An interesting confluence of two stories that crossed the Grail news-desk yesterday. Firstly, there's this story about an 'outbreak' at a New York school where 19 people (18 girls, 1 boy) "have developed a sudden-onset disorder with symptoms similar to the movement disorder Tourette’s syndrome."
Several of the girls report that the symptoms seemed to come out of nowhere — one minute they were asleep, the next they had woken and developed uncontrollable movements and vocalizations. Their tics could be dramatic: arms twitching or jolting out to one side, speech chopped up by nonsense utterings, head jerking, eyes blinking. Some girls have also had blackouts and seizures.
Thus far, no physical causes have been found that explain the symptoms, and eight of the girls have been now diagnosed with 'conversion disorder', or mass hysteria. This seems an odd explanation though, given the long period of 'contamination' and lack of social contact between those suffering from the symptoms.
Coincidentally another link that I came across at the same time discussed the 'Dancing Mania' that occurred from the 14th to 17th centuries in Europe:
As early as the year 1374, strange episodes of dancing mania were reported across Europe. No obvious pattern or triggers to the outbreaks, just large gatherings of men and women of all ages, forming circles and dancing for hours at a time, often until they collapsed with exhaustion...
...Priests, town councils, and local rulers were all alarmed by the dancing mania. The Church blamed the dancing mania on demonic possession and fought it with all the tools at their disposal. Along with frequent sermons directed at the dancers, churches conducted long religious festivals designed to stop the dancers. Although a few priests even resorted to exorcisms, 250px-Die_Wallfahrt_der_Fallsuechtigen_nach_Meulebeecknothing seemed to keep the dancers down for long. While the priests did what they could, local governments resorted to more direct approaches including having the dancers beaten with sticks and even banning the wearing of round-toed shoes in some places (which made dancing harder).
Although the dancers often burned themselves out after a few months, the relative calm afterward rarely lasted long. As the dancing stopped in one part of Europe, new outbreaks would happen in other parts.
All rather strange, and a testament to how little we still understand about the human mind (or even 'spirit', if that is the case).