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A bizarre case of mass hysteria


A bizarre case of mass hysteria

What happens when people are convinced something exists when in fact it does not? What happens when that involves one’s psychological well-being that is shaken up by an illusion of danger and threat and it is not just one individual but a whole collective group that feels the same way? Well, in the case of mass hysteria, we can see people losing their shit all throughout history. Unfortunately, some instances have detrimental consequences, but some just end up as funny stories. In this case, I would like to divert the attention from the Salem witch trials and other such mass hysteria events. As intriguing and horrid as they might be, I will be indulging in some of the more unconventional ones.

For example, at some point during the Middle Ages in Northern France, a nun began meowing like a cat. It was uncertain why the nun began meowing but regardless, soon after, the other nuns joined in a group meowing session. It got so severe they began organizing afternoon sessions where they would continuously meow for several hours. Imagine the horror of the surrounding population hearing the echo of cat-sound chants coming from an isolated Catholic monastery. Ultimately the meow reign did not last long as the nuns were threatened to be beaten up and whipped by the soldiers stationed by the monastery’s entrance if they didn’t halt their bizarre actions. In this case, the technique efficiently silenced the nuns. A reason why people were extremely spooked by this event is that during the Middle Ages cats were the target of extreme superstitions, it was believed that they were connected to the Devil, and even to this day cats are somehow connected to the mysterious and powerful. Add to this the real fear of demons and possession during that time and you get everyone freaked out by nuns acting like animals at your local monastery. However, why did those nuns even start meowing in the first place and what is the reason for this mass hysteria? Apart from being possessed by demons as a reasonable explanation for this occurrence, we should consider looking at it from the perspective of someone living in a monastery in the Middle Ages. Back then joining a convent for a young woman would mean being socially isolated, with a near-starvation regime, and daily long prayers. No wonder some of them needed an outlet for their frustrations. The constant labor, poverty, and emotional deprivation might make you start acting up too. Similarly, there have been cases in Germany and even The Netherlands of nuns biting people, though that might seem like a mild fever compared to the previous situation. Besides the mostly gruesome retelling of mass hysteria that comes to mind, we shouldn’t forget the case of the lovely nuns that started meowing.