Sunday, August 2, 2015

Mass Hysteria

One of the most famous cases of mass hysteria is the Salem witch trials in the 1600’s. Several teenage girls started behaving abnormally and then began naming members of the community as witches. The community, either from fear of being swept up in the mob mentality, listened to these girls and tortured hundreds of people and killed 20.  Mass hysteria as defined by our text Scientific Perspectives on Pseudoscience and the Paranormal is “the rapid spread of conversion disorder, a condition involving the appearance of bodily complaints for which there is no organic basis.” (Lawson, 2007) Conversion disorder is a real condition that converts emotional/mental distress into physical symptoms. You can think of it as the “mob mentality”, where a group of people take on the anxiety/emotions as one unit and develop symptomatology according to the situation. Such as in the recent case of “Charlie Charlie”, a game started in the Dominican Republic that involved placing pencils in a cross on top of each other and calling the “demon” Charlie. The pencils would then move according to the questions asked and reply. Children then became so frightened they then believe they are possessed by the devil. Parents have pulled children from school and had some hospitalized. With it’s spread through the internet it has since gone global. It’s origins in a predominantly Catholic country the belief one is possessed by a devil created anxiety within the community. In this instance the global teenage community has been effected. It’s been determined that the pencils moving have nothing to do with the spiritual realm but rather more to do with gravity.

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