Mass Hysteria in Schools

A Worldwide History Since 1566


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About the Book

This book comprehensively surveys the colorful history of mass hysteria and kindred phenomena in schools, documenting outbreaks of demonic possession during witchcraft scares, to modern incidents of collapsing bands, itching frenzies, ghost panics and mystery illnesses.

Strange behaviors and illnesses in students are examined through the centuries. Possessed children went into trance states and began to bark like dogs in 16th and 17th century Holland; an epidemic of twitching, trembling and blackout spells swept through European schools during the latter 1800s; an outbreak of Tourette’s-like symptoms struck schoolgirls in western New York in 2011-12. In addition to the US and Europe, separate chapters detail accounts from Asia, Africa, Latin America and Oceania. A variety of theories to explain outbreaks are examined.

About the Author(s)

Robert E. Bartholomew has taught sociology in Australia at The Flinders University of South Australia and James Cook University in Queensland. A former radio journalist and contributor to the Associated Press and United Press International, he teaches at Botany College in Auckland, New Zealand.

Bob Rickard founded Fortean Times, a monthly periodical for balanced reporting and discussion of anomalies in most fields, including those studying behavior, experience and belief, in late November 1973 and edited it for the next 28 years. He continues to contribute research, articles and reports on unusual topics in his semi-retirement. He lives in London, England.

Bibliographic Details

Robert E. Bartholomew with Bob Rickard
Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 236
Bibliographic Info: notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2014
pISBN: 978-0-7864-7888-0
eISBN: 978-1-4766-1426-7
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Foreword by Glenn Dawes 1

Introduction 3

1. Witch Hunts and Schoolchildren 11

2. Twitching Epidemics and Pregnancy Panics: Historic Tales from Europe and America 26

3. Fear 101—Fates Worse Than Homework: Modern Tales from East and West 44

4. The Demon-Haunted Classroom: Tales from Asia 71

5. The Students Who Laughed for a Week: Accounts from Africa 94

6. The Meowing Schoolgirls of Fiji: Accounts from the Islands 121

7. Strange Tales from Latin America 134

8. Strange Schoolyards and Unusual Field Trips: Cases from Beyond the Classroom 146

9. Global Lessons 173

Chapter Notes 187

Bibliography 211

Index 223

Book Reviews & Awards

“This historical metaanalysis provides an invaluable, accessible medical and sociological perspective on what continues to be a very common occurrence: mass hysteria among schoolchildren worldwide…an engaging and informative read…a thoroughly entertaining book”—ForteanTimes.