Incidents of Mass Hysteria Throughout History

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About this sample


Words: 2090 |

Pages: 4|

11 min read

Published: Oct 2, 2020

Words: 2090|Pages: 4|11 min read

Published: Oct 2, 2020

Table of contents

  1. McCarthyism Era
  2. The sightings of the Chupacabra
  3. Conclusion
  4. References

Throughout history, various instances of mass hysteria have exhibited similar characteristics in terms of their structure and attributes. While each event may have unique components, they can be compared and contrasted effectively. Arthur Miller's "The Crucible," the era of the Red Scare/McCarthyism, and the Chupacabra sightings all manifest irrational social behaviors and distinct psychological states that trigger mass hysteria events. They also involve the proliferation of extreme paranoia on a large scale and leave a lasting impact on human behavior, laws, and social order.

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"The Crucible"

Arthur Miller's "The Crucible" serves as an illustrative example. The social behaviors and psychological states that triggered the Salem Witch Trials can be traced back to the immaturity and playful nature inherent in teenage girls. This natural inclination was exacerbated by the strict and unforgiving nature of Puritan society.

"They had no novelists - and wouldn't have permitted anyone to read a novel if one were handy. Their creed forbade anything resembling a theater or 'vain enjoyment.' They did not celebrate Christmas, and a holiday from work meant only that they must concentrate even more upon prayer."

This quote from "The Crucible" underscores the rigid and unyielding nature of Puritan society, leaving no room for frivolity. Consequently, when Abigail and Betty engaged in seemingly unusual behavior, the town of Salem was unable to interpret it as mere mischief, leading them to believe it was the work of the Devil.

Furthermore, the escalation of the girls' actions into a full-blown witch hunt was primarily driven by the substantial influence wielded by Abigail Williams. When faced with their own culpability, the girls were willing to do whatever it took to protect themselves, giving Abigail significant power and control over them.

"Abigail: Let either of you breathe a word, or the edge of a word, about the other things, and I will come to you in the black of some terrible night and I will bring a pointy reckoning that will shudder you. And you know I can do it; I saw Indians smash my dear parents' heads on the pillow next to mine, and I have seen some reddish work done at night, and I can make you wish you had never seen the sun go down!"

The girls' actions demonstrated a lack of understanding of the necessary steps to secure the best possible outcome. Abigail, as the instigator, naturally emerged as their leader, and they obediently followed her lead.

Additionally, the Salem Witch Trials instilled a significant amount of paranoia among the town's people, with over 200 individuals being accused of witchcraft. Many of these accusations were unfounded and did not result in legitimate trials, especially after the law prohibiting spectral evidence was enacted. Some individuals accused others to deflect attention from themselves, while others exploited the situation to target the wealth and land owned by other families.

"The belongings of convicted witches were routinely seized, ostensibly to pay for their jail expense... After Samuel Wardwell was executed and his wife sentenced to death, the couple's property in Lynn, Massachusetts was confiscated and assigned to court officials, including John Hathorne."

This quote exemplifies the actions of individuals like John Hathorne, who served as both an accuser and a prosecutor in the trials. Accused individuals had their wealth and land confiscated, and Hathorne intentionally handed down sentences to seize what rightfully belonged to others.

Lastly, the impact of the trials on society, human behavior, and laws was profound. The trials contributed to the decline of Puritanism, which faded from American society in the 17th century, shortly after the end of the witch trials in 1693.

Regarding the role of religion in the contemporary court system, there is a strong emphasis on the separation of church and state. Religious principles are carefully examined when applied to legal practices, and spectral evidence is unequivocally disallowed.

In conclusion, while mass hysteria events like those portrayed in "The Crucible" may differ in their specific components, they share common themes of irrational social behavior, psychological states, widespread paranoia, and enduring impacts on human conduct, laws, and social order.

McCarthyism Era

The era of McCarthyism, characterized by the Red Scare, was marked by the psychological state of Americans in the aftermath of World War II, which ignited and fueled the fear of Communism. The prevailing concern was the potential infiltration of Russian ideals and concepts into American society, which was viewed as anti-democratic and, consequently, anti-American. This apprehension was significantly amplified by the actions of the federal government, as it played a pivotal role in transforming the Communist party from an unpopular political group into a perceived threat to the American way of life.

Moreover, the paranoia induced by the Red Scare extended to an extent where the government began to target individuals associated with what they perceived as "Liberal" films, including actors and directors. Glenda Pearson, a scholar from the University of Washington, meticulously documented a vast list of movies that were deemed to have Communist or Liberal affiliations during the McCarthyism era. Even the faintest reference to Liberalism or Communism in a film was construed as a danger to the very foundations of American democracy.

The heightened fear and anxiety prompted the establishment of The House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), responsible for interrogating individuals suspected of having any links to Communist ideals. Anyone suspected of even remote association with Communism was served a subpoena to appear before the HUAC, where they faced relentless and severe questioning. They were subjected to extensive inquiries about their knowledge of Communist activities and their own political beliefs, as well as the beliefs of those in their social circles. The actions of the HUAC disrupted thousands of families and resulted in the unjust dismissal of many innocent individuals from their jobs.

In terms of the repercussions of the Red Scare, those who were wrongly convicted of Communist associations were eventually released, but the impact on their lives was enduring. Their quality of life had been profoundly diminished by the trials, and it would never fully return to its previous state.

"Individuals are harmed even if their ties to stigmatized affiliates are heterophilous, and high-status individuals can also suffer. This creates a broadcast effect that increases the scale of the moral panic. Analyzing the U.S. film industry from 1945 to 1960, we examine how artists' employment in feature films was influenced by their associations with co-workers who were blacklisted as communists after working with the focal artist. Mere association reduces an artist's chances of working again, and one exposure is enough to impair work prospects. Furthermore, actors' careers are impaired when writers with whom they worked are blacklisted. Moreover, the negative effects of stigma by mere association hold even when the focal artist has received public acclaim. These findings have broad implications. When a few individuals or organizations are engaged in wrongdoing and publicly targeted, stigma by association can lead to false positives and harm many innocents."

The victims of the Red Scare and McCarthyism endured significant and enduring negative consequences, even after their exoneration. Once released from their sentences, they encountered immense challenges in seeking new employment, as the stigma of Communism continued to haunt them. Their reputations were tarnished, and anyone associated with the McCarthyism trials was forever marked. Many had to live the rest of their lives discreetly, guarding their past experiences to avoid the stigma that had plagued them.

The sightings of the Chupacabra

Commencing in 1975, a series of unsettling events unfolded in the towns of Morovic and Orocovis in Puerto Rico, where numerous animals were discovered slaughtered under mysterious circumstances. The inhabitants of these towns were thrust into a state of collective hysteria as the lifeless bodies of their animals bore peculiar neck markings and displayed a notable depletion of blood. With time, reports of Chupacabra sightings multiplied, coinciding with the growing number of animal victims. While claims of encounters with this creature continue to surface, there exists no photographic or concrete evidence to substantiate its existence. The distinctive markings found on the victims' necks seemed beyond the capabilities of any known animal. Furthermore, the elusive nature of the attacker, operating primarily at night and adept at evading human detection, heightened the intrigue surrounding this enigmatic and deadly creature. The inscrutable attributes of this murderous animal inevitably gave rise to the creation of a mythical entity, firmly believed in and feared by many.

The paranoia instigated by this mythical creature took a significant toll on the residents of Texas, Latin America, and Puerto Rico. The fear of encountering the Chupacabra has steadily grown over the years and continues to persist to this day. Individuals are increasingly concerned about the safety of their livestock and their own well-being.

"Dear people of Mexico, our cities face threats from thieves and murderers, but we unite against lawlessness. Criminals and gangs will not prevail! However, the Chupacabra may. Unlike hardened criminals who cannot leap over trees to prey on their victims, there are rumors that the Chupacabra can. Take shelter in your homes, hoping this monstrous creature feasts only on our livestock, sparing our children and elderly. Sadly, this possibility is all too real."

Vicente Fox, the former President of Mexico, has directly stated that the citizens of Mexico should fear only the Chupacabra. This statement underscores the pervasive and irrational fear people have of this creature. Moreover, it has become a genuine public safety concern in numerous towns and regions where Chupacabra sightings are prevalent. Some farmers and livestock breeders go to great lengths, including staying close to their animals or even sleeping near them, to prevent and potentially capture the Chupacabra. Cages are fortified, enclosures are fortified, and fences are constructed, all in the name of safeguarding against a fictional animal.

Regarding the impact of this mass hysteria on human behavior, society, and the law, there is not much to report. Unlike other instances of mass hysteria, this phenomenon is ongoing and has not significantly affected the mentioned domains. It is unlikely that the sightings of the Chupacabra and the fear associated with it will leave a lasting imprint on humans and society, aside from the precautionary measures taken to protect against it.


In conclusion, the exploration of three distinct chapters in the annals of mass hysteria reveals striking parallels in the human experience. Despite differences in time, place, and the nature of the phenomena involved, common threads bind these episodes together.

First, we delved into the crucible of Salem, where Puritan society grappled with the specter of witchcraft. Here, irrational social behaviors stemming from the immaturity of young girls, exacerbated by the stern moral landscape of Puritan life, ignited a witch hunt that scarred lives and left a lasting impact on the colony. The Salem Witch Trials not only brought paranoia to its zenith but also marked the twilight of Puritanism.

Next, we examined the era of McCarthyism, characterized by the fear of Communist infiltration into American society following World War II. The government played a pivotal role in fostering this fear, and it spiraled into an all-encompassing paranoia that targeted not just Communists but anyone perceived as politically "liberal." The House Un-American Activities Committee subjected countless individuals to relentless interrogation, leaving their lives irrevocably altered. While McCarthyism eventually waned, its victims endured the enduring stigma associated with the Red Scare.

Lastly, we ventured into the realm of contemporary folklore with the Chupacabra sightings in Puerto Rico and Latin America. Here, a fictional creature sparked genuine fear and paranoia among the populace. This mass hysteria, unlike the others, is ongoing, primarily impacting behaviors driven by the need for preventive measures.

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Throughout these chapters, we witness the pervasive human tendency to succumb to irrational fears, stoked by societal and psychological factors. These episodes leave an indelible mark on individuals and communities, altering their perceptions, behavior, and, in some cases, the course of history. The power of fear, whether grounded in reality or myth, underscores the enduring impact of mass hysteria on the human experience.


  1. Hansen, C. L. (2009). Witch hunts in the western world: Persecution and punishment from the Inquisition through the Salem trials. Greenwood Publishing Group.
  2. Schrecker, E. (1994). The age of McCarthyism: A brief history with documents. Bedford/St. Martin's.
  3. Arellano, G. (2005). Images of the Puerto Rican chupacabra: Vampires, symbiosis, and contagion. Journal of American Folklore, 118(469), 147-169.
  4. Bartholomew, R. E., & Radford, B. (2002). Hoaxes. Prometheus Books.
  5. Spanos, N. P., Gottlieb, J., & Bertrand, L. D. (1978). Psychological determinants of the belief in the paranormal. Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research, 72(1), 1-25.
  6. Roach, M. (2004). Spook: Science tackles the afterlife. W. W. Norton & Company.
  7. Freud, S. (1920). Beyond the pleasure principle. Hogarth Press.
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Incidents Of Mass Hysteria Throughout History. (2020, October 10). GradesFixer. Retrieved February 21, 2024, from
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