Trigger Warning: The following article contains distressing information. Readers’ discretion advises.
Even in 2021, mental health is not given the importance it deserves. However, ignoring mental health can have harmful, far-reaching effects, not just for the people battling mental health issues, but also for their loved ones. As was the case with the shocking Burari Deaths, the subject of the Netflix documentary, House of Secrets: The Burari Deaths.
Here’s a look at some of the most shocking cases of shared psychosis (delusional beliefs transferred from one person to the other) or mass hysteria (the collective transmission of illusions or threats, real or imaginary), that left an entire community perplexed:
1. The Burari Deaths of 2018
In 2018, 11 people of the Bhatia family died by suicide, in Burari, Delhi. The mass suicide, dubbed as the Burari deaths, sent shockwaves across society. It was later discovered that the family died allegedly at the behest of a family member who believed this was a ritual that would grant them salvation.
2. Heaven’s Gate Mass Suicide
Often considered a cult, Heaven’s Gate was a new religious movement found by Bonnie Nettle and Marshall Applewhite in 1984. In 1997, 39 members of the group died by mass suicide, after consuming poison. The deaths were panned to coincide with the approach of the Comet Hale–Bopp, and the group believed they would elevate to the ‘next level’, after human evolution.
3. The 2001 Monkey Man Horror
One of the more notable cases of mass hysteria in India is the 2001 Monkey-Man horror case. Residents from different areas in New Delhi claimed to be attacked by a ‘monkey man’ – who apparently left scratches and bites on people. Reportedly, two or three people even died by suicide, as they jumped from roofs apparently out of fear of being attacked. The description of the ‘monkey man’ remained inconsistent, and it was later attributed to mass hysteria.
4. The Jonestown Mass Murder-Suicide
In 1978, Jim Jones, leader of the cult, Peoples Temple, led hundreds of his followers to commit mass murder-suicide as a ‘revolutionary act’. A total of 909 people, including children, died by consuming a poison-laced punch. Those who resisted were forced to consume the poison at gunpoint.
5. 2006 “Strawberries with Sugar virus” Case In Portugal
In 2006, a case of mass hysteria occurred in Portugal when a group of teenagers developed symptoms similar to those experienced by teenage characters on a popular teen soap opera. Over 300 students, across 14 different schools, exhibited symptoms like dizziness, rashes, and breathing troubles. Some schools were even forced to close. The case draws its name from the show’s title, The Morangos com Açúcar (“Strawberries with Sugar”).
6. The 2016 Tromp Family Trip
One of the most bizarre cases of mass hysteria that came to light in 2016 was the Tromp family’s impromptu trip, sparked by paranoia. A family of 5, the parents believed that someone was out to ‘get them’, and one fine day, decided to leave their house and all their gadgets and flee from their family farm. Of their 3 adult children, initially, only one believed his parents were being delusional. He was the first one to ditch the family and try returning, soon followed by his sisters. Eventually, the entire family separated, but later was reunited at the farm, through police help. It was termed to be a case of a mass meltdown, led by the parents. The mother and one of the daughters were supposedly under psychiatric care after the incident.
From bizarre to downright horrific, these stories just prove why seeking professional help for mental health issues is of utmost importance.