One person’s psychosis can be easily dismissed, but how do we account for collective hysteria, when an entire crowd sees the same illusion or suffer from the same illness? It’s enough to make somebody believe in dark magic and pick up their pitchfork, ready to hang an accused witch.
Sadly, such paranoia has led to many witch hunts in the past. In today’s episode we look at some of the most notorious historical cases of mass hysteria and moral panics. But these cases don’t only extend to Puritan-era witch panics. We will also look at cases that hit closer to home—such as economic bubbles and the housing market crash of the early 2000s.
This episode includes such cases of mass hysteria as
- Dancing mania, in which German peasants in 1374 spent weeks dancing in a fugue state, with some toppling over dead from utter exhaustion
- The cat nuns of medieval France, where the sisters became to inexplicably meow together, leaving the surrounding community perplexed
- The Salem Witch trials, where 19 were executed due to claims of sorcery
- The Jersey Devil Panic, in which dozens of newspapers claimed in 1909 that a winged creature attacked a trolley car in Haddon Heights