It is always scary to see something strange going on. Especially when that “something strange” happens to involve such scenarios as the hanging of innocent people, a man claiming to be God, and people drinking cyanide-laced Flavor Aid. Hysteria, which generally evolves into mass hysteria, is unhealthy emotion or excitement, and it can often lead to morbid consequences.
The Salem Witch Trials and the Jonestown Massacre were both examples of mass hysteria, and they have much in common. The situations may have been different, but many were deceived. People’s emotions often overcame their common sense, and they were often killed.
In Salem, Massachusetts, in the year 1692, a group of teenage girls’ inappropriate behavior led people to believe the girls were witches. Arthur Miller’s The Crucible gives an example of the mass hysteria about witchcraft. In one instance, people are arguing over whether or not a girl flew. While one person flatly denied the girl=s flying, another insisted that “Mr. Collins saw her goin’ over Ingersoll’s barn, and come down light as a feather, he says!” (Miller 132)
People began to use the accusation of witchcraft to get revenge on others, and the growing belief in witches led to unfair trials and the hanging of many. In a sense, they grew to believe what they were saying. In a similar sense, people in Jonestown became stranger and stranger:
“Children were tortured with electric shocks, viciously beaten, punished by being kept in the bottom of a jungle well, forced to have hot peppers stuffed up their rectums, and made to eat their own vomit” (Marrary 67). While this bizarre and devilish cult is said to have started as an anti-racism group, the things that occurred in it are unspeakable, the torments endured merciless. The leader of the cult, the “Reverend” Jim Jones, told people that he was God and that everyone who willingly died for him [Jones] would live forever with him on another planet.
While mass hysteria has occurred before, it doesn’t have to. Emotions and common sense are both vital things to have, but they have to remain balanced. Many people have already died because of the effects of mass hysteria, and the kind of people who start these things must be stopped. The love of both power and revenge will feed hysteria, but the love of others will starve it to death.