September 23, 2002
Tanganyikan Laugh-Attack

"Consider the bizarre events of the 1962 outbreak of contagious laughter in Tanganyika. What began as an isolated fit of laughter (and sometimes crying) in a group of 12- to 18-year-old schoolgirls rapidly rose to epidemic proportions. Contagious laughter propagated from one individual to the next, eventually infecting adjacent communities. The epidemic was so severe that it required the closing of schools. It lasted for six months."

Continued here.

Ive heard The Great Laughter Epidemic discussed as the single most overlooked event in human history. Apparently the people responsible for keeping records during the laugh-attack fell directly under the spell of the epidemic, and the result is that the whole episode has become shrouded in mystery. Things it would be nice to know:

A) What were these girls discussing when they lost it and did the subject of their conversation play a direct role in inducing the epidemic? Youd think after something of this magnitude happened that a somewhat detailed account of what set the ball in motion would emerge.

B) Wheres the footage? Could it be that news agencies, learning thousands were injured and a handful had actually died, saw fit to keep reporters out of the area? Did they simply not think it merited news? Seems unlikely that not a single photograph of the laugh-attack exists today, but from what Ive gathered this is the case.

C) What made it stop and what - if anything - is keeping it from happening again?

Posted by at September 23, 2002 06:04 PM

On a related note, I stumbled across this:

"Brain scientists at the University College London have pinpointed the cerebellum as the part of the brain that prevents us from self-tickling. However, the same scientists have also designed a machine that enables you to tickle yourself by remote control."

It made me think of what a sweet species we are when we arent busy annihilating one another.

Posted by: on September 23, 2002 06:22 PM .

Fabulous. You're right, where are the goddamned pictures? Journalists aren't doing their job!

Posted by: D on September 24, 2002 12:23 PM .

It's fucked even to think about making that call to the newspaper to report that a group of people you're with won't stop laughing -- plus you're probably laughing while you're making the call.

Six months. Maybe that wouldn't be so great. Maybe you'd hate laughter after you recovered.

Posted by: king on September 27, 2002 02:39 PM .

They don't say how it stopped. Maybe they put all the infected people in a large enclosed space and obliterated them with flame throwers.

Posted by: king on September 27, 2002 02:42 PM .

After six months - I can't even imagine. I know what it's like to be tickled for ten seconds more than I could handle, and it was agony. I'm thinking there must be a 50 year old Tanganyikan left who could set us all straight on this, and sadly, he/she probably has no concept of their story being worth a cent. I'd sure pay to hear an account from someone who experienced all that first hand. I'm halfway thinking I'll up and go to Tanganyika myself...

Posted by: on September 30, 2002 07:39 PM .

Did you know that Ben was talking about doing exactly that last year? He had some vague scheme of going there to uncover what went down.

Posted by: tv on October 5, 2002 09:34 PM .

Well fuck around town he should have.

Posted by: on October 10, 2002 06:14 PM .


Posted by: on January 7, 2004 03:18 PM .

I think is ilogical to lack a record of that incident. Maybe it was a show or something unreal, i don't know, all i say is that i don't understand how a big event like this is not doccumented. Something so strange like that and for so long is impossible to go overlooked, i have my doubts, where is Tanganyika in the first place? What started the event? How many casualties? Too many questions.

Posted by: Hugo on February 25, 2004 08:47 AM .

Yeah, I know, Hugo. It's a weird one.

I believe something happened, and I believe it wasn't documented well. The truth is, in the early 60s, in third world nations, all kinds of things are poorly documented.

What it was that happened tho, I don't believe we can know.

We can only speculate. Tanganyika has become Tanzania - did so the year of the epidemic, I believe.

Posted by: on February 26, 2004 03:33 PM .

i think u guys are fuckin retards

Posted by: chris on April 6, 2004 02:48 PM .

Authors (and perhaps columnists) eventually rise to the top of whatever
depths they were once able to plumb.
-- Stanley Kaufman

Posted by: Party Poker on November 4, 2004 11:40 AM .
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