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Life Arts    H3'ed 9/2/20

Historic hysteria: comets, calendars and computer bugs

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Humanity has experienced some pretty serious moments when it comes to mass hysteria throughout history. From planetary alignment to windshield pitting, much of the panic that rippled throughout society could have been explained by simple technology or science. Ironically, many of the causes of hysteric frenzy turned out to be, well, nothing.

Comparethemarket.com.au has created an infographic that puts readers in the shoes of society during seven different cases of mass panic that turned out to be highly anticlimactic. The public's response is examined across seven cases of mass hysteria, including fake alien invasions, the improper end of the world, and technology bugs that didn't have quite the disruption on society that was anticipated.

Halley's Comet - 1910

As May 1910 approached, astronomers and civilians alike were nervously awaiting the arrival of Halley's Comet, unsure as to what ramifications its passing could have on the Earth. Many believed that its tail would engulf the world in a poisonous gas, thanks to comments from French astronomer Camille Flammarion. [i] Panic-fuelled opportunists tried selling gas masks, anti-comet pills and comet-protecting umbrellas. [ii] Thankfully, none of this equipment was needed as the comet passed with 'no atmospheric disturbances' [iii] and left the general public feeling 'greatly disappointed'. [iv]

The War of the Worlds alien invasion - 1938

On Halloween eve 1938, George Welles & the Mercury Theatre on the Air broadcasted their iteration of H G Wells' novel The War of the Worlds. [v] The report mimicked a typical radio broadcast, including weather updates and some ballroom music. The fictitious report followed this up with reports of an alien invasion. [vi] Despite being set a year in advance and being presented as a fake broadcast from the future, some of the public truly believed that New Jersey was being invaded by aliens. Thus, mass hysteria ensued.

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Hannah works with Compare the Market. Comparethemarket.com.au is a comparison service that takes the hard work out of shopping around. We make it Simples for Australians to quickly and easily compare and buy insurance, energy, travel and personal (more...)
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Historic hysteria: comets, calendars and computer bugs

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