This book surveys the rich, colourful history of mass hysteria and kindred phemena in schools, from outbreaks of demonic possession during witchcraft scares to twitching and shaking epidemics that became common in nineteenth century European schools, to more contemporary incidents of collapsing bands, itching frenzies, ghost panics and 'mystery' illnesses. Sociologist Robert Bartholomew and historian Robert Rickard trace mysterious outbreaks of strange behavior and illness in students through the centuries. From the possessed children who went into trance states and began to bark like dogs and cats in 16th and 17th century Holland, to an outbreak of Tourette's-like symptoms among schoolgirls in Western New York during 2011-12, the book contains accounts written in everyday language. It provides a comprehensive treatment gleaned from scholarly journals and press reports. While many episodes are from the United States, separate chapters detail accounts from Europe, Asia, Africa, Latin America and Oceania. While some may take issue with the term mass hysteria and consider its use derogatory to females, it remains entrenched in the scientific lexicon. Furthermore, 99% of reports involve a preponderance of females, the causes of which are explored. For instance, this state of affairs may reflect the social conditioning of females and t necessarily any innate predisposition. This book constitutes the definitive and only book devoted to the subject.
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 organisations such as the Associated Press and United Press International, he currently teaches at Botany College in Auckland, New Zealand.