Cases of mass hysteria in India

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India has a history of cases of mass hysteria.

Notable cases

Genital shrinking hysterias

Over the decades hundreds of men in North-East India have reported genital shrinking, leading to spates of mass panic. Doctors blamed genital infections leading to koro, a cultural-specific psychological condition in which an individual fears their penis is shrinking into their abdomen.[1] Cases of the mass hysteria have occurred in Assam, West Bengal and Tripura in 1968, 1982-3, 1988, 1998, 2010,[2] 2011,[3] 2013.[4]

1995/2006 Hindu Milk Miracles

Template:MainThe Hindu milk miracle was a phenomenon which occurred on 21 September 1995, in which statues of the Hindu deity Ganesha were thought to be drinking milk offerings. The news spread very quickly in various Indian and American cities, as Indians everywhere tried to "feed" idols of Ganesha with milk and spread the news through telephones and word of mouth, mostly in large cities and towns. It attracted great attention from people and the media particularly in India. The scientific explanation for the incident, attested by Indian academics, was that the material was pulled up from the offering bowls by capillary action. The miracle allegedly occurred again on 20–21 August 2006 in almost exactly the same fashion, although initial reports seem to indicate that it occurred only with statues of Ganesh, Shiva, and Durga.

2001 Monkey Man 'attacks'

Template:Main Wild rumours about attacks by a half-monkey, half-man creature spread through Delhi. Many people reported being scratched, and at least two[5] people even died when they leapt from the tops of buildings or fell down stairwells in a panic caused by what they thought was the attacker. The entire incident has been described as an example of mass hysteria.[6][7]

2002 'Muhnochwa' scare

Residents of Mirzapur became terrified of an object they called 'Muhnochwa' ('face-ripper'). It was described as a flying object that emitted red and green light and left victims with injuries that resembled claw marks. It was reported that a man was beaten, and a dog killed in the panic. Scientists believe the origin of the hysteria was a case of ball lightning[8]

2006 Mumbai sweet seawater incident

Template:Main This case of mass hysteria occurred in August, 2006 when residents of Mumbai claimed that the water at Mahim Creek had suddenly turned sweet. Within hours, residents of Gujarat claimed that seawater at Teethal beach had turned sweet as well and thousands of people travelled to the location to taste the waters. In the aftermath of the incidents, local authorities feared the possibility of a severe outbreak of water-borne diseases, such as gastroenteritis.

2015 Kerala 'Black Man attacks'

In Pathanamthitta, Alappuzha and Kollam districts of Kerala, stories circulated of a large, dark figure who attacked women and children at night. Stories said that he wore a black mask and clothes and had springs in his shoes so he could jump super-humanly high.[9] People started attacking each other at night whilst searching for the 'black man'.[10] Three men were arrested on suspicion of anti-social activities connected to the stories.[11] Some reports suspected local sand-mafia as having a hand in spreading the story to keep people from wandering around at night, although the actual origin of the rumours may have been from children in the local schools[10]

2016 Blood-sucking vampire of Tamil Nadu

Following the death of a number of their cattle, fear of a blood-sucking vampire kept the villagers of Gundalapatti, Mottangurichi confined to their homes, with signs painted on houses asking to be spared.[12]

2017 North Indian braid cutting hysteria

Template:MainMore than 100 women in North Indian states of Haryana, Rajasthan, Jammu & Kashmir and Delhi reported a mysterious attacker cutting off their braids whilst they were asleep.[9] Some said that they did not see the attacker, others claimed it was a phantom, others a cat-like creature, and still others as men in brightly coloured clothes.[13] Mass hysteria led to several attacks on women due to the belief that they were involved. At least one 60-year old women was lynched over the same suspicions.[14] Experts theorised that the cases where either unconsciously self-inflicted due to the prevailing hysteria, or deliberately self-inflicted by women who wanted short hair but were not permitted in the local culture.[13] Some police and politicians treated the braid cutting as attacks perpetuated by real individuals.[9]

2017/18 Indian WhatsApp lynchings

Template:Main The Indian Whatsapp lynchings were a spate of mob-related violence and killings following the spread of fake news, primarily relating to child-abduction and organ harvesting, via the Whatsapp message service. The spate of lynchings commenced in May 2017 with the killing of seven men in Jharkhand, but did not become a national trend until the beginning of the following year. Fake messages customised with locally specific details are circulated along with real videos attached to fake messages or claims. The lynchings have claimed the lives of more than 35 people, and critically injured a similar number.


  1. "Ganesha’s ‘milk miracle’ to braid-chopping: India’s history of mass hysteria". Hindustan Times. 5 August 2017. 
  2. Ghosh, Sayanti; Nath, Saswati (March 2013). "Fifth Koro epidemic in India: A review report". World Cultural Psychiatry Research Review: 8–20. 
  3. Debjit, Roy; Hazarika, Susmita; Bhattacharya, Arnab (2011). "Koro: Culture Bound or Mass Hysteria". Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry 45 (8): 683. Template:Citation error. PMID 21561239. 
  4. "Koro scare, a rare culture-bound psychiatric disorder, strikes lower Bramhaputra valley". India Today. 9 October 2013. 
  5. "Desi fables - The Times of India". Indiatimes. 26 June 2010. Retrieved 25 October 2010. 
  6. Polidoro, Massimo. (2002). "Return of Spring-Heeled Jack". Skeptical Inquirer. Accessed on 4 May 2016.
  7. Carroll, Robert Todd. (2003). The Skeptic's Dictionary: A Collection of Strange Beliefs, Amusing Deceptions, and Dangerous Delusions. John Wiley & Sons. p. 140. ISBN 978-0-471-27242-7
  8. Mishra, Subhash (2 September 2002). "Light-emitting entity, 'muhnochwa' creates fear in Uttar Pradesh". India Today. 
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 "Braid chopping incidents attempt to create mass hysteria: CM". India Today. 12 October 2017. 
  10. 10.0 10.1 "'Black Man' fear grips Nagaroor". The Times of India. 16 October 2012. 
  11. James, Anu (5 January 2015). "Are Viral 'Black Man' Stories from Kerala Hoax or Real?". International Business Times. 
  12. Hussain, H. Zaikeer (9 April 2012). "‘Vampires’ turn villages ghost towns in Tamil Nadu". The Asian Age. 
  13. 13.0 13.1 Dey, Abhishek (3 August 2017). "Braid chopper mystery: Women’s complaints of unexplained haircuts baffle police in three states". 
  14. "11 more women claim hair ‘mysteriously’ chopped off, doctors blame mass hysteria". Hindustan Times. 3 August 2017.