Was Ripon school gripped by mass psychogenic illness?

A young woman faints during a Menudo concert at Madison Square Garden, New York City. Photograph: New York Daily News/Getty Images

What doctors used to call mass hysteria usually occurs among close-knit groups as anxiety weaves its way through, causing physical symptoms

On 15 February 1787, a young woman at a Lancashire cotton mill decided to scare one of her co-workers with a mouse. The prank made medical history. Terrified of the rodent, the woman on the receiving end had a fit that lasted hours. The next day, three more workers suffered violent fits. The day after, six more.

Alarmed and mystified at the epidemic, the owners closed the mill amid rumours of a disease brought in by contaminated cotton. When Dr William St Clare arrived from Preston to investigate, he found 24 people affected. Three worked at another factory five miles down the road. He ended the epidemic swiftly. It was “merely nervous, easily cured, and not introduced by the cotton,” he concluded. Suitably reassured, all recovered and no more workers fell ill.

On Wednesday, more than two centuries later, and 65 miles up the A59 from Lancashire, 40 pupils at the Outwood academy in Ripon had treatment for dizziness and nausea after four fainted in an Armistice Day service. Fire brigade specialists dispatched to the incident found no signs of hazardous materials,but the assembly hall was warm. David Winspear of the North Yorkshire fire service suspects that a handful of children fainted, with the rest developing symptoms driven by anxiety that rippled through the school. One student talked of a “domino effect”.

Source: Was Ripon school gripped by mass psychogenic illness? | Science | The Guardian

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About anomaly

SMiles Lewis has had a lifelong interest in all things anomalous. An early age proclivity at recalling his nightly dreams as well as several personal experiences with ESP, precognition and dream switching bolstered his interest in the paranormal. Shortly after high-school he joined the local MUFON chapter in Austin, Texas. He would later become a MUFON State Section Director for that group as well as leader of the local UFO Experiencer Support and Study Group. A lover of books, SMiles collected over 1000 titles before founding the non-profit Anomaly Archives that serves as the lending library of the Scientific Anomaly Institute (501c3). For over twenty years he has worked with digital audio, video and other bleeding edge internet technologies. He has published his own print journal (E.L.F. Infested Spaces), edited a local paranormal newspaper (Austin Para Times), maintained a large network of websites (ELFIS.net), organized a national UFO conference (NUFOC-38), spoken to anthropologists about UFOs and parapsychology (Encounters with the Fantastic), hosted (and been a guest on) both terrestrial and webradio talk shows and has been podcasting since before the phrase existed. All these efforts and more have led radio talk show host Robert Larson to describe Miles as a “Gonzo Alt-Media Proprietor and Informationalist.” He is also the LOWFI-Texas State Bureau Chief of The League of Western Fortean Intermediatists. SMiles’ current projects include co-hosting PsiOp-Radio with Mack White as part of the many unique shows airing daily on his ANOMALY RADIO Network. He is active with several local non-profits which includes his service on the board of directors for the Institute for Neuroscience And Consciousness Studies (INACS) and the Scientific Anomaly Institute‘s lending library, the Anomaly Archives. His writings can be found within the Archives of his print journal ELFIS and ANOMALY Magazine. In his day job with the Texas State Library and Archives Commission‘s Talking Book Program he manages a Volunteer Recording Studio and audio duplication department and has been a consultant on two digital audio development documents for the Library of Congress‘ National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped.
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