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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 35.djvu/162

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148
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

important for science is established. It was found that these manifestations do not arise entirely from religious sources. In 1787 came the noted case at Hodden Bridge, in Lancashire. A girl working in a cotton-manufactory there put a mouse into the bosom of another girl, who had a great dread of mice. The girl thus treated immediately went into convulsions, which lasted twenty-four hours. Shortly afterward three other girls were seized with like convulsions, a little later six more, and finally, in all, twenty-four were attacked. Then came a fact throwing a flood of light upon earlier occurrences. This epidemic, being noised abroad, soon spread to another factory five miles distant. The patients suffered from strangulation, danced, tore their hair, and dashed their heads against the walls. There was a strong belief that it was a disease introduced in cotton, but a resident physician amused the patients with electric shocks, and the disease died out.

In 1801 came a case of similar import in the Charité Hospital at Berlin. A girl fell into strong convulsions. The disease proved contagious, several others becoming afflicted in a similar way; but nearly all were finally cured, principally by the administration of opium, which appears at that time to have been a fashionable remedy.

Similar to this was a case at Lyons in 1851. Sixty women were working together in a shop, when one of them, after a bitter quarrel with her husband, fell into a violent nervous attack. The other women, sympathizing with her, gathered about to assist her, but one after another fell into a similar condition, until twenty were thus prostrated, and a more general spread of the epidemic was only prevented by clearing the premises.[1]

 

But, while these cases appeared to the eye of Science fatal to the old conception of diabolic influence, the great majority of such epidemics, when unexplained, continued to give strength to the older view.

In Roman Catholic countries these manifestations, as we have seen, have generally appeared in convents, or in churches where young girls are brought together for their first communion, or at shrines where miracles are supposed to be wrought.

In Protestant countries they appear in times of great religious excitement, and especially when large bodies of young women are submitted to the influence of noisy and frothy preachers. Well known examples of this in America are seen in the "Jumpers," "Jerkers," and various revival extravagances, especially among the negroes and "poor whites" of the Southern States.

  1. For these examples and others, see Tuke, "Influence of the Mind upon the Body," vol. i, pp. 100, 277; also Hecker's "Essay," chap. iv.