Colorful History of Popular Delusions

Author(s): Robert E. Bartholomew


This eclectic history of unusual crowd behavior describes a rich assortment of mass phenomena ranging from the amusing and quirky to the shocking and deplorable. What do fads, crazes, manias, urban legends, moral panics, riots, stampedes, and other mass expressions of emotion have in common? By creating a typology of such behavior, past and present, the authors show how common extraordinary group reactions to fear or excitement are. And they offer insights into how these sometimes dangerous mob responses can be avoided. 

We may not be surprised to read about the peculiarities of the European Middle Ages, when superstition was commonplace: like the meowing nuns of France, "tarantism" (a dancing mania) in Italy, or the malicious anti-Semitic poison-well scares. But similar phenomena show up in our own era. Examples include the social-networking hysteria of 2012, which resulted in uncontrollable twitching by teenage girls in Leroy, NY; the "phantom bus terrorist" of 2004 in Vancouver, Canada; and the itching outbreak of 2000 in South Africa. 

Vivid, detailed, and thoroughly researched, this is a fascinating overview of collective human behavior in its many unusual forms.


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Robert E. Bartholomew is the author of twelve previous books, most recently "Mass Hysteria in Schools" (with Robert Rickard), and more than sixty articles in professional journals, including the "British Medical Journal" and the "International Journal of Social Psychiatry." He has been interviewed in the "New York Times, Smithsonian Magazine, USA Today," the "Wall Street Journal," and on the History and Discovery channels. He is featured in an eight-part National Geographic series on UFOs. Bartholomew holds a PhD in medical sociology. Peter Hassall is a researcher, writer, stuntman, and fight choreographer. He is the author of "The NZ Files: UFOs in New Zealand" and he has contributed a chapter to "The Martians Have Landed! A History of Media Hoaxes and Panics" by Robert E. Bartholomew and Benjamin Radford.

General Fields

  • : 9781633881228
  • : Prometheus Books
  • : Prometheus Books
  • : October 2015
  • : 229mm X 152mm X 25mm
  • : United States
  • : February 2016
  • : books

Special Fields

  • : Robert E. Bartholomew
  • : Paperback
  • : 1
  • : en
  • : 909
  • : 363