A MYSTERIOUS wave of mass hysteria has struck secondary school students and staff at several schools in Kota Bharu, the capital of Malaysia's Kelantan state, since last week.
The "epidemic" began last Monday when more than 10 students and a teacher at one school were overcome with hysteria.
As the week progressed, it quickly spread throughout the school, affecting more than 50 female students and a few more teachers, disrupting classes.
Students were seen roaming around the school freely, reported local newspaper The Star, with some students claiming to have seen "strange, supernatural beings" at the school.
By Wednesday, more than 100 female and male students, as well as teachers, were allegedly hit by the condition, forcing school officials to shut down the school from Thursday to Saturday to avoid more students from being possessed.
The state education department was said to have sent several ustaz (Muslim scholars) to the school to recite Quranic verses and conduct prayers with students and staff in the hopes to "cleanse" the school. A Chinese bomoh (shaman) from Perak, along with his team, were also called in for assistance.
However, these attempts proved unsuccessful, as on Sunday, though the press was barred from accessing the school, they could hear screams and shouts coming from within the school compound.
Today, three other schools, located less than 10 km from the school which was first hit, reported incidences of more than 30 students succumbing to hysteria.
When reached for comment, state education department officials have said that this was an internal issue and declined to comment further.
A local traditional medicine expert, Wiru Sankala, told The Star that the recent hot weather and repressed emotions, as well as the widely-shared reports of what has been happening, could be why the hysteria has spread to other schools.
In Malaysia, mass hysteria appears to be a fairly common psychological phenomenon, normally striking young teenage girls, especially those at boarding schools.
In May last year, a local university announced an anti-hysteria kit claiming to deter "evil spirits", which costs up to RM8,750 (US$2,224) and comprises everyday items such as salt, vinegar, black pepper, lime, chopsticks and formic acid.
On social media, Malaysian netizens have jokingly questioned why the kit has yet to be used to help solve the schools' hysteria problems: