CIA agents in Havana complaining of mental fog, dizziness, ear pain in 2016. Children in Miami in 1974, hyperventilating and wracked with abdominal pain. A medieval outbreak of the “dancing plague”. A chorus of meowing nuns.
These mysterious events may have a single, simple explanation — one that’s often overlooked when it comes to understanding strange new syndromes.
Robert W. Baloh and Robert E. Bartholomew explore events in Cuba in their 2020 book Havana Syndrome: Mass Psychogenic Illness and the Real Story Behind the Embassy Mystery and Hysteria, in the context of a useful historical overview of psychogenic illness. The authors discuss events subsequent to the publication of their book in a 2022 interview in the New Humanist. We also drew on reports about Havana Syndrome in the New York Times and ProPublica.
The Coca-Cola incident in Belgium, June 1999 is an analysis published in the journal of Food and Chemical Toxicology. Crisis management in Belgium: the case of Coca-Cola is published in Corporate Communications: An International Journal.
An outbreak of illness among schoolchildren in London: toxic poisoning not mass hysteria is an article in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.