The Unsolved Mysteries of South-east Asia Podcast: Kelantan's screaming schoolgirls

Female secondary school students in Kota Bahru, Kelantan, a Malaysian city which saw several mass hysteria outbreaks in the past decade. Experts say girls and women are more likely to experience mass hysteria than men. PHOTO: AMA ALIAS
The exterior of SMK Pengkalan Chepa 1, a secondary school in Kelantan, Malaysia where five female students reportedly suffered a hysteria attack in April 2016. PHOTO: AMA ALIAS

Synopsis: In this special series, The Straits Times dives into some of the greatest unsolved mysteries in South-east Asia, and examines the underlying issues that they exposed.

In this episode, we revisit the spate of mass hysteria in Malaysia's north-eastern state of Kelantan to find out why the disorder is more prevalent among schoolgirls.

ST regional correspondent Jia Ning Tan speaks to Ustaz Abd Rashid Ahmad, faith healer and spokesman of an Islamic medical facility called Darussyifa, and Mr Robert Bartholomew, a medical sociologist and co-author of Mass Hysteria in Schools: A Worldwide History Since 1566.

She also interviews a woman who had a brush with mass hysteria as a schoolgirl and wants to be identified only as Nur.

Highlights (click/tap above): (Headphones recommended)

1:53 The Ketereh Secondary School in Kelantan gripped by a fast-spreading screaming plague in July 2018

3:31 Students say they saw a tall, dark figure in the school compound

4:57 Ustaz Abdul Rashid Ahmad says the tall, dark figure is an evil spirit that possesses the weak-minded

9:29 Scientists conduct an experiment to prove that people could be tricked into perceiving ghosts

11:52 Mr Bartholomew describes Kelantan’s screaming schoolgirl occurrences as a collective stress reaction

15:08 Girls and women are more likely to experience mass hysteria than men

19:17 Nur says the mass hysteria episode that happened to her has left a permanent mark

Produced by: Tan Jia Ning (, Magdalene Fung (, Ernest Luis, Penelope Lee and Teo Tong Kai

Edited by: Teo Tong Kai

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