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The Encyclopedia of Extraordinary Social Behavior

by Hilary Evans & Robert E. Bartholomew

Large Trade Paperback, 784 Pages, 90 Illustrations

$49.95, ISBN: 1933665254

Genre(s): UFOs Paranormal Fortean Historical Mysteries

From fads, crazes, and manias to collective delusions, scares, panics, and mass hysterias, history is replete with examples of remarkable social behavior. Many are fueled by fear and uncertainty; others are driven by hope and expectation. For others still, the causes are more obscure. This massive collection of extraordinary social behaviors spans more than two millennia, and attempts to place many of the episodes within their greater historical and cultural context. 

Perhaps the most well-known example of unusual collective behavior occurred in 1938, when a million or more Americans were frightened or panicked after listening to a realistic radio drama about a Martian invasion of New Jersey, based on an adaptation of the H.G. Wells novel War of the Worlds. Less known but equally remarkable scares based on Wells’ book occurred in Chile in 1944 (when Army units were mobilized), in Ecuador in 1949 (when riots broke out, leaving more than a dozen dead), as well as in Buffalo in 1968, Rhode Island in 1974, and Europe in 1988 and 1998. 

The modern civilized world is by no means immune to such peculiar episodes. In the late 20th century, scores of people in the U.S. and Europe were wrongly incarcerated following claims of Satanic ritual abuse by authorities untutored in False Memory Syndrome. This episode recalls the European witch terror of the late Middle Ages, when innocent people were tortured and executed for consorting with the Devil based on the flimsiest of evidence. 

This Encyclopedia is an authoritative reference on a broad range of topics: collective behavior, deviance, social and perceptual psychology, sociology, history, folklore, religious studies, political science, social anthropology, gender studies, critical thinking, and mental health. Never before have so many sources been brought together on the mesmerizing topic of collective behavior. 

About the Author:

Hilary Evans is a British historian who holds a BA from Cambridge University and a Masters in English literature from Birmingham University. A collector of rare and antique books and illustrations, he is the curator of the prestigious Mary Evans Picture Library in London. Over the past fi ve decades he has authored dozens of books on an array of topics ranging from life in Victorian England and illustrated histories and biographies, to altered states of consciousness, religious and social history, folklore and modern mythology, ancient mysteries and media scares. His books include Intrusions: Society & the Paranormal (1982), Gods, Spirits, Cosmic Guardians (1987), and Panic Attacks: Media Manipulation and Mass Delusion (2004) with Robert Bartholomew.

Robert Bartholomew is an authority on collective behavior and social deviance. He holds a Masters in sociology from The State University of New York at Albany and a Ph.D. from James Cook University. His studies have appeared in dozens of peer-reviewed journals including the British Medical Journal; Canadian Medical Association Journal; The International Journal of Social Psychiatry; The Sociological Quarterly, and Educational Studies. His books include Exotic Deviance: Medicalizing Cultural Idioms – From Strangeness to Illness (2000), and Hoaxes, Myths & Manias: Why We Need Critical Thinking (2003) with Ben Radford. He has been interviewed in The New Yorker, The Wall Street Journal, The Los Angeles Times, USA Today, The BBC Morning Show, and on the History Channel.

Now available in a laminated hardback edition for a limited time only:
Amazon US
Amazon UK

An ebook edition is now available from Google Play. Because this is such a large book with many photographs, it could not be made available through our normal ebook vendors. This ebook is actually a PDF of the print book.

VERY IMPORTANT: This ebook does not have flowing text and therefore is not readable on smartphones and small tablets. But it's fine for laptops, desktops, and large (iPad-sized) tablets.

Outbreak ebook 


Read an interview with Robert Bartholomew in USA Today.  The book has also been mentioned on ABC News Online, and in The New York Times and The Guardian


Foreword by Benigno Aguirre, Ph.D.  ix

Introduction  x

Preface  xvi

Abdera Outbreak of Prose and Poetry 1

Adamites (Nudity Sect)  1

Alien Abduction Beliefs  3

Altered States of Consciousness 7

American Invasion of Canada 8

American Revivalism  9

Amou Barking Mania 16

Amsterdam Outbreak 17

Anabaptists  18

Andree Balloon Mania  23

Animal Noises, Epidemics of  25

Anxiety Hysteria  26

Assassins, Order of  28

Assembly Line Hysteria  31

Asteroid Panic  31

Aurora End-of-the-World Panic  32

Auxonne Possession Outbreak  32


Band Bus Hysteria  40

Band Mystery Illness 40

Barking-Off Squirrels Fad 40

Batavia Shipwreck  41

Battered Wife Syndrome 45

BBC Ghostwatch Scare 45

BBC Radio Hoax 46

Bekhterev, Vladimir Mikhailovich 47

Bequette, Bill  48

Berserk School 48

Bezpopovtzy Sect  49

Bird Flu Pandemic Scare 51

Blackthorn Barking Mania  53

Boarding School Fire Pandemonium  54

Boxer Rising   54

Brandenburg Mass Possession  57

Brechin Running and Jumping Fits  57

Brigand Great Fear  58

British Military Fainting Epidemics  62

Brooklyn Bridge Panic 62

Buff alo Martian Scares   62

Bus Bedlam  64


California Choral Collapse  67

California Telephone Illness  67

Cambrai Convent Outbreak  68

Cargo “Cults”  69

Castration, Voluntary  71

Cat Girls of India  71

Cat Massacres, Great  72

Catholic Scare  73

Cattle Mutilations  74

Cevennes Prophets  77

Chemistry Lab Mystery Illness  82

Chemtrails  82

Child Abduction Panic  83

Child-Eating Scare  86

Children’s Crusades  86

Chilean Martian Panic  90

Chinese Needle Scare  90

Chinon Demonic Possession Outbreak  91

Cholera Panic  92

Christian Conversion Syndrome  95

Chupacabra Scare  96

Clay Eating Epidemic  96

Coca-Cola Scare  97

Collective Anxiety Attacks  98

Congo Witch Massacre  99

Copycat Behavior  99

Conspiracy Th eories  103

Convent Hysteria  104

Coughing Orphans  109

Crazes  109

Cyber Ghost Scare  111


Dance Frenzies  116

Dancing Mania  117

De Martino, Ernesto  121

Defense Industry Suicide Cluster  121

Demon Possession  127

Derby School Fits  133

Doughiteli Strangelers  133

Doukhobors  134

Drunk Driving Hysteria  141


Ecuador Martian Panic  143

Edison Star Sightings  144

Enthusiasm Episodes  145

Epidemic of LSD Hallucinations  147

Extraterrestrial Tsunami Panic  147

Evil Spirit School  147


Facilitated Communication Mania  150

Factory Fainting Fits  151

Factory Hysteria Sweeps USA  151

Fads  151

Fainting Factory Workers  154

Fainting Football Cheerleaders  154

Fainting French Factory Girls  154

Fainting Vietnamese Schoolgirls  155

False Memory Syndrome  155

Familiarity  159

Fantasy-Prone People  160

Fashions  163

Fatima Solar Phenomenon  165

Feather Tickling Fad  170

Females and Mass Hysteria  170

Fibromyalgia  174

Filo Cargo Cult  175

Florida Land Boom  176

Florida War Scare  176

Flying Saucer, Origin of  177

Forced Marriage Syndrome  180

Frankie Avalon Mania  182

Fraternity Orders  182

Friedeberg Outbreak  186

Fumigation Hysteria  187


Garrotting Scares  193

Genital Shrinking Scares  194

Genital Vanishing Scares  203

Genocide Hysteria  206

Ghost Attacks  207

Ghost Dance (Native American)  208

Ghost Rocket Scare  208

Glossolalia, Contagious  211

Goblin Attacks  212

Goldfi sh Swallowing Fad  213

Great American Airship Wave  214

Greek Telephone Panic Attacks  224

Gulf War Syndrome  224


Halifax Disaster  235

Halifax Perfume Scare  239

Halifax Slasher  239

Halley’s Comet Scare  242

Hammersmith Ghost Scare  244

Handsome Lake Sect (Native American)  245

Headhunting Scares  246

Hindu Milk Miracle  247

Hoorn Orphanage Possession  248

Hula-Hoop Fad  249

Hurricane Katrina Social Chaos  250

Husband Poisoning Mania  254

Hysteria  254

Hysterical Anorexia  258

Hysterical Blackouts  259

Hysterical Boredom  260

Hysterical Schoolgirls at Qawa  260

Hysterical Schoolgirls in Nepal  262


Images that Move, Weep, and Bleed  266

Incense Hysteria  273

India ET Scare and Riot  273

India Witch Scare  273

Iraq National Guard Mutiny  274

Iraq Prison Abuse Affair  275

Irradiated Mail Scare  277

Irvingites  278

Islamic Ecstatic Sects  280

Islamic Symbols Over Malaysia  282

Italian Fatigue Outbreak  284

Itching and Rash Frenzies  284


Jaca Possession Festival  289

Jewish Conversion Syndrome  290

Jumpers  291

Jumping Frenchmen of Maine  294


Kentorff Outbreak  298

Kentucky Fainting Outbreak  299

Kissing Bug Scare  299

Klikuschestvo Shouting Mania  300

Kokomo Hum  302

Koln Outbreak of Erotic Convulsions  302


Landes Outbreak  306

Laughing Epidemics  309

Lille Outbreak  311

London Earthquake Panic  313

London End-of-the-World Scare  313

London Monster Social Panics  314

London Monster Scare, The  315

Loudun Outbreak of Possessed Nuns  317

Louisiana Twitching Epidemic  323

Lourdes Visionaries  324

Louviers Outbreak  328

Lunar Influence  332

Lycanthropy  333

Lyonesse Believers (“Holy John” Sect)  339

Lyon/Saint-Etienne Demonic Outbreak  340 Mackay, Charles  345

Mad Cow Scares  346

Mad Gasser of Botetourt  347

Mad Gasser of Mattoon  350

Madrid Outbreak  355

Maine Factory Malady 356

Maliovanny Aff air  356

Mangzo Cargo “Cult”  359

Marching Band Hysteria  359

Mars Earthquake Panic  360

Mass Hysteria  360

Mass Hysteria in Work Settings  364

Mass Hysteria in Schools  375

Mass Hysteria Synonyms  386

Mass Suicide Cults  .386

Massachusetts Choral Mayhem  390

Masturbation Delusion  391

Maynard Experiment  397

Melbourne Airport Mystery Illness  397

Melin, Arthur Spud  399

Mercury Bomb Doomsday Scare  399

Merphos Poisoning Scare  399

Methodist Revival  399

Milan Outbreak  404

Milan Poisoning Scare  405

Millerite End-of-the-World Scare  406

Millenarist Migrations of Brazil  407

Mind Control Delusion, The  409

Miniature Golf Fad  412

Minnesota Fainting Epidemic  412

Miracle Hen of Leeds  413

Monkey Man Scare  413

Montreal Slasher  416

Moon Hoax, Th e Great  416

Mora Witch Aff air  418

Moral Panics and Symbolic Scares  420

Morzine Outbreak (Possessed Town)  423

Motor Hysteria  430

Multiple Personality Disorder Epidemic  430

Mummy’s Curse Fainting Fits  439

Mushroom Madness  440


Naked Cargo “Cult”  459

Naval Recruit Smoke Scare  460

Neurological Epidemic  460

New York Zoo Scare  460

New Zealand Sick Building  461

Nijmegen Convent Outbreak  461

Nîmes Outbreak of Possessed Nuns  462

Nuclear Disaster Hoax  463


Oat Bran Craze  464

Ohio Chorus Fainting Fits  464

Oklahoma Chorus Collapse  464

Operation Rid Fox  465

Orson Welles Martian Panic  465


Paderborn Outbreak  471

Palestinian Poisoning Panic  471

Paranormal Phenomena  474

Parent Hysteria (Mass Hysteria by Proxy)  477

Phantom Aircraft Waves  477

Phantom Florida Gas Poisoning  499

Phantom Hat Pin Stabber  501

Phantom Pregnancy Attacks  501

Phantom Slasher  502

Philippine Devil Hysteria  503

Phillip Knightley’s Hook Hoax  504

Photocopied Ghost Scare  505

Pigsty Hysteria  505

Pittsburgh Furnace Scare  506

Plédran Demon Attacks  506

Pokémon Illness  508

Popish Plot, The  509

Portuguese Martian Invasion Panics  515

Possession  515

President Johnson “Cult”  517

Profanity and Blasphemy  518

Psychosomatic Illness  519

Puritanism  520


Quakers  529


Railway Spine  532

Red Scares  532

Revivalism  534

Rhode Island Martian Panic  536

Riots  537

Riveter’s Ovaries  540

Rolling Stones Mania  540

Rumors  541

Running, Jumping and Climbing  544

Russian Poland Balloon Scare  546

Russian Sectarianism  546


Sabbatai Zevi the Messiah  551

Saint-Médard Convulsionnaries  555

Salem Witch-Hunts  561

Santen Convent Outbreak  566

Sardine Packing Hysteria  567

SARS Scare  567

Satanic Cult and Ritual Abuse Scare  568

Satanism  570

Saudi Teacher Fits  576

School Fainting Flurry  577

School Vampire Scare  577

School Writing Tremors  577

Scottish and Welsh Religious Excitement  579

Scottish End-of-the-World Scare  581

Scowerers and Mohocks Scare  581

Self-Flagellation Manias  582

Sexual Mores  583

Shared Psychotic Disorder  584

Sheep Panic, Th e Great  585

Showalter, Elaine  585

Sick Primary Schools  586

Sick School Staff Syndrome  587

Singapore Factory Hysteria  588

Skoptsi Castration Sect  588

Skunked Workers  592

Small Group Scares  592

Snake Handler Sect  595

Social Movements  599

Sorority Mystery Illness  599

Souponievo Outbreak  600

South Carolina Martian Panic  601

Space Alien Scare  602

Spirit Infestation as Mass Psychogenic Illness  602

Spirit Possession in India  603

Spiritualist Mania  605

Spouse Dropping Revival  614

Spring Break Riot  614

Springheel Jack Scare  614

Starpoint High Mystery Illness  616

Stevenage Mystery Illness  618

Stigmatization  618

Strawberries with Sugar Virus  623

Streaking Fad  624

Street Fainting Scare  625

Suicide Clusters  625

Swedish Preaching Epidemic  627

Syracuse Fog Scare  ...630


Taiping Rebellion 637

Tarantism  639

Teacher Hysteria 642

Tennessee School Hysteria  642

Terrorism Scares  642

Texas Earthworm Hoax  648

Th eories of Mass Hysteria  648

They Saw a Game Study  657

Thuggee 657

Tollitis  661

Tom and his Followers  661

Tonsil and Adenoid Riots  665

Toulouse Possessed Village  665

Toxic Bus Controversy  667

Toxic Courthouse  669

Toxic Mold Fears  672

Tsunami Rumors  672

Tulip Mania  672


Ugandan Running Sickness  680

Ulster Revival  680

Umhayizo Bewitchment Hysteria  683

Unterzell Outbreak  683

Urban Legends  685


Vaccination Hysterias 689

Vampirism  691

Verzegnis Outbreak  699

Virgin Mary, Apparitions of  699

Virginia Fainting Epidemic  707

Virtual Life  707


Wacky Wallwalker Fad  711

Washing Mania  711

Water Monster Panic  712

Weather and Human Behavior  712

Welsh Pedophile Panic  713

Welsh Revival  716

Wertet Outbreak  721

Wheezing Malady  722

Whitechapel Murders Scare  723

White Slavery Scare  725

Wife Abuse Hysteria 726

Windigo Psychosis  726

Windshield Pitting Scare  728

Witch Mania  731

Wonder Horse Manias  740


Xenoglossossy  745

Xhosa Cattle Killing Prophecy  746


Zeitoun Luminous Phenomena  752

Zimbabwe Zombie School  752

Zoot Suit Riots  753


Index  755

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What they're saying:

""At 784 pages, a literal encyclopedia of the workings of rumor, fear, and the madness of crowds...The election of Donald Trump is best understood in terms of collective behavior. Familiarity with the weird and terrifying things we've done before, as a species, is essential to understanding what many of us, driven by fear and uncertainty, are doing now. Baffled by Trump's popularity (such as it is)? Read Evans and Bartholomew  on lycanthropy and laughing epidemics. Seriously." — William Gibson, Mother Jones  

Outbreak… looks set to become the definitive reference work of our age on bizarre collective delusions and mass hysteria.”— Chris French, Professor of Psychology, Anomalistic Psychology Research Unit, Goldsmiths, University of London

“I was incredibly impressed. A remarkable and surprising collection of social behaviors that demonstrates how quickly we humans make the bizarre seem normal when we huddle together in groups. Both compelling and Aladdin’s cave of social curiosities drawn from rigorous research. I can’t think of any book that is a more complete guide to the oddities of human social history.” — Vaughan Bell, Ph.D., Clinical Psychologist, Department of Psychiatry, Universidad de Antioquia

“In this encyclopedic guide to the wilder shores of collective behavior, Evans and Bartholomew explore unusual social movements and what seem otherwise inexplicable outbreaks of collective behaviors. The result is a work of immense erudition and scholarship but also a thumping good read. I read it on a plane, and found that my companions in the seats either side of me were as engrossed as I was...” — Simon Wessely, Chair and Head of the Department of Social Medicine, Institute of Psychiatry, King’s College London 

“An extraordinary compilation of approximately 340 incidents of collective behavior spread over many countries on all continents, encompassing a time span of centuries. It is, without any doubt, the most ambitious undertaking of its sort, with entries ranging from the Children’s Crusades to the Chilean Martian Panic, from Cyber Ghost Scares to the Popish excellent resource for library references as well as for college-level teachers of collective behavior.” — Benigno Aguirre, Professor of Sociology, University of Delaware

"[This book] will undoubtedly remain the definitive reference work on collective delusions, mass panics and other strange forms of group behaviour for the foreseeable future." — Robert Rickard, Fortean Times

"…a wildly entertaining, absurdly ambitious, astutely critical, deceivingly academic and nearly definitive study of the myriad crazes, manias, panics, scares, fads, fashions and other sundry sociogenic phenomena that have made history while eluding historians." — Inconvenient History: A Quarterly Journal for Free Historical Inquiry

"[This] is quite possibly the most important contribution to the world of Forteana… in a very long time.. certainly the biggest contribution to the subject in a long time… it runs to nearly 800 pages…The book is indeed scholarly; but it is also highly informative, insightful, illuminating and witty." — Nick Redfern, Reviews of the Mysterious Kind

"…a masterpiece ....It will become a major reference work for those involved in researching these kinds of events or for those with a casual interest who wish to dive deeper into the literature and stories on such things." — Loren Coleman, auhtor of The Copycat Effect 

"Exceptional by its scope and the diversity of its sources, this Encyclopedia is an essential work…The scope and diversity of the bibliography are remarkable... This Encyclopedia is not a simple juxtaposition of oddities but presents theories and analyses... With the interest presented by the bibliography, there is in this book a real information source for the social sciences." — Véronique Campion-Vincent, Paris, France, Maison des Sciences de L'Homme

“ absorbing and authoritative read and an extremely valuable reference for anyone interested in the field of psychosomatic medicine.” — Keith Petrie, Professor of Psychological Medicine, Journal of Psychosomatic Research

"Outbreak! is a treasure trove for cultural psychiatrists who, I think it fair to say, have more than a passing fancy for epidemics of people who make animal noises ..., or for the Doukhobors who made naked pilgrimages in Saskatchewan in the manner of Adam and Eve, or for Images That Move, Weep, and Bleed. The book contains a phenomenal 2880 citations, a great many of which are original sources but also include Raymond Prince, Wolfgang Jilek, Wen-Shing Tseng, and Arthur Kleinman. These references alone are worth the price of the book and cannot be found in any other single source. The writing is exceptionally clear and jargon free but hardly simplistic, and the illustrations are an added bonus. The encyclopedia goes beyond being a mere catalog because the authors attempt to understand why, using Richard Shweder’s term, people can be 'nonrational.' It’s a terrific reference book and I heartily recommend it." — Amando Favazza M.D.,  Emeritus Professor in the Department of Psychiatry, University of Missouri-Columbia, Transcultural Psychiatry


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