Saturday, May 21, 2016

"Demonic Possession" Strikes Peruvian School

This last week up to eighty children were affected by an outbreak of "demonic possession" at a Peruvian school. The children suffered from seizures, exhibited bizarre behavior, and reported visions of a "man in black" who was trying to kill them. In addition to the possession explanation, the outbreak has been blamed on spirits haunting the school and the favorite non-explanation of skeptics, "mass hysteria."

Elsa de Pizango, a concerned mother whose daughter has experienced some of the symptoms, said: 'She fainted in school. They didn't say anything at the hospital. She just fainted. She keeps on spitting froth from her mouth.'

Describing her experience, a pupil not named in local media, said: 'It's disturbing for me to think about it. It's as if someone kept on chasing me from behind.

'It was a tall man all dressed in black and with a big beard and it felt like he was trying to strangle me.

'My friends say I was screaming desperately, but I don't remember much.'

Another schoolgirl said she had trouble breathing and was desperately holding her neck as if someone was strangling her. According to her friends, she kept screaming: 'Take it out.'

Another anonymous girl, aged 13, told local media: 'Several children from different classrooms fainted at the same time. I got nauseous and started vomiting. I heard voices. A man in black chased me and wanted to touch me.'

Franklin Steiner, a parapsychologist who investigates paranormal and psychic phenomena - said: 'It is known that years ago there were many victims of terrorism here. When this school was built, some say bones and dead bodies were found.'

Locals believe this is a case of demonic interference, saying some children must have played games that invoke demons such as using a Ouija board.

Now as I've said before, "mass hysteria" is a bullshit explanation. It's what skeptics rely on when they can't easily explain away something that seems paranormal, and there are no experiments whatsoever that demonstrate how it works. There's actually more scientific evidence for psychic powers and ghosts, because there's no scientific evidence for "mass hysteria" or any model that explains how it's supposed to work.

But the Ouija board explanation is also bullshit. Conjuring up evil spirits with the Ouija is the stuff of fundamentalist Christian sects without the faintest clue how magick works and horror films that play to the gullibility of the public regarding magick and spirits. Unless you are psychic, the Ouija pretty much tells you what you want to hear, and even if you are psychic, it doesn't allow spirits to harm you any more than they otherwise could.

From the details of the case, more than anything else the symptoms remind me of this case from 2014. Two children exhibited symptoms of "possession" after playing around with a Ouija board, but it turned out that they had been given a tea made from Brugmansia or "Angel's Trumpet" flowers. Brugmansia is a plant indigenous to South America that can induce auditory and visual hallucinations, and it is commonly used an herbal remedy for various conditions.

So this might be related to spirit activity, but my guess is that it will turn out to be something more like exposure to Brugmansia or something similar. The one thing is almost certainly isn't is "mass hysteria," because that's not even a thing.

UPDATE: According to some more recent reports, the number of children with symptoms serious enough to require medical treatment was more like ten, a lot less than the "up to eighty" originally reported. I'm still waiting to see if we can find out what the toxicology reports on those ten show.

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