Little Green Men, Meowing Nuns and Head-Hunting Panics: A Study of Mass Psychogenic Illness and Social Delusion / Edition 1

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For a two week period in 1956, residents in the vicinity of Taipei, Taiwan, lived in fear that they would be the next victims of a crazed villain who was prowling the streets and slashing people at random with a razor or similar weapon. At least 21 victims were reported during this period, mostly women and children of low income and education. A thorough investigation revealed however, that: "five slashings were innocent false reports, seven were self-inflicted cuts, eight were due to cuts rather than razors, and one was complete fantasy."

This is one example of many cases of what has traditionally been called "mass hysteria" that are examined in this comprehensive study of human beings' fear of the unknown. Beginning with a concise history of mass hysteria and social delusions, the author differentiates between the two and investigates mass hysteria in closed settings such as work and school, and mass hysteria in communities with incidents such as gassings, Pokemon illnesses in Japan, and medieval dance crazes. Also examined are collective delusions, with information on five major types: immediate threat, symbolic scare, mass wish fulfillment, urban legends and mass panics. The book ends with a discussion of major issues in the area of mass hysteria and a look toward the future of this intriguing subject.

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Editorial Reviews

vivid title
Australian Journal of Forensic Sciences
the book will interest any is extensively documented and food for thought
Fortean Times
important...extensive critical apparatus
Sociologist Bartholomew, a specialist in culture-specific psychiatric disorders, starts with a history of mass hysteria and social delusions and distinguishes between the two, investigating the former in closed settings such as work and school, as well as in communities. He also discusses the major types of collective delusions<-->symbolic scare, immediate threat, mass wish fulfillment, urban legends, and mass panics. Finally he addresses major issues of mass hysteria and looks at future directions for study. Throughout, he presents case histories from medieval dance manias to the 1997 "Pok<'e>man panic that resulted in the hospitalization of Japanese children. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780786409976
  • Publisher: McFarland & Company, Incorporated Publishers
  • Publication date: 5/23/2001
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 303
  • Product dimensions: 9.00 (w) x 6.00 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

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

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Table of Contents

Foreword 1
Preface 3
Sect. 1 Broad Overview 5
1 Mass Hysteria and Social Delusions: A Concise History 7
Sect. 2 Mass Hysteria in Closed Settings 25
2 Epidemic Hysteria in Schools 27
3 Epidemic Hysteria at Work 55
Sect. 3 Mass Hysteria in Communities 79
4 The Mad Gasser of Virginia 81
5 The Mad Gasser of Mattoon 95
6 Pokemon TV Show Sickens Thousands in Japan 122
7 Rethinking the Medieval Dancing Mania 132
Sect. 4 Collective Delusions 143
8 Penis Panics: Collective Delusions Outside the West 145
9 Imaginary Air Raids on Canada: Xenophobia During World War I 158
10 The Phantom Sniper of Esher, England: How a Community Created an Imaginary Assailant 169
11 The Ghost Rockets: Anatomy of a Moral Panic 183
12 The Wish Mania as a Moral Panic in Reverse 197
13 Before Roswell: The Meaning Behind the Crashed-UFO Myth 213
14 The Martian Invasion Panic 217
Sect. 5 Major Issues and Future Directions 225
15 From Demon Possession to Environmental Fears: The Changing Face of Mass Delusions and Hysterias 227
Notes 237
Index 297
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