10 Bizarre Cases Of Mass Hysteria

2. Irish Fright (1688)

School of Peter Lely / Public domain

In 1668, England was reaching the end of “The Glorious Revolution” and King James II of England was about to be overthrown, so he tried (and failed) to flee to France to live in exile.

Despite friction with the Protestant British, troops of the Jacobite Irish Army were stationed in England to prop up James II’s authority. It came to a head in December of 1688, when rumours spread that the Irish soldiers were planning to massacre and pillage the English population in revenge for King James II’s overthrow.

False reports began to filter around the country of the Irish burning down towns and massacring the inhabitants. Panic inevitably spread and at least nineteen counties around England formed armed militias to guard their towns.

The Irish never came - in fact, the Irish knew nothing of it. There was no massacre and no towns were burned, so after a few days the panic subsided, though nobody ever found out where the rumours originated.

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