It’s almost April Fool’s Day (do you know how you’re celebrating?), so let this serve as a friendly reminder that tomorrow you should take everything you hear, read, and even see with a grain of salt. Plenty of people take advantage of this so-called “holiday” as an excuse to propagate lies and play seemingly harmless “jokes” on their friends. So be cautious, and don’t believe everything you’re told, and you should make it through the day unscathed.
But just because everyone else out there is trying to dupe you doesn’t mean we are! No, today we’re all about facts, about integrity, about undeniable truthiness. Today we bring you a bizarre entry from the files of Damn Interesting—a story that’s just too weird not to be true.
In 1962, in the small village of Kashasha, Tanganyika (modern Tanzania), a group of students at a boarding school began to snicker following some remark or event that is now lost to history. For reasons unknown, the laughter was abnormally infectious, and soon the greater part of the student body was incapacitated with the contagious convulsions. In an effort to quell the inexplicable outbreak, administrators closed the school and sent the giggling students home, but this allowed the epidemic to spread. Parents, siblings, and neighbors were reduced to wriggling, vocalizing masses, and the Tanganyika Laughter Epidemic rapidly propagated to thousands of people, including other schools, workplaces, and a neighboring village. Over time the sporadic, recurring lapses into laughter began to cause abdominal pain, fainting, respiratory problems, rashes, and uncontrollable weeping in some individuals. Reports vary regarding the duration of the epidemic—spanning anywhere from 6 to 18 months—but over time it naturally faded. Most historians and scientists attribute the bizarre incident to mass hysteria. The nation had won its independence from Britain only months prior, and the transition may have produced unusually high levels of stress among the citizenry.
We implore you, dear readers, to take this message to heart, and try not to pull any pranks this April Fool’s Day that result in months of uncontrollable laughter for thousands of people. It may be funny to you, but it’s not funny to…okay, yeah, it’s funny.
To learn more about the curious phenomenon of laughter, check out the article Humoring the Gelotologists on DamnInteresting.com. And for more strange-but-true stories, pick up a copy of Alien Hand Syndrome by Alan Bellows.
—Avery, who—hey, look! “Gullible” is written on the ceiling!