Iraq Banner Desktop

Store Banner Mobile

Muslim schoolgirl

Exorcists Called as Mass Hysteria Takes Over Malaysian School Girls


A school in Malaysia was shut after a dark spectral figure was reported taking over children’s minds in what is being called a case of “mass hysteria”, a psychological phenomenon that has been recorded throughout history.

School authorities shut the premises, SKM Pengkalan Chepa 2, in the city of Kota Bharu in the highly religious state of Kelantan in northern Malaysia claiming spirits caused about 100 children to experience a string of apparently supernatural events. The other worldly occurrences became so intense that the BBC reported school staff calling in “Islamic traditional experts, scholars and even witch doctors in prayer sessions and exorcisms.”

The below video shows a similar event of mass hysteria taking hold of girls at a school in India. Some viewers may find the footage distressing:

Things started to go wrong last week in Malaysia when a girl reported falling from her chair and “looking into the otherworld” where she claimed to see scenes of blood, gore and violence and, a face of pure evil. A long form article published on BBC Asia quotes the girl saying “it was haunting me, I couldn't escape. I opened my mouth and tried to scream but no sound came out. I passed out.”

After this event a “black figure” started being reported lurking in the school and everything went off the charts from there when teachers began claiming they too were experiencing the same disturbing supernatural figure. According to a report on Astra Awani, one such teacher said she felt a heavy presence hanging on to her, while another teacher claimed the black figure was “attempting to enter her body.”

Not trying to rationalize with this situation one bit, a teacher told the BBC “these children can be disobedient and sometimes throw their rubbish around the school grounds. Perhaps they hit some ‘djinns' (ghost) and offended the spirits.” This was all confirmed by the school principal, Siti Hawa Mat, who said “all the victims claimed to have seen a 'black figure' during the incidents.”

Ghosts Hate Religion, And School Work!

Dr Robert Bartholomew is a British sociologist who has been closely monitoring these events in Malaysia and he told the BBC it was “a textbook outbreak of mass hysteria”. According to the US Library of Medicine, ‘Mass Hysteria’ is defined as “the rapid spread of conversion disorder, a condition involving the appearance of bodily complaints for which there is no organic basis. In such episodes, psychological distress is converted or channeled into physical symptoms.”

According to Dr Bartholomew, ‘collective delusions’ are normally generated within small groups of people in enclosed surroundings such as churches, schools, factories and orphanages. This idea is supported in a Straits Times report that lists several famous cases of mass hysteria throughout Malaysia’s modern history.

“Malays are susceptible because of their belief in an array of spirits,” said Mr Bartholomew and he added that “outbreaks tend to occur in all-female boarding schools as they are the strictest.” To illustrate this observation, he refers to an incident that began in 1987 when an ‘outbreak’ involving 36 Muslim girls in a Malay hostel in Alor Star, Kedah, lasted five years. According to Bartholomew, the girls were “shouting, running and had mental confusion, crying, bizarre movements, trances and spirit possession.”

Perhaps most revealingly is that in this instance the girls, aged between 13 and 17, who were possessed, “complained of too much religion and study, and too little recreation.” So it appears spiritual entities travel the infinite expanses of life and death, time and space and manifest in teenage girls mouths complaining of “too much religion and study” and at the same time they petition for “more recreation.”

It is for this very reason the local education authorities called in ‘counsellors’ last week to finish the job that ghost hunting preachers and holy men began, and maybe in some part caused?

Mass Hysteria Through History

In 1692, witch hysteria swept through the settlement of Salem, Massachusetts and within a period of two decades, 20 people were executed and hundreds more arrested for practicing witchcraft. The Salem witch trials have both fascinated and perplexed scholars who attempt to find ‘reason’ as to why a quiet Puritan town could descend into utter paranoia with dozens of young girls displaying fits of uncontrollable screaming and contortions and effectively sent people to their deaths.

In his book  Entertaining Satan: Witchcraft and the culture of Early New England, author John Putnam theorizes that the witch trials were “essentially a teenage rebellion against the authority of their elderly parents, as most the accusers were teenagers and most of the accused adults.” Just like we are seeing in Malaysia!

Many scholars have argued that the girls in Salem who became “bewitched” were actually experiencing intense stress living under rigid religious and social regimes on the dangerous frontier, which according to an article in The Odyssey Online “led these girls to convert this stress into physical symptoms in which no natural explanation could be found.” Then in turn, the mass hysteria experienced by the girls “triggered a collective delusion amongst the villagers that Satan and witches were in their midst thus beginning the witch hunt.”

Another famous case of mass hysteria gripped mainland Europe between the 13 th and 17 th centuries. Known as the Dancing Plague or Dance Mania, afflicted individuals would dance hysterically through the streets for hours, days, and apparently even months, until they collapsed due to exhaustion or died from heart attack or stroke. The number of participants at any one outbreak could reach into the thousands.

Lithograph from 1892 showing hysteria at the Salem witch trials

Lithograph from 1892 showing hysteria at the Salem witch trials (public domain)

Does The Devil Reside In ‘Our’ Mirrors?

In every case of demonic possession or mass hysteria, call it what you like; the dark and threatening figures that disturb, repress and bully the child’s minds are ‘us’ supposed adults, and most often it’s those of us with extreme religious and socio-political beliefs and lifestyles.

In the Malaysia incident, the causal spark was ‘not’ the first girl who reported “scenes of blood, gore and violence, and a face of pure evil” but the first teacher who believed that girl and decided to amplify the report, perhaps for something so simple as her own slice of attention. If you think back to being a child, if you ever saw your parents, or anyone in authority upset or angry, it was wholly terrifying. Seeing their teachers panicking and even calling in exorcists must have set the fear of God, or otherwise, into the hearts of even the most skeptical of those poor souls. 

Top image: Muslim schoolgirl. Credit: Smailhodzic / Adobe Stock

By Ashley Cowie



Gary Moran's picture

I’m sure there have been very real instances of collective mass hysteria, mob mentality and such occuring, too much historical proof to deny that, but I have to put ‘demons” in the same category as the tooth fairy, Easter bunny., and the boogey man under the bed. They only seem to exist in the mind, and are only there in one’s imagination.. 

Paul Davies's picture

Fascinating that despite ALL the evidence throughout history, the “modern” world still tries to avoid the simplest explanation – demons are real! This should at least be considered. As for Salem, it is still the centre of Witchcraft in the US. 

In honor of the 300th anniversary of the Salem/Andover trials, an author and historian was asked to come up with some other reason then mass hysteria for the trials. He looked into things and suggested that it might have been the famed Ergot fungus. He was thanked for his idea and even wrote a book.
Ergot fungus, or wolfs tooth as it was known then, had been renowned since the time of the Viking invasions. For hundreds of year, there had been reports all over Europe of grainerys having to be dumped because they had the Wolfs tooth fungus. There are also list of symptoms or what the horrible fungus causes. Some of the symptoms are seeing things and hearing voices but the most famous are the physical decline of the person into gangrenous wounds and ultimately death. As the puritans were so particular to note all the girls symptoms, and never said anything about them suffering gangrene or dying, it is unlikely that Ergot was the problem. There is also very strong reason to believe that Ergot would have struck all the people in the village as it had in Europe, not just the young girls of Salem village.
In about 1702, or so, John Hale published an account of the witch trials posthumous (modest enquiry into the nature of witchcraft, 1702). He had been one of the judges during the proceedings of 1693. In his work, he argues that the judges who had been called in to serve on the trials did not know that the village and the town were set against each other. If they had, they would have gone about the trials a different way. The judges had not been told the whole truth of the matter.
And in that trial transcripts themselves, some of which are reprinted in,Wonders of the invisible world, Cotton Mather 1693, Tell a story of Hysteria.
Basically, little Abigail Williams would say: "They see birds! Yellow birds!"
And all the afflicted girls would start crying out and pointing and screaming about yellow birds.
Then little Abigail Williams would say " And now they are going to faint!"
And all the afflicted girls would cry out, act in part, and faint away.

Just a funny side note, since we are on the subject: The trial transcripts are really very interesting. One of the accused is a rough, angry person who insult both the court and threatens the accusers. I'm not really surprised that she were convicted. If i remember right the judges labeled her a vociferous old hag, or something like that.
Anyway, the short of my commentary is simply that there is far more reason to believe that the Salem/Andover trials really were mass hysteria then they were Ergot fungus.

--Still learning--

Gary Moran's picture

From what I’ve read, the Salem incidents most likely were caused by ergot fungus on rye seeds made into bread, as that can cause all the same physical symptoms.

Dis_Pater's picture

That is a good question. In my humble opinion there is a common recurring theme that is promoted on this site, it becomes quite apparent after a while. Many of the articles are not really related to historical or archaeological ancient origins at all, but rather to do with the occult, nominally appearing as articles related to history and archaeology etc. Whether such anomalies are accidental or intentional (whether the chances of the repeat co-incidence are merely just that etc etc) who is to say. It's a shame because some of the articles that have been written are really quite good.



ashley cowie's picture


Ashley is a Scottish historian, author, and documentary filmmaker presenting original perspectives on historical problems in accessible and exciting ways.

He was raised in Wick, a small fishing village in the county of Caithness on the north east coast of... Read More

Next article