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July 1, 2021

Ep. 42: Hysterias!

Throughout the many years humans have been on this Earth, we've always been prone to one problem (among many): mass hysterias.
Mass hysterias are sociological and psychological phenomena that transmit collective illusions of threats (whether real or...


Throughout the many years humans have been on this Earth, we've always been prone to one problem (among many): mass hysterias.

Mass hysterias are sociological and psychological phenomena that transmit collective illusions of threats (whether real or imaginary) through a population and society as a result of rumors and fear. Basically--a shared bout of insanity, usually centered around one thing.

In this episode Carrie takes us through 4 of the most confounding historical hysteria cases around the world, including:

...The 1518 Dancing Plague, where 400+ townsfolk danced, danced, danced until they died (?)
...The Spring-Heeled Jack Paranoia, when 1800s London was haunted by a supernatural attacker
...The Mad Gasser of Mattoon Panic, a conspiracy from the 1940s where residents of the town of Mattoon IL were convinced they were being anesthetized by a phantom trickster
...And the 2016 Clown Sightings Craze, when people around America and the globe started seeing creepy clowns everywhere they looked!

What causes a mass hysteria? Why and how do they spread even in such bizarre cases as these? And what madness will be next? Dive into these hysterias throughout history to find out!
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Transcript

Sean, today we’re going to be discussing mass hysterias throughout the years and the world.

So, what’s mass hysteria? Well, most people can kind of figure out what it means - it’s basically a sociological and psychological phenomenon that transmits collective illusions of threats, whether real or imaginary, through a population and society as a result of rumors and fear. Mass hysteria is also known as mass psychogenic illness, collective hysteria, group hysteria, or collective obsessional behavior. 

Now, if asked to name a case of mass hysteria, the average person would probably name the most well-known one: the Salem Witch Trials. In 1692 a group of adolescent girls began to have fits that were attributed to the influence of the Devil in the town of Salem, Massachusetts, and the hysteria that resulted led to the execution deaths of 20 townspeople accused of practicing witchcraft. I’m not going to be diving deeper into this one today, because it’s one of my most favorite topics and deserves an episode or two all its own. But I WILL be going into other hysterias that affected large groups of people, usually bound together by location - whether that’s a town, school, nunnery, whatever.

What I found most fascinating about mass hysterias is how they spread, even when the hysteria is about the most ridiculous thing in the world, or the actions caused by the hysteria seem completely silly. But those enveloped by hysteria take what they’re going through DEADLY seriously. So it makes me wonder...what causes mass hysteria outbreaks? How does the hysteria spread? And how, if it ever does, does the hysteria end?

Let’s start waaay back in history with the dancing plague of 1518.

The dancing plague was a case of dancing mania that occurred in Strasbourg, Alsace - now in modern-day France - in July 1518. This sounds totally absurd and, for those seeing it, it probably was. It began with a woman, referred to as Frau Troffea, that started to dance fervently in a street in Strasbourg. She kept dancing, continuously, for 4 to 6 days. By the end of the week, 34 others had joined in her frenzied dancing vigil, and within a month the crowd of dancers had grown to 400. So just imagine several hundred people in the street, doing a mad jig and leaping and skipping. For a month straight. At the height of the “dancing epidemic” some sources claim that 15 town residents a day were dying from strokes, heart attacks, and total exhaustion. Much like listening to a song that’s stuck in your head to try and get it out, the town hired musicians and built a stage to play music for the dancing, so I guess they would dance themselves out? Physicians were hypothesizing that these townspeople just had “hot blood” and simply had to dance it away. Unfortunately, this seemed to encourage more people to join in the craze, and it only began to subside in early September. 

This might sound like the peak of absurd historical folklore, but it’s clear from a variety of historical documents - including surviving physician’s notes, church sermons, chronicles, and Strasbourg city council notes - that this really did happen, and isn’t simply a strange little legend. Whether there were fatalities is up for debate, as some of the previously stated sources don’t make a note of the deaths. Later accounts mention the deaths, but whether this is an embellishment or not is also up for debate.

The Dancing Plague has clearly inspired some pop culture, most obviously to me in “Hocus Pocus” and “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”. When Winifred goes to the Salem Halloween Party and condemns the revelers to “dance, dance, dance until you die!”, it’s basically exactly what is purported to have happened in Strasbourg. And in Buffy’s musical episode, “Once More with Feeling”, a singing and dancing demon comes to town, forcing more and more Sunnydale citizens to sing and dance until they eventually burst into flames. 

But WHY did the dancing hysteria happen? There are a few theories. One is ergot poisoning, which is also commonly seen in the story of the Salem Witch Trial. Ergot fungi commonly grows on grains, such as rye, that are used for baking bread. In this fungi are psychoactive chemicals, called Ergotamine, which are structurally related to LSD and is the original substance LSD was synthesized from. Those under the influence of food poisoning due to ergot would basically be on a massive trip. This theory is disputed by John Waller in a 2009 issue of The Lancet, a medical journal. Waller states that "this theory does not seem tenable, since it is unlikely that those poisoned by ergot could have danced for days at a time. Nor would so many people have reacted to its psychotropic chemicals in the same way. The ergotism theory also fails to explain why virtually every outbreak occurred somewhere along the Rhine and Moselle rivers, areas linked by water but with quite different climates and crops.” He brings up multiple other dancing plagues throughout early history, like in Germany in 1021, 1247, and 1374, and smaller-scale dancing manias gripping individuals or entire families from Switzerland to the Holy Roman Empire during the 15 and 1600s. 

Waller, and others, suggest that perhaps the plague of 1518 - and maybe the other dancing plagues - were caused by intense stress and/or religious fears. Mass psychogenic illness tends to spread rapidly in an epidemic pattern when many individuals in an area are under elevated psychological stress. The people of Alsace were certainly suffering through a particularly difficult time, with a series of terrible harvests, the highest grain prices for over a generation, the spread of syphilis, and recurrences of leprosy and plague. But in that case why did the people dance and not wail, sob, fight, etc? Perhaps the belief systems in these regions channelled the despair into the dance obsession. There are several accounts from the mid to late 1500s of cults of entranced dancing in towns close to the Black Forest and where the Rhine enters the North Sea in Germany. These cults would deliberately enter a trance and then dance, accompanied by musicians, towards shrines dedicated to the saints most widely associated with the dancing “curse”: St Vitus and St John. This translated a psychological epidemic into, basically, an ecstatic religious ritual, called a chorea. The choreas were named after those saints, too - St Vitus’ dance and St John’s dance. Professor Gregor Horst noted in the 17th century that: “Several women who annually visit the chapel of St. Vitus in Drefelhausen...dance madly all day and all night until they collapse in ecstasy. In this way they come to themselves again and feel little or nothing until the next May, when they are again...forced around St. Vitus' Day to betake themselves to that place...[o]ne of these women is said to have danced every year for the past twenty years, another for a full thirty-two.” It seems closely linked with religion, in these cases. Tarantism, in which victims were said to have been poisoned by a tarantula or scorpion, was an issue in Italy, where it was claimed that dancing to particular music would separate the venom from the blood. This inspired the advent of the tarentella, various folk dances characterized by a fast upbeat tempo, usually accompanied by tambourines, and that you may recognize as the inspiration for the Mamushka danced by Gomez and Fester in The Addams Family movie. Obviously, mad dancing is not enough to remove venom from blood, but there were plenty of strange cures during these times, so it’s not a stretch to believe that people might believe frenzied dancing would be enough to alleviate psychological stress, appease religious figures, or cure poisoning. Perhaps this is the closest we can get to understanding why they did it back then - and why this kind of hysteria has mostly faded away as we’ve understood medicine more and more.

But there are all different kinds of hysterias. So lets move on to 1837, when the hysteria around Spring-Heeled Jack began. This instance probably finds its closest modern companion in the Mothman sightings of Point Pleasant, West Virginia in the late 60s. Stories of mysterious phantom figures stalking the streets of London were not uncommon in the early 19th century, which is interesting since this belief wouldn’t have even been a response to Jack the Ripper fears, as the killer only showed up in 1888. The Hammersmith Ghost, however, first appeared in 1803 and 04. At this time many people claimed to have seen or even been attacked by a ghost in the area of Hammersmith in London. Locals believed this spirit to be that of a suicide victim. The fear of the ghost hit such a fever pitch that a man named Thomas Millwood was killed in the pursuit of the phantom, as Millwood was wearing the clothing of his trade - an all-white linen bricklayer’s outfit - and was mistaken for the specter by an armed citizen named Francis Smith, and shot. Millwood was neither a ghost nor a Scooby Doo villain, unfortunately, and his death prompted Smith to be tried for murder and initially sentenced to hanging and dissection, later commuted to a year’s hard labor. 

It’s in this setting that Spring Heeled Jack first arrives in October 1837. A girl named Mary Stevens was walking from seeing her parents in Battersea to Lavender Hill, a shopping and residential street in south London, where she worked as a servant. As she made her way through Clapham Common, a large park, a strange figure leapt at her from a dark alley. He gripped her tightly in his arms and began to kiss her face and rip her clothes and touch her skins with his “claws”, which Mary said were as “cold and clammy as those of a corpse.” Mary screamed and the attacker quickly fled, and was not found by nearby residents summoned by Mary’s scream. 

The next day, this leaping figure popped up again near Mary Stevens’ home, jumping in front of a passing carriage and causing the coachman to lose control of his vehicle, crash, and become severely injured. Several witnesses claimed that the figure escaped by jumping over a nearby wall, which was about 9 feet high, while cackling with high-pitched laughter. FYI, the current WORLD RECORD for the high jump is 2.45 meters, or about 8 feet, achieved in the Olympics by Javier Sotomayor in 1993 by running up to and hurling himself over a horizontal bar. So this guy would’ve had to clear a foot higher than the current world record. Seems improbable...unless he’s some sort of weird cryptid or supernaturally gifted.

After the second incident, the character was given the name Spring-Heeled Jack” by the public, because Londoners love giving their mysterious creeps the name Jack. A few months later, in January 1838, Lord Mayor of London Sir John Cowan announced in a public session at the Mansion House that he had received an anonymous complaint a few days earlier by a “resident of Peckham”. The letter stated that: “It appears that some individuals (of, as the writer believes, the highest ranks of life) have laid a wager with a mischievous and foolhardy companion, that he durst not take upon himself the task of visiting many of the villages near London in three different disguises—a ghost, a bear, and a devil; and moreover, that he will not enter a gentleman's gardens for the purpose of alarming the inmates of the house. The wager has, however, been accepted, and the unmanly villain has succeeded in depriving seven ladies of their senses, two of whom are not likely to recover, but to become burdens to their families.

At one house the man rang the bell, and on the servant coming to open door, this worse than brute stood in no less dreadful figure than a spectre clad most perfectly. The consequence was that the poor girl immediately swooned, and has never from that moment been in her senses.

The affair has now been going on for some time, and, strange to say, the papers are still silent on the subject. The writer has reason to believe that they have the whole history at their finger-ends but, through interested motives, are induced to remain silent.” The Lord Mayor seemed skeptical, but a member of his audience replied that “servant girls about Kensington, Hammersmith, and Ealing tell dreadful stories of this ghost or devil.” This led to a report published in the Times soon after, which drew a number of letters from around London also complaining of a similarly wicked prankster. In these letters came claims that young women in Hammersmith had been frightened into “dangerous fits” with some “severely wounded by a sort of claws the miscreant wore on his hands.” Another claim was that several people had either died of fright or had had fits in Stockwell, Brixton, Camberwell, and Vauxhall. Another was that the trickster had been seen in Lewisham and Blackheath. With this, the Lord Mayor instructed police to search for the individual, and rewards were offered. 

Two more attacks raised the profile of Spring-Heeled Jack. In February 1838, Jane Alsop answered the door of her father’s house to find a man claiming to be a police officer. He requested a light from her, saying “we have caught Spring Heeled Jack here in the lane.” She gave the figure his requested candle, but the moment she did, he threw off his cloak and “presented a most hideous and frightful appearance”, vomiting blue and white flame from his mouth with eyes resembling red balls of fire. He also apparently wore a large helmet and a tight-fitting outfit that resembled white oilskin. He began tearing at her gown with claws she felt were made “of some metallic substance”, and when she screamed and tried to run back toward the house, he tore her neck and arms as well. She was rescued by one of her sisters, and the assailant finally fled.

Around a week later, 18 year old Lucy Scales was returning home with her sister after visiting her brother in the Limehouse area. While passing through Green Dragon Alley, she witnessed a figure standing down the alley, who revealed a spurt of blue flame from under his large cloak as she came upon him and caused her to drop to the ground, blinded, with violent fits that continued for hours. The brother had heard the screams and ran to the alley to find Lucy on the ground with her sister attempting to help her, but the strange figure had disappeared. As a weird note, a man named Thomas Millbank boasted in his local pub that he was Spring-Heeled Jack. This is not to be confused with Thomas Millwood, the victim in the Hammersmith Ghost case...even though the similarities get even weirder when considering that Millbank wore a greatcoat with white coveralls to appear spectral, as Millwood must have to Francis Smith. Millbank escaped conviction because he clearly couldn’t breathe fire, which Alsop insisted her attacker had. 

After these incidents, Spring Heeled Jack became a local folk legend, appearing in several penny dreadfuls and plays performed in the cheap theaters of the time. As his fame grew, however, new reports appeared less, though there were more reports in 1843 of a leaping attacker coming upon mail coaches and other individuals. Spring-Heeled Jack popped up again in the 1870s, around 1888 in Liverpool, and the last time being in 1904. No one was ever caught and identified as THE Spring-Heeled Jack. This, along with his supernatural abilities of high-leaping and fire-breathing, have caused many to attribute the story to a mass hysteria, one that equated Jack with a bogeyman or devil. Much like with Jack the Ripper, there were many contemporary theories about who the real Jack was, including thoughts around 1840 that it could be an Irish nobleman named the Marquess of Waterford, who died in 1859. 

The entity was also theorized as being possibly paranormal, extraterrestrial, or superhuman. In his book Unexplained, Jerome Clark categorizes Jack as a phantom attacker, with characteristics including that phantom attackers “appear to be human, and may be perceived as prosaic criminals, but may display extraordinary abilities and/or cannot be caught by authorities. Victims commonly experience the "attack" in their bedrooms, homes or other seemingly secure enclosures. They may report being pinned or paralysed, or on the other hand describe a "siege" in which they fought off a persistent intruder or intruders.” This sounds very similar to reports of sleep paralysis, but as victims are usually walking or traveling in public during the attacks, this is likely not the case.

[BREAK]

Let’s move on to another phantom attacker hysteria - the Mad Gasser of Mattoon! 

The Mad Gasser of Mattoon, also known as the Anesthetic Prowler and the Phantom Anesthetist, is a person or group of people believed to be responsible for a series of gas attacks that may have occurred in Matton, Illinois during the mid 1940s. 

The first of the Mad Gasser incidents supposedly occurred at a private home on Grant Avenue in Mattoon on August 31, 1944. Homeowner Urban Raef was awakened in the early morning hours by a strange odor that he felt had made him nauseated and weak, and was overcome with a fit of vomiting. Because of this Raef’s wife attempted to check the stove to see if there was a problem with the pilot light, but found that she was partially paralyzed herself and unable to leave her bed. A similar incident was reported by a young mother living closeby later that night, who found herself unable to leave her bed to attend to her coughing daughter.

The 3rd reported incident, which occurred the next day on September 1st, became the first case to be reported by the media. A Mrs. Kearney living on Marshall Avenue reported smelling a strong, sweet over around 11pm, which continued getting stronger as Kearney began to lose feeling in her legs. Her sister, who was in the home, also noticed the odor, and felt it was coming from the direction of the open bedroom window, but not from the flowers outside the window. Police were contacted but no evidence of a prowler was found. Bert Kearney, a taxi driver, arrived home at 12:30am and found and unknown man wearing dark clothing and a tight fitting cap hiding near one of the home’s windows. Bert gave chase as the man fled, but was unable to catch him. Mrs. Kearney also reported a burning sensation on her lips and throat after the supposed “gas attack”.

In the days following, there were several more similar attacks reported to police, including Mrs. Beulah Cordes becoming violently ill after smelling a cloth found on her porch September 5th and Fred Goble on September 6th seeing a prowler he believed to be the Gasser. Cordes had a particularly bad reaction, with swelling in her face, burning in her mouth and throat, and intense vomiting. Along with the cloth a well-used skeleton key and a large nearly-empty tube of lipstick were found on the sidewalk near the porch. Though the cloth was analyzed by experts, no chemicals were found on it that could explain Cordes’ reaction.

Some allegedly found footprints under their windows and tears in their window screens. So many reports were called in to police that by September 12th, they had to reduce the priority given to Gasser reports, and stated it may be due to the anxiety felt by local women while men were deployed in war service. After that, the only report of note came in from Bertha Burch on September 13th, who described seeing the gasser, a woman dressed as a man, with woman’s footprints at the scene. 

I’m not sure when the figure started to be called the Mad Gasser of Mattoon, but that’s the name they have to this day. A couple weeks after the attacks began, Commissioner of Public Health Thomas V. Wright stated that though there had undoubtedly been a number of gassing incidents, many were likely due to hysteria. Not sure what his criteria was to divide these, but there we are. Wright told the media, “There is no doubt that a gas maniac exists and has made a number of attacks...but many of the reported attacks are nothing more than hysteria.” Police Chief C.E. Cole did him one better and stated he felt that there hadn’t been any gas attacks at all, but likely chemicals carried on the wind from nearby industrial facilities then being exacerbated by public panic. As early as 1945 the Mad Gasser case was being presented as an instance of mass hysteria, first in an article titled “The phantom Anesthetist of Mattoon: a field study of Mass hysteria” in the Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology by Donald M. Johnson. Some experts also believe that the hysteria was fueled by the headline “Mrs. Kerney and Daughter First Victims” in the Mattoon Journal-Gazette, framing the story in an assumption that there would be more gassing attacks.

Aside from hysteria, is there something to the police chief’s suggestion that chemicals were being carried from nearby facilities? There are conflicting thoughts on this. Chief Cole felt that carbon tetrachlorida or trichloroethylene, both of which have a sweet odor and can induce illness symptoms, could have been the substance released as toxic waste. However, Atlas-Imperial, the primary company that would’ve contributed to this issue, released a statement in response saying that their entire facility only had 5 gallons of carbon tetrachloride ins tock, contained in firefighting equipment. Further, they felt any quantities of trichloroethylene - an industrial solvent - would not be responsible for the sickness in the town, and that it would have taken a truly significant amount to sicken the townspeople, and their own factory workers had not experienced any of the symptoms.

Could it have been an actual assailant, carrying out these gassings just as it appeared? Or maybe, just like Spring-Heeled Jack was described, some sort of paranormal or extraterrestrial being? The question is open-ended. It seems clear that hysteria did grip the town of Mattoon, but whether the hysteria was unfounded, we may never know.

The most recent mass hysteria case we’ll cover on this episode is one you may remember, the 2016 rash of clown sightings. The idea of a creepy, haunting clown is nothing new in pop culture - Ronald McDonald and Bozo were always somewhat unsettling, and of course you have serial killer John Wayne Gacy moonlighting as a sinister-looking clown...a literal killer clown that helped inspire the most famous evil clown in popular culture, Pennywise from Stephen King’s 1986 novel IT. As a culture, sometime post mid-20th century we really turned on the idea of the clown from being fun to being freaky. In 1981, years before the publication of IT, a group of schoolchildren in Brookline Massachusetts reported seeing scary clowns in a black van. A memo of caution was then sent to Boston-area school administrators. This panic spread even then, with multiple cities in the United States during the summer of ‘81 reporting phantom clown sightings. We’ve had rashes in 1986, 1991, 1994, 2008...it’s not an ONLY recent thing.

It’s in this context that we get the 2016 sightings.

The first reports came in Green Bay, Wisconsin. 5 pictures of a creepy-looking clown roaming a vacant parking lot at night under a bridge in Downtown Green Bay started going viral on August 1, 2016. Shortly after, a Facebook page was created, claiming the clown was named “Gags”. This story popped up on Fox News, USA Today, and other news outlets. Eventually a Wisconsin filmmaker announced the pictures were a stunt to publicise their unreleased short film “Gags”, with a feature film based on the short coming in 2018.

Despite the initial sighting being a marketing ploy, the madness didn’t stop. At the end of August 2016 another incident occurred in Greenville, South Carolina, where multiple school children reported seeing a group of frightening-looking clowns “whispering” and “making strange noises” at the edge of a local forest. Local news reported on the story with headlines like ‘Clowns in woods try to lure children with money, residents say’, which, fair enough, I could probably be lured that way too. Police investigation turned up a total lack of evidence, leading them to feel it was a hysteria or hoax.

More clown hoaxes or hysteria spread up from the Carolinas, with a Winston-Salem man being arrested for falsifying a police report about a clown sighting. Another report from Macon, Georgia alleged a group of clowns menacing children at a bus stop. The clown hysteria spread throughout the Southeast United States, then up the coast. I remember it hitting Connecticut, with our nearby Sacred Heart University landing in the Fairfield Patch for calls made to campus security and police on October 3rd 2016 concerning a clown sitting in a car outside a Bridgeport home occupied by SHU students. Though one of the students took a photo, no clown or vehicle was found once Bridgeport Police arrived on the scene. News of this incident in particular reached me, still living at home nearby, and actually prompted me to get a pepper spray keychain to put on my dog’s leash in case some weirdo in a clown costume came at me while walking him alone at night. Though I certainly didn’t believe in any paranormal background to the clown panic, I absolutely can believe that many assholes were taking advantage of the widespread fears by dressing up and harassing people at night, and I wanted to be sure anyone doing this to me would receive a faceful of mace in return. I still recommend having pepper spray at the ready, by the way, if you walk alone at night - guy, girl, whoever. 

Continuing in Connecticut, UConn students in Storrs left their dorms at night armed with hockey sticks and golf clubs, searching for any clowny perpetrators. 3 teens in Ansonia were arrested for social media threats relating to the clown panic. Additional arrests were made in Naugatuck and Beacon Falls. A specific threat was made to Lyman Hall High School in Wallingford, which led to an increase police presence throughout that day. New Haven police and public schools investigated clown-related Instagram posts. I mean, this was a legit thing that was ALL over at the time - plus you add that it’s October in New England? I mean, could ya GET more spooky? 

Stories of sightings spread West, too, with a variety of reports coming from states as disparate as Pennsylvania and Ohio to Kansas and Nebraska. 9 clown-related arrests were made in Alabama. 

In an interview with Vox, folklorist Ben Radford said that “I do think there’s an element of social anxiety,” referring to the 2016 election, the rise of mass shootings, and increasing tension with police and protestors. “It sort of creates this ripe social context for clown panics.” Indeed, the first wave came in the 80s, which was the heyday of the Satanic Panic and fears of child kidnappings. Clowns are figures meant to delight and entertain our children, but the concept was perverted with literal pedophile murder clowns John Wayne Gacy and Pennywise. As a society, whenever we perceive a threat to our children - no matter how outlandish - we tend to react starting at level 10. “You can put whatever mask you want on it,” said Radford, “but essentially it’s about a fear of the loss of the familiar and loss of control.” Whew, can’t relate to that at ALL, can we?

The clown itself has always been more ambivalent than maybe we gave it credit for. It was informed by the harlequin, the jester, pantomimes, etc. In the opera Pagliacci, a clown murders his lover on stage, declaring “The comedy is finished!” The character of the Joker from Batman Comics has existed since 1940, way before John Wayne Gacy came on the scene--and the costume of the Joker clown was what James Holmes wore when he carried out the horrific Aurora movie theater shooting during the premiere of “The Dark Knight Rises”. Like, clowns were certainly not always whimsical figures in history.  Maybe that’s why we have the instinctual creeps about them even today. A 2008 study by the University of Sheffield in the UK found that, quote, “Clowns are universally disliked by children. Some found them quite frightening and unknowable.” If we have any clown listeners, I’m sorry! I promise this segment is not meant to be a hateful screed against clowning. 

So, the hysteria did continue to spread for awhile there. The Russian Embassy in London issued a warning for Russian and British citizens in mid October 2016, and police in Fiji warned locals about the events. Shops began to take clown costumes off of their shelves, including places in New Zealand; Target pulled clown masks from their website, multiple school districts banned clown outfits and masks. The hysteria culminated in multiple news outlets reporting on a threatened “clown purge” - like the film The Purge - alleged to be taking place on Halloween night. Though no real purge occurred, a family from Florida was attacked on Halloween by a group of around 20 people in clown masks, but no arrests were made. It seems after this, and with the United States passing “creepy season” and heading into winter, the clown sightings finally died down, and then died out. It’s hard to find any articles about the phenomenon from after Halloween 2016. And isn’t that fitting? It was a bit of freaky fun for October, but after that, well, it’s time to get into the holidays, we don’t have the patience for clowns standing on street corners anymore.

The 2016 clown hysteria inspired several pieces of media, including the upcoming found footage film Behind the Sightings, which ironically will make its debut on July 6 on Youtube - so perhaps give the film a watch after this episode! 

Sean, what do you think about these hysterias?

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NEWS

Today we’re combining Cryin’ Saucers with a segment I’ll call “Carrie Reads Government Documents So You Don’t Have To!”

It’s finally here, y’all. The Pentagon’s Unidentified Aerial Phenomena Task Force report to Congress is IN, and there are some juicy tidbits in the unclassified version. 

Some highlights:
The report covers a total of 144 UAP (basically, UFO) sightings by US government sources between 2004 and 2021.
Of these 144 sightings, the task force was able to debunk ONE with high confidence - stating “we identified the object as a large, deflating balloon. The others remain unexplained.”
Did you catch that? 143 of the 144 total UFO sightings in the report were officially rendered unexplainable by the Pentagon.
The 143 unexplainable sightings were also not able to be confirmed as being extraterrestrial in nature, hence-
They felt some UAP may be technologies deployed by China, Russia, another nation, or non-governmental entity.
In both the case of extraterrestrials or foreign government, it was felt that “no clear linkage” was able to be found at this time. 
In 18 cases, witnesses saw “unusual” patterns of movement or flight characteristics, though more analysis is needed to determine if these characteristics represent “breakthrough technology”, basically, past what we know is possible right now.
A government source told AP News that the classified briefing contained little other information than what is publicly available in the unclassified report and the existing videos. 
Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks said the report highlights the problem of flight hazards on or near military test ranges, and ordered the Pentagon to establish a more formal means of coordinating the collection and analysis of UAP information. Are we getting an official X-Files cabinet?? God, I hope so.
Senator Marco Rubio, the top Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee who long pushed for more UAP disclosure - which makes me like him just a little bit - wasn’t fully satisfied, saying the report is “an important first step in cataloging these incidents, but it is just a first step. The Defense Department and Intelligence Community have a lot of work to do before we can actually understand whether these aerial threats present a serious national security concern.”

Crossing my fingers for more disclosure to come!

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END

That’s it for this episode of Ain’t It Scary with Sean and Carrie! Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter and Instagram @aintitscary, and check out our website at aintitscary.com. You can support the show by supporting our sponsors, and becoming a patron at www.patreon.com/aintitscary. And please, subscribe to the show and throw us a 5-star review on Apple Podcasts...we’ll be forever grateful.

Make sure to check out the New York Mystery Machine podcast, dropping wherever you get your podcasts on Monday July 5th. The NY Mystery Machine is hosted by Christina Marinelli and Adam Mace, who you may remember as the host of The Talkback, a podcast we guested on back in September 2020 when we first launched! The show will be exploring New York’s biggest unsolved murders, hauntings, disappearances, and more - so give ‘em a listen!

Special thanks to our beloved patrons, Nate Curtiss, Sean O’Donnell, Jared Chamberlin, Maria Ferrante, Robin McCabe, ComfyMike and Aleks Nakutis! 

See you next Thursday! 


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