Mass Hysteria

Posted in Weird Beliefs

Introduction

Mass hysteria is perhaps best described as a short-lived panic among a community. As Dr. Anderson sagely noted following the Jack the Ripper murders:

"When the stolid English go in for a scare, they take leave of all moderation and commonsense."

Of course, this is not a purely English disease but merely part of the human condition. Around the world, cases of mass hysteria arise with regularity - cast your mind only so far back as the Mad Gasser of Matoon or the Chupacabra. In some ways, the popular press has created hysterias of their own. Paedophile attacks by strangers are vanishingly rare, yet over the last decade the coverage given to them has created a climate of irrational fear and suspicion which borders on hysteria in itself.

What do these panics tell us? That people's hidden fears - once expressed - can somehow become contagious. As the fear spreads, people jump at shadows and a hysteria is born.

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