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West Bank, Jordan, 1983
CSICOP – Robert Bartholomew and Erich Goode

Between March and April 1983, 947 mostly female residents of the Israeli-occupied Jordan West Bank reported various psychogenic symptoms: fainting, headache, abdominal pain, and dizziness (Modan et al., 1983). The episode was precipitated by poison gas rumors and a long-standing Palestinian mistrust of Jews. The medical complaints appeared during a fifteen-day period, amid rumors and intense media publicity that poison gas was being sporadically targeted at Palestinians. The episode began in, and was predominantly confined to, schools in several adjacent villages. In one incident on March 27, sixty-four residents in Jenin were rushed for local medical care after believing that they had been poisoned when thick smoke belched from an apparently faulty exhaust system on a passing car. In all, 879 females were affected. Following negative medical tests, it became evident that no gassings had occurred, the hypothesis was discredited, and the transient symptoms rapidly ceased.

Kosovo, 1990
CSICOP – Robert Bartholomew and Erich Goode

On March 14, 1990, at least four thousand residents in the Serbian province of Kosovo, in the former Yugoslavia, were struck down by a mystery illness that persisted for some three weeks. According to Dr. Zoran Radovanovic (1995), the head of the community medicine faculty at Kuwait University, the symptoms were psychogenic in nature and prompted by ethnic Albanian mistrust of Serbs. The transient complaints were almost exclusively confined to young adolescent ethnic Albanians, and included headache, dizziness, hyperventilation, weakness, burning sensations, cramps, chest pain, nausea, and dry mouth. The episode began at a high school in Podujevo, and rapidly spread to dozens of schools within the province. An outbreak of respiratory infection within a single class appears to have triggered fears that Serbs may have dispensed poison. Influential factors included rumors, the scrutinization of mundane odors and substances, visits by health authorities that served to legitimate fears, ethnic tension between Serbs and Albanians, and mass communication. The dramatic proliferation of cases across the province on March 22 coincided with the implementation of an emergency disaster plan whereby ethnic Albanians seized control of public health services.

The Indian Alien Attacks Of 2002

Just a year after the infamous Monkey Man of Delhi, another mysterious being came into Indian limelight. Known as the “muhnochwa,” or “face scratcher,” the being supposedly originated in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, and was said to leave burn or scratch marks on the faces and extremities of its victims. It also allegedly caused the deaths of half-a-dozen people, which caused villagers to form vigilante groups and riot against what they believed was the lack of police protection. The unrest became so pervasive that the national government had to step in and send agents to investigate the case.

Before the investigation, there were bizarre theories about the muhnochwa’s origins. One of these was a police belief that the muhnochwa was an “insect-like drone” used by Pakistani operatives to spy on the people. However, scientists who investigated the case explained that the dreaded muhnochwa was nothing more than ball lightning—a natural phenomenon that often occurs during long periods of drought and can burn upon contact with human skin.

The Contaminated Coca-Cola Scare Of 1999

The most serious threat to Coca-Cola’s virtual monopoly on Europe began in June 1999, when more than 100 students in Belgium reportedly fell ill after drinking the beverage. The subsequent investigation—coupled with some inept PR handling—eventually cost the company a cool $200 million and a several-day ban in other European countries.

While examination of the tainted batches did show contamination (“bad” carbon dioxide and phenol were found), two Belgian scientists speculated that the tainted products yielded too small an amount to cause real damage; for them, the incident was mostly “a case of mass hysteria,” fueled, in part, by a prior scare of mad cow disease and dioxin-tainted animal products. A separate investigation by Belgium’s High Hygiene Council, in March of 2000, corroborated those claims and stated that most of the victims experienced a “mass psychogenic illness.”

The Bin Laden Itch

In a period spanning October 2001 to June 2002, thousands of primarily elementary-aged students were being afflicted with a skin rash that appeared with no known cause. The rash would last from a few hours up to two weeks, and then disappear as mysteriously as it came. In light of the 9/11 attacks and the anthrax scare, was this a successful case of bioterrorism?

To answer that question: yes and no. While rashes have always remained endemic to schools, fears of a bioterrorist attack made students pay more attention to their skin, and also prompted school nurses to report a higher number of cases than usual. Officials of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also noted that a few students deliberately rubbed sandpaper on their skin in an attempt to shut down a school. The so-called “Bin Laden Itch”—though ultimately non-existent—was hugely successful in sparking a mass hysteria.

Day Care Ritual Abuse Hysteria

Remember the McMartin case? The one that became one of the most expensive—and ultimately useless—trials in American history? That was just the tip of the iceberg in what would be known as the day care ritual abuse hysteria of the 1980s–90s, wherein day care workers were accused of engaging the children in all manners of satanic ritual abuse. Fantastic claims included children being forced to watch live executions, rape, torture, and so on. Virtually all the accused were later exonerated—but not before spending a good amount of time in jail and having their lives essentially ruined.

Just what caused this hysteria in the first place? The answer could be found in the parents themselves. As it became more common for both husband and wife to work outside their home, they had to entrust their children to day care centers—a move that was likely to increase their anxiety and guilt. Day care workers, in effect, became the perfect scapegoats for the parents, helping them ignore their own shortcomings. Add to that the false testimonies, shamelessly coerced out of the children by heavy-handed interrogators, and there you have it—the perfect recipe for the 20th century equivalent of the medieval witch hunt.

Y2K bug

Y2K bug, also called Year 2000 bug or Millennium Bug, a problem in the coding of computerized systems that was projected to create havoc in computers and computer networks around the world at the beginning of the year 2000 (in metric measurements K stands for thousand). After more than a year of international alarm, feverish preparations, and programming corrections, few major failures occurred in the transition from December 31, 1999, to January 1, 2000.

Until the 1990s, many computer programs (especially those written in the early days of computers) were designed to abbreviate four-digit years as two digits in order to save memory space. These computers could recognize “98” as “1998” but would be unable to recognize “00” as “2000,” perhaps interpreting it to mean 1900. Many feared that when the clocks struck midnight on January 1, 2000, many affected computers would be using an incorrect date and thus fail to operate properly unless the computers’ software was repaired or replaced before that date.

The 2004 Flu Vaccine Shortage Panic

It all started when a flu shot supplier in Liverpool, England, was shut down by regulators because a batch was contaminated. With the closure, more than 45 million doses that were supposed to be shipped to the U.S. were lost, cutting America’s supply of flu vaccines in half for the season. Federal officials, planning for a severe shortage, requested that most people delay getting flu shots so that available doses could go to the most vulnerable: the very young, the very old, pregnant women and a few others — a request of which Americans were suprisingly accomdodating. But as panic began to swell, stories of bad behavior and heartbreaking incidents poured in from around the country.

Hysteria over swine flu is the real danger

As the number of swine flu cases rises around the world, so is a gradual backlash — with some saying the threat the virus poses is overblown. By Monday, 985 cases of the virus, known as influenza A (H1N1), had been confirmed in 20 countries, the World Health Organization said. The number of fatalities was at 26, including one in the United States. “There is too much hysteria in the country and so far, there hasn’t been that great a danger,” said Congressman Ron Paul, a Republican from Texas. “It’s overblown, grossly so.”
Paul, who was a freshman congressman during a swine flu outbreak in 1976, said Congress voted to inoculate the whole country at the time. Twenty-five people died from the inoculation while one person was killed by the flu, Paul said, adding that he voted against inoculation.

The Avian Flu Epidemic: Massive Impact, Uncertain Future

The disease is avian influenza, and though it has not, as yet, affected any people, it is wreaking havoc nonetheless. As of March 2015, almost 26 million chickens and turkeys have either died, or been killed to keep the disease from spreading. Three states—Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin—have declared states of emergency. Layoffs have begun at poultry farms, and the industry is warning that there may not be enough surviving turkeys to fill tables at Thanksgiving. The federal government has released $330 million in emergency funds, and in Minnesota, the National Guard has been called out.

Twenty-six million sounds like a lot of birds—but while the epidemic is devastating to states and to individual farmers, so far it has barely dented the United States’ poultry supply. The U.S., after all, produces about 9 billion meat chickens, 360 million laying hens and 240 million turkeys per year; the current losses equal less than three-tenths of one percent of the total.

Is rat meat being sold in the U.S. disguised as boneless chicken?

An article with the headline “More than a MILLION POUNDS of RAT meat is sold as boneless chicken wings in the U.S.A!” has been making rounds on social media with thousands of shares, was posted on World News Daily Report. The site is known for publishing satirical articles.

WUSA9 News contacted the Food and Drug Administration to ask if it is true that over one million rat meat is sold in the form of boneless chicken wings that is then served in restaurants. The article also claims the FDA seized the meat from illegal shipping containers at a port in San Francisco. Peter Cassell, the press officer for the FDA, tells WUSA9 News the administration “is not aware of the seizure of rat meat referenced” and the FDA never issued such a warning.

You will get chipped — eventually

You will get chipped. It’s just a matter of time. In the aftermath of a Wisconsin firm embedding microchips in employees last week to ditch company badges and corporate logons, the Internet has entered into full-throated debate. Religious activists are so appalled, they’ve been penning nasty 1-star reviews of the company, Three Square Market, on Google, Glassdoor and social media.

On the flip side, seemingly everyone else wants to know: Is this what real life is going to be like soon at work? Will I be chipped? “It will happen to everybody,” says Noelle Chesley, 49, associate professor of sociology at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. “But not this year, and not in 2018. Maybe not my generation, but certainly that of my kids.” Gene Munster, an investor and analyst at Loup Ventures, is an advocate for augmented reality, virtual reality and other new technologies. He thinks embedded chips in human bodies is 50 years away. “In 10 years, Facebook, Google, Apple and Tesla will not have their employees chipped,” he says. “You’ll see some extreme forward-looking tech people adopting it, but not large companies. The idea of being chipped has too “much negative connotation” today, but by 2067 “we will have been desensitized by the social stigma,” Munster says.

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