ground.

  • Twinkle

    omg… i just read the news that the wife of liam neeson (actor in taken) just suffered a severe brain injury! :(

  • Kalyan

    dor: Indians are religious fools!

    We don’t kill in the name of religion. Use cash to convert people from other religions to ours. Don’t conduct crusades to occupy other people’s lands. So, the title of religious fools don’t apply to Indians.

    The “milk drinking God” episode was funny & stupid but it didn’t take any lives.

  • Kalyan

    jFrater: You got the picture wrong on the milk-episode. As i remember the incident, milk was given mostly to LORD GANESHA – THE ELEPHANT HEADED GOD and the son of Lord Shiva (the God in the picture/Video).

    You can search the web for a pic of Lord Ganesha being given milk

  • Galford

    lol at No.2! i live in Singapore lor, and golly, didnt know something like that happened in my country before i was born. Haha, wonder if my parents knew anything about it. :P

  • The_Snowdog

    I would have to say that in America in my opinion the last presidential election brought the mass hysteria of “Obamamania”

    Alas, unfortunately, this hysteria is still going on. Hopefully, in 4 years the American people will wake up and realize that instead of Obama holy water we are lapping up it really is Jim Jones Kool Aid and we’ll get him and his leftist Socialist agenda out of office.

  • AmazingThor

    I can’t find an article through googling, but I seem to recall an incendent in the US where people were finding strange dents in their windshields and it spread all over the state. There were theories ranging from gang activity, satanic cults to aliens. It turns out that most windshields eventually get smalls dents in them from weather, rocks, etc. and it’s just that a couple of reports came in at once and that caused everyone to go out and inspect their cars thoroughly.

  • AmazingThor

    Also I don’t know as Obama will bring about a socialist society, but I agree about Obamamania. People started worhsipping the guy like he was Jesus. My only problem with it was that he hadn’t DONE anything yet. Wait four years and if everything gets better then we can make a hero out of this guy but people were acting like he’d already saved the economy and stopped global when he’d barely been a senator for two years.

  • Bob

    Y2K was all about mass hysteria.

  • stevezio

    I don’t know if Y2K was mass hysteria but I do know it created a economic boom and allot of work was done to upgrade very out of date hardware and software.

  • silvernano

    #2 what a great pic!

  • w00tz

    Great list! Nice picture for number 2… :P

    Jajude, make a little bit more sense :P

  • cymraegbachgen87

    Seriously, is it only in america that obama ISNT seen as a good thing?

  • cymraegbachgen87

    #28. 6twistedbiscuits – March 17th, 2009 at 5:00 am

    i think global warming is a myth

    ….rolling eyes smiley ;)

  • DiscHuker

    obamamania is wearing off a little for those that are paying attention. it is being replaced with broke-ass-country mania.

  • logar

    The Penis Panic. What a clever way to trick females into sexual acts. I’ll set the scene:

    Logar: “Oh my God, I think my penis is disappearing!”

    Female: “Let me see…. Hmmm…It doesn’t look like it. Are you sure?”

    Logar: “Absolutely. You need to help me. I’m begging you. It’s a medical necessity!”

    Female: “Oh my! What can I do!!!”

    Logar: “I think it needs to be incubated. Or some sort of ‘ated'”

    …End scene. I think we now know what caused the great penis panic of ’67. Probably started in some dorm room in Singapore, and spread because it’s such a good idea.

  • A wonderful list Jamie!
    Pic # 2 was was used in a former list about (if I recall) Medical Mysteries or Medical Misnomers…something like that. It was funny then, it’s funny now.
    I remember learning in grammar school, parochial school, that the events leading to the Salem witch trials were cases of Mass Hysteria stemming originally from the misbehavior of a few young girls.

  • joe rosson

    What about the Salem witch hysteria?

  • Nicosia

    The_Snowdog- Haha! I am immune to Obamamania! Although, I think the laughter epidemic could be kinda fun!

  • joe rosson

    Obamamania? I voted for him but I am not obsessed, I believe that perhaps the reason for “Obamamania” is because people where so relieved to get Bush and Dick(darth vader)Cheney and the rest of their “conservative” crap the hell out of office finally.

  • Vespoidea

    strange, i was reading someting on hysteria just a few days ago, about a ‘poltergeist break out’ at a school in malaysia. One group of girls claimed they had seen some ghosts and all of a sudden lots of students reported seeing them over the period of about a week or so. the school ended up getting closed down for a few days, lots of out of state students were sent home. once only male students were left being taught the hysteria died down.
    if anyones interested heres the link:

  • 52. joe rosson: read the post DIRECTLY ABOVE YOURS.

  • Mom424

    Excellent job Jamie. The whole shrinking penis hysteria would be a ton more entertaining if it wasn’t for the fact that innocent people are being murdered as a result. Someone who looks a little different or behaves a little odd must be casting the spell causing the penis shrinking. A sure fire cure? Killing the person with the “evil eye”.

  • Steelman

    Pretty soon, we’ll all be looking to get rid of Obama and “all his liberal crap” as well. It’s already happening 60 days into his administration. You can definitely make a case for the mass hysteria of Obamamania.

  • Becca

    So, people were laughing in hysterics for half a year at least? Why have I never heard of that until today?

  • simuun

    26 – Kris

    You realise your name derives from Christopher, which pretty much means “carrier of christ”.

    Seems your own parents were caught up in that same mass hysteria you claim is religion when they named you!

    • Meh. Could be Cristina. But either way that’s his or her parents not him or her. Stupid neutral sounding names!

  • meetoo731


  • amitabh

    what dor calls as foolishness we call it faith
    you call indians fools on basis of a point in the list .
    India’s population is 1,147,xxx,xxx .
    Almost 80% are hindus the rest are muslims,christians,sikhs,jains,buddhists,paris etc.
    so there are lots of people of every faith.
    So are we all fools or just us hindus??

  • Sharki

    I remember the Monkey Man of New Delhi. It got so big it made international news.

  • Tsiamon

    Great list. What sources did you use for number 1? I take a particular interest in unexplained phenomena throughout history and that in particular seems to fit the bill. Especially the idea that they were perhaps unwilling dancers.

  • smurff

    Thanks JF an excellent list – as I predicted in the last list,we seem to be getting a curve towards the bizzare again, and I was right.
    Well done thanks !

  • dor

    @ Kalyan & Amitabh: I’m sorry if I hurt your feelings. I myself am an Indian & I am born Hindu in a family of Brahmins! Maybe i should have mentioned that earlier! If you notice I did not take the name of any religion, & I certainly DID NOT say that Indians kill in the name of religion. I did not say that Indians are criminals/terrorists.. Just that all Indians twist everything to take a religious point of view!! I understand that these are cases of mass hysteria, & that there is never any sense to it. I was just stating my take on it. & again, I am VERY sorry that I offended you.
    Kalyan: What you are talking about is not foolishness. That’s religious extremism! I don’t know what your take on foolishness is!

  • TheDeepestSilence

    What about “Spring-Heeled Jack”?
    I think that definitely qualifies for Mass-Hysteria!

  • 6twistedbiscuits

    TheDeepestSilence – what is spring heeled jack?

  • Seanette

    Re: #5 (“toxic lady”), I’m sure the doctor who wound up with hepatitis, pancreatitis, and bone rot in her knees will feel SO much better when you tell her her crippling injuries were all in her head.

  • bucslim

    Def Lepard

  • porkido

    Steelman: were you repeatedly dropped on your head as a child?

  • oouchan

    on the road..still

    Great list. I have the original broadcast to The War of the Worlds. It was very freaky to hear. I also heard that some people commited suicide because of it?

    Pic number 2 is hilarious!

  • GTT

    69. Seanette

    Yup, I was kinda surprised to the “the toxic lady” on here as I had seen various documentaries about this case. Apparently it was initially dismissed as mass hysteria but then various theories about strange chemical reactions were proposed. I think they´re still not 100% sure what exactly happened though…

  • Randall

    Spring Heeled Jack was an apparently paranormal figure in pre-Victorian and Victorian/Edwardian London who could either leap great heights, or, as some reported, fly. He attacked people–mostly women–though seemingly in an almost playful, if nevertheless frightening manner. He was said to have been chased by police on more than occasion, but was witnessed to perform inhuman leaps and move at unnatural speeds in order to escape.

    Hysteria? Maybe, but hysteria has to be caused by something. I’ve never seen a reasonable explanation for what “Jack” may have been.

  • To all of you who say they can’t get enough of the bizarre; get a copy of “The Complete Books of Charles Fort”. It is a single volume comprised of three (or four) books, made up entirely of bizarre occurrences from around the globe. You’ll find things like Spring-heeled Jack, Rains of fishes, Falls of angel-hair, all sorts of crazy stuff!
    It’s a weird wonderland.

  • 6twistedbiscuits

    randall- thanks! spring heeled jack sounds a lot like a cartoon character tho, do you think he was real?

  • shaymm

    Enjoyed the list, I really hope one day I dont get the above number two. That would be an uncomfortable experience, to say the lest

  • shamzahm

    one of the best lists ever.

  • Randall


    I have a couple of Fort’s books… “Lo!” and I forget the name of the other one… Fort was a character, for sure. I’ve also got all of Frank Edwards’ books from the 60s: Strange World, Strange People, Stranger than Science, etc. I love the entertaining weirdness of it all.

    I love this stuff.

  • Randall


    Buf Delpard.

  • RandomPrecision

    Interesting list, I’ve only heard of a few of these.

    And the picture for number 2 is perfect.

  • bucslim

    Randall – you should read what I wrote in the ‘Ocean Liner’ thread and give me a chest bump. I’m awesome.

    Now stay on topic.

  • romerozombie

    God people are dumb. I thought i lived in a civilised society.

  • Randall


    Real as in a real entity that could leap onto buildings and fly and whatnot? Well no. That’d be nuts. But then again, do stories like this just “start” as utter fiction, or do they have some sort of kernel of reality behind them, some basic tiny truth at their heart? Sometimes yes, sometimes no. Usually the nature of the stories and the circumstances surrounding them can point you in a direction to judge.

    We must never, EVER underestimate the propensity for 19th century tomfoolery, however. These people for the most part did NOT have our modern sense of “journalistic integrity” (no matter what you might think of it nowadays) and thought nothing of reporting all sorts of nonsense and whackiness as iron-clad truth. Not because they believed it, of course, but because they wished to sell papers and stir up excitement. And so the Victorian Age was definitely the age of the Great Hoax, when you had A) the height of mass media and B) at the same time a mass media not yet tuned and tamed into being responsible and sober. Rather, it was like a wild, anything goes atmosphere from whence we get all kinds of outrageous stories. Jacko, for instance, the supposed “ape” or perhaps juvenile “bigfoot” that was captured in British Columbia round about 1900. Utter farce. Or the widespread airship craze of 1880-ish to 1910. Again, almost certainly all were hoaxes (including the supposed crash of one such airship in Aurora, Texas) perpetrated by A) newsmen and/or B) local wags out to have fun for themselves. Remember, this is the time before TV, radio, and movies, and yet when people were also beginning to have relatively more leisurely lives. They were bored, and would make up almost anything for entertainment. There were a plethora of “Liars Clubs” that sprung up all over the US, Canada, and I believe Britain at this time, also. It was the age of the big talker, the yarn spinner.

    So Spring Heeled Jack? Eh. An odd sort of creature to make up–one supposes he might have been based on SOMETHING real–but what, you got me. Perhaps some older folk story that was embellished for a more modern age.

    The Loch Ness Monster on the other hand–When you look at the stories there, it seems likely that while much of it was hoaxed and/or misidentified, there was evidence for SOMETHING being in the loch at least in the 1930s. Perhaps a large seal that got lost and made the loch its home for a time. Who knows?

    All of these–Jack, Nessie, Champ, Bigfoot, airships, UFOs, etc. etc.—they’re all “jealous phenomena.” They seem to reveal themselves only to individual eyewitnesses for the most part and almost never to anyone with a camera. And when they do, the photographs or films that result are always debatable or worse, dubious. You’d think, then, that we could chalk them all up to hoax, misidentification, or hallucination…. but there’s always that little smidge of doubt about it even then. Are THAT many people really just seeing nothing, or lying, or making mistakes? Maybe most, sure… but all of them?

  • psychosurfer

    I would love to hear that joke from Tanganyika´s laughter epidemic, it must be “the mother of all jokes” and used as a military weapon.
    #1 could be the first Rave party in history?
    Great list.

  • 6twistedbiscuits

    randall – so these things start off small, like maybe spring heel jack could jump quite high and it was blown out of proportion?
    i always wondered how myths start. maybe thats how?

  • HellcatHoney

    LOL @ #50, logar that was the only comment that made me giggle.

    It’s true people are easily susceptible to mob mentalities, peer pressure, etc., etc.–the human brain is one messed up mofo.

    On a side note, there seem to be a lot of Indian readers, maybe one of you could answer a question if you know anything about A. Roy’s “God of Small Things”… I can’t figure out what level of the caste system the family belongs to, anyone know? Thanks!
    P.S. good book btw if anyone is interested in reading it :)

  • macabresoren

    When I hear “mass hysteria” the first thing I think of is Orson Welles…

  • Hemza3000

    I love how specific this location is: “near the village of Kashasha on the western coast of Lake Victoria in the modern nation of Tanzania near the border of Kenya.”

    And was I way off by thinking Y2K would be number 1 on this list?

  • Lifeschool

    Randall: Some tabloid rags still act as though they can spread any old rubbish – The Enquirer, the Daily Sport – to name but two.

    To the guy who said global warming is rubbish – it isn’t – the Earth IS warming up; but as part of it’s natural cycles. (man-made global warming stories are, well, man-made..)

    I notice nobody has mentioned the obvious one yet. 2012. If this carries on much longer, I’ll have to write a list about it :).

  • Blogball

    What about the time when the ways to commit suicide list appeared on Listverse?
    Great list by the way.

  • Handrejka

    Nice list. I’ve actually experienced ass hysteria myself, well not mass actually, more like dozen hysteria. When I was on my year abroad in Russia there was a fire in the hostel we were staying in, no one was seriously hurt but there was a lot of damage. A few months later a group of us thought we saw a fire in one of the rooms, there was smoke and flames and all sorts and we called the fire brigade. There never was a fire, we’d all had some sort of mass halucination. I’d out it down to having a flashback but of the people who saw the fire hadn’t been in the fire. I don’t know what it was but it was weird.

  • Blogball (91): hahaha! Brilliant.

    For those bemoaning the lack of Y2K – I nearly added it – so consider it item 11 :)

  • Joss

    Can’t help but think of Buffy’s Once More, With Feeling while reading #1. The toxic woman is the most interesting to me, though.

    Fantastic list!

  • Joss

    Oh, and I second stevezio’s comment.

  • TEX

    segue & Randall –
    So glad you brought up those “Strange…” books! This has been driving me mad for years.
    Back in the mid-sixties they used to pass out this little newsprint catalog selling paperback books to the kids. My older brother (clearing throat) bought everyone of them and later gave them to me (uhum).
    Best I can remember they didn’t have chapters, just a series of three or four page stories of strange occurrences, usually forty or fifty to a book. I was absolutely addicted to them. I’ve never run into anybody else that might have read them.
    You think these are the same books?

  • Mabel

    96. TEX – they did that in the Seventies too. Arrow book club. I don’t remember any Charles Fort books, but I recall that you could order Ripley’s Believe It or Not books from the little pamphlet. I used to get a little magazine called “Dynamite.” My mother threw all mine away. :( I’ve been looking for them online!!!!!!

  • TEX

    98. Mabel
    I’ve been hoping mine are around the folks house somewhere. I never threw anything away – so I keep hoping I’ll open an old box and there they’ll be.

  • timmy the dying boy

    What about Hulkamania? “What you gonna do?!?”

  • Lani

    Well it’s clear that number 1 happened because of a dancing demon––wait, something isn’t right there.

    Or it could have been bunnies.

    Also, where’s Twilight?

  • 79. Randall: Yes, Randall. I have the “Strange” books, too. They make up part of what my children always referred to as Mom’s weird stuff.

    97. TEX: That sounds a lot like how the Fort books are arranged. They are page after page of clips from old newspapers, then page after page of Fort’s take on what it all means and how it’s all connected.
    The books, if you find them separately, are:
    The Book of the Damned
    New Lands
    Wild Talents
    Like I said earlier, I found mine as an unabridged compilation of all 4 books in one volume. I usually don’t like to buy books like that, but it was that or nothing at the time. This was pre-internet.
    Anyway, well worth the read, strange and stranger.

  • 101. Lani:…Also, where’s Twilight?
    Oh, great. Now I have to kill myself.

  • Eleutheria

    This article was just cribbed from the Mass Hysteria section on Wikipedia, but I don’t care. I would never have known there was such a section had there not been the article. Interesting stuff, pity there’s not much real information in cases like these.

  • 104. Eleutheria: There’s *ton’s* of information on cases like these. I have at least 10 books on this stuff…(but then my personal library contains a couple thousand books)…if you want information on any subject, it is available to you. Finding it is called “research”.
    Do some before you slander someone else.

  • danthepaly

    what about the cow bell fever

  • ViewARandomList…

    you were in a bit of a slump there J-frate but this is a good one.

    #4 in my opinion, is easily explained that in the 30’s,the radio was the only source of live information. I cannot say that I woudn’t have headed for the mountains in that scenario.

  • BooRadley

    87. HellcatHoney
    I can’t help you out with the caste problem, I just wanted to say that I LOVED “God of Small Things!” It is an excellent book. I keep waiting for her to write another novel, but she seems to only write political theses now.

  • Klingon

    Nice list! The dancing one was pretty strange..Dance yourself to death?!They must have forgot that:
    “We can dance if we want to,We can leave your friends behind”

  • Shevonne

    That was awesome!

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  • General Tits Von Chodehoffen

    Even though you have yet to put up the death metal list, I must admit I am impressed everyday with these kick ass weird list!

  • bigski

    Give us a teaser General.

  • Jessy

    Oddly, I actually knew about several of these.

    You want mass hysteria? Toss and handful of candy into a crowd of Korean children. Watch the fireworks, but keep a doctor nearby.

  • dor

    @HellcatHoney: I havent read the book, but from what I’v read of the book, all its seems like is that the family is from an upper caste, ie, Brahmins, Kshatriyas & Vaishyas, & thats the learned, warrior & merchant class respectively.
    In the oldens days, you were what you did, so if u were a carpenter, your surname would be carpenter (in the local language). So in that sense, it seems the family are brahmins, but you cant be too sure because thankfully the caste system isnt what it used to be! So yeah! we’re back to square 1. We still dont know what the family is, but maybe after I read the book I’ll have an idea! :)

    @psychosurfer: i like that take on no. 1, but the dancing demon theory isnt so bad either!! lolz

  • sgvaibhav


  • phat jon

    it all sounds like the death ray tesla knew about went out of wack and nobody knew how to control it.

  • ligeia

    Those of you who thought number 9 would be fun, its not. I’ve had hysterical laughter (as a child a few times and once when I took acid). You can’t stop laughing even though your sides and stomach hurt and it becomes really hard to breathe. It’s actually kind of frightening.

  • Kalyan

    Dor – No issues. I would much rather have religious foolishness than fundamentalism.

    On your point – I had a professor who said: Situations create responses;
    over time response becomes activities/practice;
    over time activities becomes beliefs;
    over time beliefs becomes superstition;
    over time superstition becomes myth;

    The lower the education qualification, the faster the process. Hence i expect a lot of foolishness in Hindu practices as most followers don’t think or examine critically as to why a particular ritual needs to be practiced.

  • rolandofgilead


    “Nice list. I’ve actually experienced ass hysteria myself,”

    damn, what would ass hysteria feel like anyway?

  • meiz

    Guess all of us are in listverse mass hysteria too. Cant stop reading and commenting anything. Really great site, I love it!!

  • Randall


    They’re almost certainly the same books, or else some kind of knock-off version done by Scholastic (the publisher in the 60s and 70s–I’m not sure if they’re still around or if they still do this kind of thing) which is the company that supplied to publications like “Dynamite” and such.

  • STL Mo

    Fascinating stuff, Jamie!

    I think “celebrity” is cause for outbreaks of mass hysteria. People go absolutely bonkers over their favorite stars.

  • Julian

    Not sure if this has been mentioned already in the comments, but the War of the Worlds hysteria caused by Orson Welles was repeated on at last two occasions, with similar effects. For those interested, the two sequels, the first in Quito, Ecuador and the second in Buffalo, are chronicled on an episode of Radiolab. In Quito, the military was mobilized to deal with the alien threat, and eventually an angry mob who realized they’d been tricked set fire to the radio station broadcasting the hoax. Crazy stuff. Thanks for the list.

  • TEX

    Most definitely read Frank Edwards “Stranger Than Science” and others – if you get a second, go over to that book seller sight and read the comments concerning this title, was fascinated by others who have strong memories about them.

  • 118. Kalyan: Your last sentence seems unduly harsh.

  • 124. TEX: will find you any second-hand book you can think of, usually at the most absurdly low price (I’ve paid $1.00 for first edition hard covers). It is a time saver, too.

  • Lifeschool

    It’s still happening today, check this out:,1,22

  • dor

    Kalyan: What your professor spoke about, is exactly what I call foolishness. People cant explain the reason behind a practice & refuse to accept any kind of reasoning! There’s a difference between faith & blind faith, right?? But I think it happens everywhere! Most people cant explain where their rituals originated from. It’s actually a hobby of mine to find out the backstory of superstitions, no matter how trivial! ;)

    Segue: I dont know, that last sentence seems pretty fine to me.. makes sense even. Maybe believers dont feel need to prove anything, but it would be nice to have an explanation handy.

  • dor

    Mass hysteria always reminds me of that episode on House!
    Also wasnt there something like the ‘Toxic Lady’ thing on Grey’s Anatomy once?!?

  • Sarah_R

    dor – i was just about to say that. haha (about house! it reminded me of that as soon as i read the title)

    ligeia – i guess you shouldn’t take acid then. and this is MASS HYSTERIA. it has nothing to do with drugs and laughing, and when you’re a kid doesn’t count because it’s still not mass hysteria? we all have fits of laughter. i think it’s awesome, laughing until you can’t breathe. however you’ve never experienced mass hysteria (according to what you said which is not mass hysteria) so you don’t know if it would be scary. :)
    blame it on your acid

  • marblehead17

    You forgot the “global warming” hysteria.

  • dave4248

    Well said Marblehead. I’m gettin’ pretty sick of the “global warming” nonsense myself. BTW, looking at #2, I can’t be the only male who NEVER has anxiety about his penis size. I get insecure about my weight, height, fairness of my skin, large head size, you name it. But the one thing I’ve never been anxious about is my peen. I wonder why. I’m either well endowed or deluded.

  • stef

    best list ever!

  • 132. dave4248: It has been my life-long observation that *all* men are deluded re: their penis size.

  • radjap

    how about “Mass Spirit Possession”? Can this be considered as a case for mass hysteria? I’ve read that some countries in asia and south american countries usually have had these kind of weird situations whereby group of students are simultaneously “possessed” by an evil entity/spirit or something…weird stuff really and scary too…

  • Tomo

    I am a student of world religion and culture.

    To all those who are defending Indians or Hindus etc., doesn’t your religion openly follow a class system? In this day and age how can you justify a religion that has officially registered ‘backward classes’? where u have people that are untouchables? where still female feotal infanticide is rampant? where jobs and school admissions have quotas from each class?

    India as a nation needs a serious dose of human rights therapy.

  • ligeia

    Sarah_R: I never said I suffered mass hysteria, I said hysteria and thats the closest experience I’ve ever had to anything on this list. Although anytime I’ve ever laughed like that it was triggered by someone else laughing first. If you like laughing til you can’t breathe fine, have fun.

  • dave4248

    But #134. segue, your answer begs the question. If so many of us are deluded (about our penis size) why are so many of us insecure about it at the same time? It doesn’t make sense to be both. One or the other maybe, but not both at the same time.

  • 138. dave4248: Ah, dave! A true mystery, isn’t it? I don’t make this stuff up out of whole cloth (patchwork, maybe), I just report on the facts. ;-)

  • Kitchen Cookware

    The mass IS histerical!

  • John


    What exactly do you mean?

  • tomatoxide

    Three of the incidents are from India, no matter how much progress we make ,we Indians always remain a superstitious lot….and that’s why anti-India comments always tend to follow
    us everywhere

  • tomatoxide

    The monkey-man incident happened just around where i live and the way people reacted..goodness me,it was just plain disgusting…and none could ever give a proper explanation.
    It was all just to grab the attention of the stupid media which in our country is always on the lookout for such happenings.

  • DeceptaConGrl

    I’m not suprised Indians are on this lists three times. They do such stupid things. This Indian/Hindu family in my neighborhood had their kid marry a cow. I think they got arrested or something. It was kind of sad.

  • Smokesfire

    What about the whole Y2K deal? That’s was pretty crazy.

  • Massively HystericallyLaughing

    wow… laughing and junebugs and me….(I feel a Kermit the Frog song coming on here!!)

    THAT was a Great list

  • jajingna

    SARS and “mad cow” (especially in crazy South Korea re. US beef) are noteworthy examples of fear mongering too. Thanks media and human gullibility.

  • 147. jajingna: Mad Cow disease, Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy, is a very real, very deadly, very scary disease. I have no idea about the situation in South Korea, but as far as the disease is concerned, it is well worth being worried about if the beef being sold in your area is from somewhere identified as being a source of BSE sickened cows.

  • godnodog

    I´m portuguese and I live in Portugal and nver heard of the “Morangos com Açucar” Soap Opera Hysteria, or even with the words doença (hillness) or virus, and I´ve made a research and found nothing in portuguese web pages, where did JFrater get his information?

  • Panic

    I would count religion as mass hysteria…
    Just because millions of people believe the nonsense that you do doesn’t make it any less hysterical. Quite the opposite, in my humble opinion…

  • Silvio Guspini

    no reefer madness? the lie goes on for over 70 years now, and people still buy it. people still think marijuana is addictive, a gateway drug and kills people. or turns you into a dangerous criminal, and into a lazy fool at the same time. there are people getting into prison over this. really! for smoking/possessing a PLANT! look it up if you don’t believe me!

    • mr. duke

      "know your dope fiend ! your life may depend on it . you will not be able to see his eyes because of tea-shades , but his knuckles will be white from inner tension , and his pants will be encrusted with semen after constantly jacking off when he cannot find a rape victim ."

  • checkmike

    Number 2 is also a mental disorder called koro.

  • Paulb

    How can you knowingly believe your penis is shrinking? and then stick a fishing hook in it to pull it out?

  • 152. Paulb: I’m not a guy, but I can imagine the pain! I mean, my husband shrieks if I just have a hangnail, and he’s a real macho guy.
    Yikes! Sticking a fish hook in it and trying to pull it out is insane. Insane!

  • deviantmiss

    penis shrinking???? ha ha ha i can hear the excuses already……… it was much bigger but some of it re-tracted! b.t.w i won`t accept that!

  • deviantmiss

    @paulb yeah husbands are like that! (man flu?)

  • BloodSuckingLeech

    Maybe it was just a really cold day (shrinkage ala Seinfeld)

  • BloodSuckingLeech

    Great list, btw

  • Sam

    I believe the joke that triggered the laughing hysteria was “My dog has no nose”
    “how does he smell?”

    Monty Python in case you didn’t know.

  • DarkSock

    I peed in a cat once.

  • DarkSock

    I peed in a cat once.

  • Just exactly how does one pee in a cat? The mental images that come to mind are too bizarre to share, and probably physically impossible.
    This is going to haunt me for days…peeing in a cat. Which end? How did you subdue the cat? The questions are boundless.

  • Just exactly how does one pee in a cat? The mental images that come to mind are too bizarre to share, and probably physically impossible.
    This is going to haunt me for days…peeing in a cat. Which end? How did you subdue the cat? The questions are boundless.

  • Gabriel

    Damn! I hope my penis never disapear…

  • argh

    Wow, I remember when my local new reported on the milk drinking statues and im from alberta!

  • rattenjungfer

    You should have included the American “Satanic scare” mass hysteria of the 80s and 90s when America (mostly, but not only Christian fundamentalists) where convinced that thousands of children where slaughtered on Satans altars every year, hundreds of thousands of children were raped and tortured by their Satanist parents and grottos and covens were all over the country. An untold number of innocent citizens has been thrown into prison, robbed of their children, driven into psychiatric hospitals, ruined economically and outlawed socially by the cry “Satanist!” Of course, I find it remarkable that this wasn´t mentioned on your list, JFrater. Well, maybe theres a reason… maybe you´re a secret Satanist yourself, trying to hush it all up???

  • Karl

    YAY! i like dancing mania. MUCH better than the Plague

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  • Lucas

    Sorry but I do believe that when the sea turned red would be a sign, that, mass histeria was to follow and since our worldly past,it would be the greatist panic the world was seen since Moses. This alone is the header towards the most clouded judgements made by God from in the old into the new. Now our hand is to play out again for the coming is clear and his might ever so stong will we vanquish those who stand in his way. On our path the answeres are near to those with the sences to understand us and those who destroy the life we create and may we find confort in all with no fear or remorse.

  • saber25

    It all should be in top ten unsolved mysteries not hysteria except no. 1

  • seimin

    lol, I’m from Delhi, and I remember the Monkey man incident.It was so ridiculous. It’s become a joke now, but back then people were so scared of the whole thing.

  • Chris

    Hmm, I wonder if they had ectasy, whistles, glow sticks and night clubs in 1518. It would explain dancing mania.

  • Lucas

    Salem Witch Trials

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  • Mr. Nombre

    A fun read!

  • iamfwomwome

    in the case of the toxic woman those people very likely breathed a neuro toxic gas emanating from the soon to be deceased.

    MSM safer than DMSO, IMHO

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  • Linda

    wow that dancing one is insanely weird lol….wow. xD have to look that one up

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  • Eddie

    The one I’m about to mention may not be bizarre but it seems defiantly a mass hysteria. Starting in the 1990’s there was an increase of ADHD diagnoses of children in the US still happening today (I believe, have not had time to check up on recent reports). You can learn more from the documentaries of Generation Rx or the PBS Frontline The Medicated Child. Although not mention this might be mass hysteria, in my opinion it is or sure comes close. It should also be mention that huge percentage are misdiagnosed ever year, in fact ADHD symptoms are closely related to symptoms of a gifted child or the child is just going through a phase and parents don’t want to deal with there little… Quarks.(lol)

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  • Tiago

    I am from Portugal and I can say that the “Morangos com açucar” or “Strawberries with Sugar” in english, still in air, I remember that news, I can now ensure that only one person gets sick of seeing it. My God, yuck

  • eduardo jaramillo

    This may be the strangest, funniest, and most enjoyable list I’ve read n listverse… Number 9 just sounds awesome, and numbers 1 and 2 are just plain funny! When I read the dancing mania one I was laughing quite uncontrollably… The one about the milk miracle was also very good, and very mysterious in my opinion… I think however that some of these can be chalked up to a massive, self-perpetuating placebo effect.

  • Monkeyman had the North-Indian name , ”MuhNuchwa”.

  • Morninglo

    1 reminds me of an ending to a Barbie movie, maybe the 12 dancing sisters or something.. Anyway the evil aunt ended up with a curse to dance forever into the distance…… For a while, I pictured a dancing corpse coming into town, never stopping. I had a strange imagination as a kid. Haha

  • pinkbearry

    Sounds like the people of Strasbourg took too much ecstasy.

  • Emma

    I’ve got another one…..

    Global warming?
    Voting for Obama?
    Does 9/11 count? …. Stupid Alquieda

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  • dontwanttotellmyname

    i feel ashamed as an stupid we are

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  • partha


  • les

    Can the dancing plague also be known as “Saturday Night Fever



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