by Philipp Bagus
The history of mass hysteria, or mass sociogenic illness is fascinating. Cases of mass hysteria have been documented since the Middle Ages. Let me just mention a few of the more recent cases.
When a radio play by Orson Welles, War of the Worlds, was broadcasted in 1938 shortly after the suspension of the Munich agreement, the play allegedly caused panic among listeners, who thought that they were under attack by Martians.
Another intriguing case is an episode of a Portuguese TV show called Strawberries with Sugar. In the episode, the characters were infected by a life-threatening virus. After the show, more than three hundred students reported similar symptoms as the ones experienced by the TV show characters such as rashes and difficulty breathing. Some schools even closed. The Portuguese National Institute for Medical Emergency concluded that the virus did not exist in reality and that the symptoms were caused by mass hysteria.